This just in: The Cleveland Indians are winning ball games late in the season with nothing on the line and a host of young talent in the lineup.
This sort of story lead may pique readers' interest if it wasn't a script that Tribe fans have read all too often the past five or so years.
Cleveland has won 15 of 25 and is 22-16 since the All-Star break. That is respectable, especially considering the team had the worst record in the AL at the break.
To call manager Eric Wedge's seat at the break a hot one, is like calling Tom Brady's wife cute. It is an understatement, and for Wedge fans I'm sure they are feeling vindicated from haters who were calling for his head.
Management made a midseason statement that Wedge would finish the season as manager and they would "evaluate" the team and the direction at season's end.
If the "evaluation" consisted of viewing the team's progress and results from the All-Star break of this 2009 season forward, then it isn't hard to believe that Wedge will be back next season.
But doesn't this said evaluation really need to look at the full body of work.
Throw out the 2007 run to the A.L championship series and the epic collapse in the Red Sox series, and what you are left with is a lot of high expectations, unreached potential and a less then stellar record that consists of terrible starts to seasons and the annual late season, nothing on the line, push.
This doesn't get it done in my eyes. I'm tired of seeing the Tribe mentioned as the AL Central favorite only to look at the standings two to three months in and realize that those expectations won't be fulfilled.
Why is it that the Tribe's roster is bulging with talent each season, yet it takes an early season collapse, a complete roster over haul and an infusion of even younger players to net a turnaround in terms of wins?
My answer is that Wedge isn't pushing the right buttons, or more true to the point, is pushing too many buttons in the early parts of the seasons.
Starters, be it pitchers or hitters, never seem to find a rhythm and Wedge is left groping for a myriad of line up alterations, frequent calls to the minors and waiver wires and a general over-reactive management style that kills the team's confidence.
Later in the season, when there is nothing to lose, he displays extreme patience with guys who are struggling. Heck, they are young players who need the experience so why not run them out there each day to learn their lessons.
Lo and behold, what happens is guys who are playing every day, hitting in the same spot, knowing their roles and having a common goal, getting wins, is a dangerous thing in baseball.
Case in point, Andy Marte boosts his average 70 points in a span of eight games and this is a guy who was going to be released because Wedge refused to allow him any consistent playing time early in the season.
Instead, Wedge preferred to bounce Marte back and forth between Triple A and give him 12 to 20 at-bats and then reach the conclusion he can't hit.
Unfortunately, it takes the team languishing in the standings for their manager to adopt a style that gives the team the best chance of winning.
It's for this reason, and several others unmentioned in this article, that I feel the team has to go a different direction in terms of team management.
Even with the loss of team leaders and stars, this team still has enough talent to compete day in and day out. It's time to get someone who can nourish this potential and get the team playing up to their capability.
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