Wedge's Firing Ends Disappointing Campaign in Cleveland
After a season of massive underachieving and general hopelessness, the Cleveland Indians have fired manager Eric Wedge.
Wedge, who came to helm of the Tribe in 2003, led the team to within one win of a World Series appearance in 2007.
That year's squad held a three games to one lead over the eventual world champion Boston Red Sox before collapsing and losing three in a row (a meltdown that, to this writer, is strangely not grouped with the other infamous Cleveland sports disasters), ending Wedge's most successful year as manager of the Indians.
Wedge's Indians also nearly made the playoffs in 2005, losing a deciding game on the final day of the regular season to the Chicago White Sox, a team that had already clinched a playoff spot.
After the heartbreaking exit from the playoffs in 2007, the upstart Indians entered 2008 with title aspirations, but proceeded to compile a first half record of 41-54 and deal away ace CC Sabathia.
A hot second half saw the Tribe claw to .500 with a final record of 81-81, but fans in Cleveland were restless after experiencing such a stinging post-ALCS hangover.
To say the least, 2009 hasn't been kind to the Indians.
Travis Hafner still can't break out of a multi-year slump, the bullpen has been atrocious, and former team cornerstones and leaders Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, have been shipped to contenders for what management deems budding prospects.
What exactly was it that finally gave Wedge the heave-ho?
The problems seen in 2008 simply worsened in '09.
The bullpen, which was the team's workhorse in 2007, crumbled. In '08, relievers Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt didn't come close to their '07 shutdown form, and blew countless leads handed to them by Lee and the other starters. The problems in the 'pen were seen again in '09.
Hafner missed most of '08 due to injury- and when active- was forgetful at best. He again missed some action in '09, but has managed to play in over 90 games, amassing a pedestrian .268 batting average and .350 on base percentage.
The movement of Lee and Martinez certainly didn't help Wedge, either. After a pitiful start (35-54 in the first half) and continued underachievement from everyone on the roster besides Lee, Martinez, and Grady Sizemore, management saw it necessary to trade both of the stars, effectively giving up on 2009.
After Lee and Martinez were dealt and Sizemore's season was ended by an elbow injury and a sports hernia, the middle of the Tribe's defense was shattered and the team was forced to field a roster of unfamiliar, untested youngsters.
While personnel problems certainly had their hand in the disposal of Wedge, his oft-questioned methods, decisions (inconsistency on placing Sizemore, a proven home run hitter, in the leadoff spot or deeper in the order), and mild coaching style didn't do him any favors, either.
So, where does the Tribe go from here?
While Wedge will finish the season in Cleveland, the name being most discussed as of now is Boston's pitching coach, John Farrell.
However, reports from ESPN.com are saying Farrell's contract apparently will not allow him to land a managing gig until at least 2011.
With the rest of the Indians' staff also being axed, it's anybody's guess as to who will lead the Tribe next season.
Owners Paul and Larry Dolan, along with Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro, have been the targets of Indians fans' frustrations throughout the '09 season. There is no doubt that their decision on the team's next manager will be highly scrutinized by the Cleveland faithful.
It'll be an interesting offseason.
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