Friday, June 19, 2009

Wedge's future
It's probably time to address this one straight on, since it's the first time I can recall Eric Wedge's job security being brought up so frequently in published reports.

Wedge was hired as Indians manager about a month after the end of the 2002 season. There has been success (2005, 2007), but more failures in his tenure (those are his only winning seasons in seven.

The first two losing seasons aren't really Wedge's fault. The Indians were in serious rebuilding mode in 2003-2004, and truthfully, his team overachieved in 2005 by a long shot.

The main problem with Wedge's teams is that when faced with the burden of expectations, the team struggles to answer. In 2006, 2008 and 2009, the Tribe was expected to contend, but has not. One of the culprits has been the slow start, something of a trademark of the Wedge era.

Before this season, Wedge seemed to be an "every other year" manager. The team was strong in 2005 and 2007, inconsistent at best in '06 and '09.

After the bullpen's monumental collapse Friday (actually, you could pretty much write in any day of the past week from Monday on and it'd still be accurate), Wedge's team is 11 games under .500 with about 100 left to play.

Members of the organization have pointed to how weak the American League Central is, as if it's reason for hope. Here's how I look at it. It's June, and the number of games back isn't important. How you're playing is. Do people really believe the Indians can win the division with a record of .500 or worse?

I doubt even the Indians believe this. They know what they have. The problem is a white flag in June could hurt attendance (I'm not sure. The fans know the team is sub-par, so it's not like they'll show up in large numbers).

But getting back to the starting point: Wedge's future.

In my mind, no good can come from firing the manager in season. With a few exceptions (the Yankees of 1978 and the Astros of 2004 come to mind) changing managers usually doesn't dramatically alter results. Besides, it's not like the Indians have a ready-manager in the wings.

Beyond this season, I think the argument for keeping Wedge gets weaker. Yes, there have been injuries. Yes, he's not the one responsible for throwing guys like Rod Nichols and Derek Lilliquist -- err, wrong decade, hold on .... OK-- Louis Vizcaino and Matt Herges out there. It's all he has.

But it should always be about results. Most coaches or managers won't survive just two winning seasons over seven. Even the years of success are somewhat tainted. In 2005, the Indians choked away a playoff spot in the last week of the season. In 2007, the Tribe was up 3 games to 1 on the Red Sox in the ALCS, and lost three games in a row -- none close.

The only way I think Wedge can (or should) keep his job beyond this year is if he can get the team above .500 by the end of the season. That will be hard, especially if the team unloads veterans like Mark DeRosa for prospects.

Still, Wedge probably has a sympathetic ear in general manager Mark Shapiro. The problem is that Shapiro will have his own answering to do, and not just about his manager's performance.



At 4:08 AM , Blogger Joel said...

Zach: See the 2009 Rockies.


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