Our friend Sean recently wrote about the decision making of Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. Sean wrote:
"How many ridiculous contracts and millions of Dolan dollars has Mark Shapiro wasted on mediocre players since he replaced John Hart?... What is his success rate when signing free agents or extending contracts? Maybe the owners need to take a very close look at how their finances have been spent this past decade."
Well Sean, that's a question I get asked a lot, believe it or not. Honestly, I always feel stuck in the middle when trying to answer it.
Understand that I grew up in Cleveland and have always been a Tribe fan, so there's plenty in me that wants to like management and trust their decisions. I have covered a lot of different sports, but baseball and the Indians have always been my heart.
Yet, I also have this curse of being a jaded sportswriter the last 15 years. So I really do try to balance the two as much as possible.
When it comes to Shapiro, I personally admire him for his honest communication with the media and willingness to listen to the fans. I firmly believe his heart is in the right place.
But his best work - up until last season - had come in trading proven talent that had gotten too pricey for Cleveland, i.e. Bartolo Colon years back.
Landing proven talent hasn't been Shapiro's strong suit, and I don't really need to go any further than David Dellucci, do I? But I often wonder how much of what Shapiro can and can't do rests on the Dolan's willingness to open the family's pocket book.
That's why the Indians so often have to take chances on getting only the "name" players coming off injuries or bad seasons. As fans, we're always told the problem is that Cleveland is a mid-market team. But is that the lone reason?
If Cleveland is such a mid-market, then how to explain the stunning sucess Cav's owner Dan Gilbert has had just across the street from Progressive Field at Quicken Loans Arena?
Doesn't that prove that winning in Cleveland will bring out the sports fans and their hard-earned cash?
That being said, last season I was FURIOUS with Shapiro's deals for Cliff Lee and especially Victor Martinez at the deadline. Sure Lee was headed the route of C.C. Sabathia and planning to jump ship once he became a free agent.
And yes, the front office would have a big decision to make in bringing back their All-Star catcher Martinez after this season.
But neither of those trades needed to be made at that time for any other reason than saving the Dolans cash. Those trades - and for the very same return - could have been made at this year's trading deadline. If nothing else, it would have given the team a chance to try and compete early in 2010.
But once Dolan took a look at his finaces, he needed Shapiro to dump salary - NOW. Should Shapiro have put up a fight? Should he have put his job on the line for his players?
Maybe. Still, the Indians were deadling from a point of strength with Lee and Martinez. They would at least get sufficient return, especially for Lee, with Shapiro's background for these kind of deals, right?
Not this time. I'm all about building from within and having a strong farm system, as I've covered the minor leagues for years. And while selling big "name" players has been Shapiro's formula for restocking the system, in this case, he got burned by the Phillies in settling too quickly for grade "B" prospects.
That doesn't make him a bad GM, it makes him human. No GM gets it right all the time. Shapiro has made good trades as well as bad, as I've pointed out.
In fact, Sean, I personally am more concerned about the Dolan's ability to finance a winning franchise than whether or not Shapiro can run it.
For, how do we really know who Shapiro is capable of bringing in - such as Orlando Hudson a few weeks ago - if he's not the one with the final decision?