Fail to the Chief: Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge Should be Remembered for Class

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Fail to the Chief: Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge Should be Remembered for Class
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

"What took so long?"

"About time!"

"Good, now Shapiro must go!"

"Not shocked at all."

All common responses from Cleveland Indians fans at the news that Eric Wedge has been let go as the manager.

After seven seasons as the skipper for the Tribe, Wedge departs with the club that gave him his first managerial job back in 1998 with Low-A Columbus.

He takes with him good memories, such as the success of a 2007 ALCS run and the rough and many lessons learned.

Wedge won't be the only one taking this as a learning experience; many fans of the Cleveland franchise, the ownership of it, Mark Shapiro, and the players should do the same. However, the biggest thing they should take isn't a lesson Wedge had to learn.

What everyone should take from this situation is the fact that one man is not responsible for the success or failure of a ball club. The kind of man, not manager mind you, that Eric Wedge is will tell you that he takes responsibility for the situation.

But in his heart, in all of our minds, that is absolutely false. This is a team game with players playing, managers managing put together by groups of people, with people paying the bills.

When I look back at the tenure of Eric Wedge, I will not think about the day he was fired or the times I was upset with him. I'll remember the good traits and the bad traits, but I'll forever look back at his time and come back to one word: respect.

This isn't about being upset that he rarely applied the strategy of small ball or never got upset and kicked dirt in a fit of rage at an umpire.

This is about the respect that Wedge not only had for the game of baseball, the team he was managing, and the fans he was upsetting, but the respect one should have for a person like Eric Wedge.

Someone in my position can sit up here and talk about all the reasons he should be fired. It's not about that. It's not about taking Shapiro out of the picture with him or saying, "Finally! That bum of a coach is out and can't screw things up anymore!"

Yes, there are people out there that refer to him as a coach that clues you in to just how much they don't know about the game.

The very game that Wedge respected and made his players respect. He'd sound like a broken record and a bit of an annoyance for terms like "respect the game" and "grinding it out," but that's what made him unique. And quite frankly, it's the reason that I respect him and always will.

Awhile ago, it became evident that Eric Wedge was managing on borrowed time. A week ago, it became apparent that even though Wedge might have known this, he wasn't going to quit. At that point, I said a lot of the same things I'm saying now, only more in a managerial sense.

The same things apply here to Wedge as a person.

A hard worker who put in his time, did the job to the best of his abilities to the very end and never complained. Where other managers may have blew their top and said something irrational, Wedge never did so and always kept his head up.

Now I may sound like I'm just doing nothing but praising the guy for getting fired. In a way, that's exactly what I'm doing. Wedge deserves a lot more respect to do anything else though.

There will be a time and place to talk about his replacement, the flaws, and everything else that goes along with the firing of a manager. Right now, this is about reflecting on the good things he did and what led up to this decision.

The first thing that comes to mind is quite simple. How did this team go from being on the brink of a World Series, to firing their manager in just two seasons?

That's a loaded question if I've ever asked one though.

Let's put it the way I said it earlier. There is no one person to blame. Many parties have been involved in this collapse.

A better question is, is the move justified and why now?

 

Let's start with why it happened when it happened.

According to Anthony Castrovinnce, Wedge knew his fate a few days before the rest of the staff knew it and they knew a day before the world knew it.

Wedge and Shapiro informed their coaches during the rainout of Tuesday's game with Chicago and obviously the public knew Wednesday morning.

Eric Wedge went on record of saying he'd rather know his fate by the end of the season, not after it, but he would finish the job until the rest of the season, regardless of the decision.

That's exactly how it played out. If anything, it was respectful of Shapiro and the Dolans to give Wedge a proper time frame, on the last home stand and a few days before the media and everyone else knew.

There is so much respect shared between both sides and the way this was handled oozes with class.

It also gave the fans a chance to give him a fair send off on the final home stand of the season. Sure, there might have not been a sell-out sending him off, but he managed the game knowing it was his last at Progressive Field and that's all that matters.

The justification for the move falls right in line with sharing the blame, but in terms of why they did it now and didn't bring him back is simple.

Mark Shapiro, who is very articulate and different in his reasoning, for the first time that I can remember, was very straight on and even went on to the point of using a cliché.

The timing was just right.

It's simple; the move had to be done. Now, Mark Shapiro will tell you what he told you and I fully believe every word he says about it. But there is more to it, more that cannot be said.

The main reason that Shapiro can't give is the business aspect of it all. Eric Wedge is gone for the same reasons Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee are. This is a business and if Wedge returned in 2010, the business aspect would take a considerably large hit.

I'm still going to the ball park, most of the season ticket holders that can afford it are going to continue to go to the games. Fans will still go, but considerably less number of them will show up, even in the peak areas of the season.

Most casual fans, that blurt out random things about Wedge being fired are going to stray away because of their unhappiness.

And it's not just about attendance or making money, it's about support. Too many people are really upset about things and they want a scapegoat.

Fair or foul, Wedge and his entire staff is that scapegoat. Shapiro isn't going anywhere, the management believes in him enough to keep him around so Wedge becomes the main choice.

Fans were mad and they want a chance and at one point, you have to actually please the fans to some extent before you alienate them.

Business became the ultimate underlying reason, it's the same reason Martinez and Lee were dealt. It hasn't just caused the trading of superstars, but it has also caused the firing of the club's criticized figurehead.

Wedge will end up on the staff of some team in the game. He brings ideals to the table that you'd be crazy to pass up on.

Opinions on him from the fan vary from both extremes, but if I had to pick, I think more would rather side with the "not in favor" of him rather than the "in favor" of him side.

But I think the majority viewed Wedge as someone they could live with. I certainly fit into that category. I've actually grown to like Wedge more as time progressed, but I was never ready to confess my ultimate dedication to him

I think though, in the end that's what it boils down to. Eric Wedge isn't horrible, but I think there is skepticism if he can really be a "championship manager" in a sense of leading teams to the promised land and being considered as one of the guys up there with the models people look up to today as managers.

I'm ever grateful to Wedge for all the good memories he's given me as the skipper. In a way, I sort of grew up as a baseball fan with him at the helm of my favorite team.

I'm constantly quick to point out that while I remember the team's of the 1990's, I was far too immature in a baseball sense to realize what was going on.

Eric Wedge was the guy there for my maturation process. He'll be the first manager I ever identify with and I'm happy to say it couldn't have been a better man.

There may be and hopefully, there will be, better managers in my time for the Cleveland Indians, but I can't ever forget the good things Wedge has done.

From the grooming of young talent into AL Central Champions in 2007 to being able to poke fun at his aging facial hair, I respect the guy to no end and everyone else should do.

He's a class act who worked hard for this team, this city, and the fans and he never spoke one bad word about any of them.

He stood up in front of the media on Wednesday and not only took the blame for everything, but did in stride.

For the past seven seasons, Wedge took the same attitude he did into the games he managed the same day it was announced he would be let go and the same attitude he'll take in the final few for Cleveland.

Thank you Eric Wedge, for everything. The good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, the joy and the frustration, the comedy and heartbreak. I wouldn't have wanted one without the other.

You deserve every bit of respect you get, for all the respect you've given us.

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