Being fired is the last thing you'd think Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge would be the way he is finishing out a disappointing 2009.
It probably goes against every fiber in Wedge's being to consider giving up or taking a day off. That's the type of person and manager Eric Wedge is. Sure his job is in serious question, but why would that stop him from living and managing by his own beliefs?
No matter the situation, your record, how much you hurt, what team you play for, what team you play against, whatever the circumstances are, you must always grind it out.
Eric Wedge never said those words, but if Wedge were to sum up his ideals about the game, I believe that's something close to what it would look like.
There are a lot of "Wedgeisms" out there and the most popular and criticized one is the idea of "grinding it out."
Everything that has to do with baseball must be "grinded out." Your at-bats, your base running, your tough losses, your big wins, whether you’re pitching bad or good, your errors and your brilliant plays, your injuries, and everything else that involves the game.
It's a constant grind in Wedge's eyes and as his beard has noticeably turned gray as the years have passed, why would he not grind out these final few weeks of the Tribe's season?
Does Eric Wedge have a thought in the back of his head that his job is in jeopardy? I think the subconscious is there and that's something he can't fool, but his demeanor is also something that he can't fool. His demeanor and his drive tells him that he was signed to a contract to do a job.
And as far as Eric Wedge is concerned, that job isn't finished.
You can say what you want about Eric Wedge's management style, the slow starts, and the frustration of disappointing team after disappointing team two years removed from being one game away from the World Series.
However, I dare you to find one Cleveland Indian fan that does not respect Wedge's good qualities as a manager.
The one thing that I think all managers need to have, that Wedge does real well, is have accountability for his players. The fact that they might not hold themselves accountable all the time is not his fault.
Wedge expects each and every one of his players that puts on that Indians' uniform to go out there and fight for every at-bat and every pitch. Whether you succeed or fail doesn't change his opinion of you if you give it your all.
Unless your name is Ryan Garko, of course, but that's a different story for a different day.
It's why he tends to gravitate towards the Casey Blakes of the world, the over-drive mentality to not only give it your all, but give it more than your all is. That's something that Wedge appreciates.
Now of course there is a flaw in that mentality that if Casey Blake sucks and Wedge is still sticking with him, that's not good baseball. This is commonly known as giving David Dellucci one too many chances.
Granted, Wedge was not the one who signed Dellucci, so I'm not sure if that's fair in any right.
But that is all beside the point.
Is he a terrible manager? Is he a fantastic one at that?
No, to both questions. You could do far worse than Eric Wedge, but you can probably also do better. That's not to say Eric Wedge will never win a World Series either, he could be a championship manager if he gets the breaks.
Even in the light of what is sure termination of the job he's finishing out, Wedge hasn't given up. He's taken that responsibility that he bestows upon his players of working hard and laying it all out on the field until you have to no longer and has applied it to his own situation.
How many managers that were on their way out called for a players meeting with ten games left in a season that has been an absolute disaster?
Making an argument that he is trying to save his job doesn't really work. Ending an 11 game losing streak and following it up with a 10 game win streak isn't saving anyone's job.
Maybe a month or so ago, when he could have rallied these players into another second half turn around. Maybe it would have given management some confidence that he still had the ears of his clubhouse.
But not now.. For the first time in his tenure as manager, his team has given up on him and the season as a majority of the club is just going through the motions.
You've still got youngsters, like Mike Brantley, working hard trying to prove themselves for beyond this year. But I don't think I've seen a team managed by Wedge give up, even when they were out of the race.
This team has given up; they've showed Wedge they no longer want to grind it out.
I'm not sure what Mark Shapiro is thinking as the 2009 season winds down. I know he and the fan base wants to put this entire debacle of 2008 and 2009 behind them and move on to a new era.
But can he do that with Eric Wedge leading the charge? Can he trust him to win back the clubhouse for the 2010 season, a clubhouse that will have most of the players that make it up now?
I don't hold the answers to those questions and I can't even begin to think about the possibilities, especially when you deal with Mark Shapiro's game plan. He's one of the toughest guys to read and while I've picked up on his tendencies, he's still not predictable in anyway.
For all we know, Eric Wedge could be back for the final year of his contract and Shapiro will justify it better than you would have thought he could. That's just the way he works.
But it's clear to many and even Shapiro, despite what he may or may not do, that Wedge's team has given up on him, but he hasn't given up on them. And to me, that's the biggest thing that I'll respect Eric Wedge for, manager of the Indians or not.
He's gained dislike from many fans of the Tribe and even I have grown angry with some of his practices. But you have to respect what he stands for, regardless of the situation, despite the circumstances.
Don't bother telling Eric Wedge he's on the verge of being fired, that won’t stop him from trying to squeeze every last bit out of his team and himself.
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