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Why Larry Dolan Needs to Sell the Cleveland Indians

Discussion in '(MLB) Cleveland Indians' started by sgm405, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. sgm405

    sgm405 NBA Starter

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    I've been a baseball fan since I was four years old. I followed it so much so that - at five - I could tell you what team any player played for, which used to amuse my parents' friends (the only one they got me on was Sam Malone - those 80's tricksters...). The first game I remember was in 1987 at Municipal Stadium. We had season tickets that year, and I loved every minute of it. The Indians lost 101 games that year, and I didn't care. I loved Indians baseball, and I wanted to be there no matter what.

    Maybe that's why I have never understood why most people didn't support the Indians - until now.

    Larry Dolan made his first mistake in November of 1999, when he agreed to buy the Cleveland Indians. Dolan had missed out on buying the Cleveland Browns, and decided he wasn't going to miss out on owning the Indians. At the time, the sale price - $320 M - was the most ever paid for a baseball team. Dick Jacobs, who, along with his brother David, paid $36 M for the Indians, said something that should have sent Dolan running away.

    ''There's a time to hold and a time to fold,'' Jacobs, 74, said during a news conference with Dolan, whose initial bid of $275 million was rejected last week. ''I don't think I'll suffer from seller's remorse.''

    The Indians core had pretty much topped out after losing in the 1st Round to Boston. They had no true ace, and their best SP's - Finley (37), Burba (33), and Nagy (33) were aging. The team's young stud - Bartolo Colon - was close to free agency and was due for a huge payday. The team's other young "stud" - Jaret Wright - had fallen from grace.

    The storied offense was also reaching a difficult time. Kenny Lofton (33) and Roberto Alomar (34) were close to free agency. Travis Fryman - at 31 - only had a good year or two left. David Justice (34) and sandy Alomar Jr. (34) weren't getting any younger either. Most of all, Manny Ramirez was in the final year of his contract and was making it clear he planned to sign with whoever offered the most money.

    At the same time, the Browns - Cleveland's one true sports love - were back in town.

    Larry Dolan was walking into an absolute mess.

    The Indians payroll was $73.2 M in 1999. It was increased to $75.8 M in 2000, Dolan's first year as owner. Feeling the Indians were still a World Series contender, he upped the payroll in 2000 to $91.9 M - the highest in team history. The Indians didn't make the playoffs. That offseason, Dolan didn't go for a rebuild - he went for another shot at the Series. He offered Manny Ramirez at least 8 years, $20 M per year - a total of $160 M - possibly even more. (Note: Great read here for those who think the Indians just made a "PR offer"). Manny chose Boston. Dolan/Shapiro went out and signed Juan Gonzalez and Ellis Burks to help alleviate the loss of Ramirez. It brought the Indians a Division Title, but after they lost in the 1st Round again, it was clear that changes would be needed. They began a rebuild in 2002.

    At the same time, spending around baseball was getting out of control. The Yankees, who had a $92 M payroll in 2000, were up to $125 M in 2002 (and $150 M in 2003). The 2nd highest payroll in 2000 was $88 M (Angels). Seven teams would eclipse that number by 2002. MLB was quickly becoming the "Have's" and the "Have-Not's".

    The Indians rebuild almost came to fruition in 2005, when the team won 93 games. Unfortunately, they missed the playoffs by two games. The next season the Indians disappointed, finishing below .500. They rebounded again in 2007. The Indians won 96 games, led the major in comeback, walk-off victories, won the Division Title, and were one game away from the World Series. They had the Cy Young Award winner, four All-Stars, and an exciting young team. The problem was that the fans had never really come back since the team of 90's heroes was disbanded:

    2001: 39,694 (4th)
    2002: 32,307 (12th)
    2003: 21,358 (21st)
    2004: 22,400 (22nd)
    2005: 24,861 (25th)
    2006: 24,666 (25th)
    2007: 28,448 (21st)

    To review, the 2007 Indians won 18 more games than the 2006 team, the Division Title, and were one game away from the World Series (the 2006 team finished 4th in the Division) - and only drew 3,782 more fans.

