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Dolans are content on blaming Tribe's mid-market status

August 9, 2009
By ED PUSKAS Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor

When Larry Dolan bought the Cleveland Indians from Dick Jacobs almost 10 years ago, he said all the right things.

One comment still rings in the ears of Tribe fans after all this time. Dolan mentioned how frustrated he was - as a fan of the Indians himself - by their World Series losses in 1995 and '97.

"I don't want one World Series for the Indians, I want a string of them," Dolan said. "I want to reach the Holy Grail."

The search, however, has been more famine than feast on his watch. The Indians have made the playoffs just twice in the last 10 years. We're including this season, since barring a turnaround of "Major League" proportions, it seems the Indians' schedule will be free in October.

The Dolan Era began promisingly enough. Charlie Manuel managed the Indians to records of 90-72 in 2000 and 91-71 in '01. But the Indians are just 617-626 (.496) since. And that includes 93 victories in '05 and 96 wins in '07.

The Indians haven't been terrible since the end of the 1990s, but they also haven't won consistently since Jacobs walked away with a cool $285 million in profits after selling the franchise to Dolan.

Dolan's Indians have not been Jacobs' Indians. Not even close.

Monty Python made a movie about searching for the Holy Grail, but at least it was funny. Dolan's search has just been sad, thanks to general underachievement and two major rebuilding projects in the wake of it.

The first, which began during the 2002 season, brought Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee, and the Indians eventually got within a game of an American League pennant in '07. But that 96-66 season ended when they blew a 3-1 lead against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, and the Tribe hasn't been the same since.

General manager Mark Shapiro dealt away CC Sabathia and Casey Blake just before the trading deadline after a lousy start last season, and when the Indians duplicated that effort to begin '09, Larry Dolan and team president Paul Dolan - Larry's son - gave Shapiro the order to break up the club.

The results have been staggering. Gone are Lee, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, Rafael Betancourt and - most recently - bargain-basement reclamation project Carl Pavano.

The moves gutted $25 million from the payroll and sent a disturbing message to Indians fans:

This season is over, and so is next year. Shapiro received exactly two current major-league players in all those trades. Reliever Chris Perez came from the St. Louis Cardinals in the DeRosa deal, and Justin Masterson came from the Red Sox as part of a package of pitching prospects for Martinez.

Perez has been hot and cold out of the Indians' bullpen. Masterson was to make his first start Saturday night. He took Pavano's spot in the rotation.

The trades of Sabathia and Lee made the Indians the first team in baseball history to trade away reigning Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back seasons. As if that wasn't bad enough, Paul Dolan all but admitted the sickening cycle of hoping for the best and then dumping established players who make too much money is going to continue.

A week after Martinez was traded and said goodbye to Cleveland while wearing dark sunglasses to hide his tears, Dolan met with reporters to confirm what we all knew - all those trades were about money.

He also essentially shrugged and chalked the moves up to the baseball life in a mid-market city.

"Every four or five years, if we can have a shot at the World Series and compete for the playoffs like we did in '05, that's as good as it gets," he said.

Maybe Indians fans should only show up at Progressive Field once every four or five years. If all those others seasons will simply be written off, why should we care about the team?

So much for that Holy Grail, Larry.

We have no doubt the Dolans would love to stumble upon a World Series appearance. They just don't seem to want to invest much in the quest.

Write Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@tribtoday.com, and read his blog, "Extra Points," at www.tribtoday.com

 
 
 

 

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