    The dwindling fan support didn't stop the Indians from trying to lock up their young core. They signed Grady Sizemore to a 6 year extension in 2006. They signed Jake Westbrook for 3 years, $33 M in April of 2007. Travis Hafner was locked up for four years, $57 M at the 2007 All-Star Break.

    That 2008 team was ravaged by injuries. Martinez played in 73 G, Hafner 57 G, Westbrook 5 G, and Blake 94 G. Fan support was also down, despite the excitement of 2007. They also were faced with a tough decision regarding C.C. Sabathia who not only struggled early, but also immediately declined a four year starting offer from the Indians of $18 M per year. They decided to deal Sabathia. Fans turned away from the Indians, as the Tribe finished 22nd in attendance.

    Despite the poor numbers, they addressed their most pressing weakness - closer - heading into 2009 by signing Kerry Wood for two years, $20 M. The payroll was at $82 M, 15th highest in MLB. The were once again hit by injuries to Sizemore, Martinez, and Hafner, and Kerry Wood was average...the Indians, as a team, were a huge disappointment.

    The Indians as a whole were facing another tough reality - two of their stars were off of the field more than on it, one had turned into a headcase, one was approaching free agency, and their staff ace, two years away from free agency, had already turned away any attempts by the Indians to extend his contract. Attendance was also way down again - 22,492, good for 25th in MLB.

    They traded Lee and Martinez that summer. The fans - those who remained anyhow - were gone, this time for good. They didn't trust Larry Dolan. They didn't relate to him. To them, he had not only let their 90's heroes leave, but also had let the Cleveland Indians as they knew them go away.

    Was this fair? Absolutely not. Larry Dolan had tried to spend, but couldn't keep up with the New York's, Los Angeles', and Boston's of the game. He had tried to put a winning team on the field by locking up young, core players - the same strategy used by John Hart in the 90's. Hart's core turned into Hall of Famers, Shapiro's turned into disappointments. His biggest mistake was that he was largely absent from the public eye. He didn't do many interviews. He didn't make public appearances to fans. His image was created - a cheap owner who didn't care about the fans or the team - and he did nothing through public relations to change that. He still hasn't.

    He took one more shot at winning over fans in 2011 - the team was on fire and seriously contending, so Dolan OK'd a deal to send away the Indians' best pitching prospect for Ubaldo Jimenez - viewed as a potential ace. The Indians still faded, the attendance still didn't improve (22,726, 24th in MLB), and the deal was largely viewed as a mistake.

    With he and Antonetti both feeling the heat from that failed deal and from the fans to do something big, they failed to significantly improve the team. They balked at giving three years to Josh Willingham due to injury concerns. They passed on making a significant offer to Michael Cuddyer. They were also afraid that Grady Sizemore, finally deemed 100%, would rebound elsewhere, and gave him $5 M. They picked up Fausto Carmona's option, only to see his scandal take place weeks later. Both Sizemore and Carmona..errr...Hernandez have yet to play a game for the Indians this season. They also signed Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon, both better suited for bench roles.

    This all brings us to today. The team has fallen off, again. The team's "window" is closing soon. Attendance is a pathetic 30th in MLB - 20,846. And nothing Larry Dolan does, short of winning a World Series, (as evidenced by 2007), will be good enough for the fans to give even average support this team.

    Larry Dolan isn't a perfect owner, but he's not a terrible one either. He cares about the team, and seems like a good enough person. His two biggest mistakes have been buying the team was far too much and failing to relate to the fan base.

    But this will be a vicious cycle as long as he is the owner. Fans, who don't trust him no matter what, don't come out. In turn, Dolan keeps payrolls no higher than $75 M as an attempt to stay out of the red. The team competes in "windows" while young players are under team control, supplementing the roster with one year free agent deals to low-cost veterans. They must hope lightning strikes as it almost did in 2007. The chances of that happened aren't likely.

    Of course, the main problem - should they choose to sell - is finding a buyer. With a mid-sized market and poor fan support, it might be difficult. Dan Gilbert would be a great fit, but there's no guarantee MLB would allow him to own a team.

    But it's time for Dolan to try. He doesn't deserve the treatment he receives and Cleveland deserves a winning baseball team. Sometimes it's better for both parties to move on. It's why Larry Dolan needs to sell the Cleveland Indians.
     
    55 people like this.
  2. Stark

    Stark Keeping the Faith

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    [​IMG]
     
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  3. AZ_

    AZ_ Hall-of-Famer

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    Post of the year.

    Well done sgm
     
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  4. Ghost Writer

    Ghost Writer I GO HARD FOR CLEVELAND!

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    Touche Sgm, if I wrote this I would airmail straight to the Dolan residence.
     
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  5. Kevalier

    Kevalier It could be worse.

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    Magnificent piece, sgm. You should try to submit that to cleveland.com/The PD or some other local news publication. At the very least, the post should be nominated for several golden penises at the 2012 RCF Award Ceremony.
     
    6 people like this.
  6. Marcus

    Marcus Let's go Cabs!

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    Fantastic post, sgm. At least you're able to give reasons as to why you feel that way, as opposed to the people that just blindly say that they hate Larry Dolan and he needs to sell the team because he's a cheapskate. It's just a bad situation all around and I think it's about time they find a group to buy the Indians, and that new group should come in and clean house, between the on the field and off the field product and personnel.
     
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  7. Cavsfan89

    Cavsfan89 Situational Stopper

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    How much longer will Larry really hold onto the Indians? He is already 81 years old and turns 82 in early Feb.
     
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  8. Gunther

    Gunther ...back on the weed...

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    A very well-written and passionate piece, sgm, and even more poignant because it comes from a lifelong, die-hard fan.

    The Indians could definitely use an infusion of new blood, whether that be the owner or the front office. Something has to change and change in a hurry. The ill will felt by the average fan toward the Dolans, whether right or wrong in conception, is palpable and real, and unfortunately growing. The number of people I meet who "won't give any of their hard earned money to that cheap so-and-so" is growing. People want to love their team, but they end up hating the owner.

    Having said that, it is still the case in MLB that the amount of risk-per-dollar-spent is greater for small market teams. Regardless of the owner, small market teams must suffer a smaller margin of error. The economies of the game make it so. Therefore, it is unlikely that any new owner would fare a lot better than the Dolan/Shapiro group over the long run. That is, unless there is some new owner willing to overpay for the franchise and then lose money year after year. Hard to find owners like that.

    So that part of this equation (the reality of the revenue structure of the MLB) hasn't and won't change any time soon. Let's keep that in mind. But I feel the time has come for some form of change. Since the Dolans probably won't find a buyer who gives them the return they are looking for - which is pure conjecture on my part, but I think a pretty good educated guess - it is probably time for a change in the front office.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2012
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  9. sgm405

    sgm405 NBA Starter

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    Thank you all for the kind words, I appreciate it.

    Gunther, I couldn't agree more with the part I bolded. Fair or not, this is very real and the perception of Dolan gets worse and worse. I don't think someone like Gilbert would change the Indians into the Yankees payroll-wise, but I do think someone like him who relates well to the fan base and displays his passion for winning openly would do much better, especially during rebuilds.
     
    2 people like this.
  10. Huber.

    Huber. Adrninistrator

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    Wel...that wasn't what I expected when I saw this title.
     
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  11. SOA

    SOA Banned

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    best post in the tribe Forum in ages

    Whether the feelings of the average fan towards Dolan and the team is "deserved" is debatable, the disconnect is real and as an organization they aren't doing much to change it
     
  12. Real Deal

    Real Deal NBA Starter

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    Hell of a piece right here. Give credit when it's due and you most certainly deserve it. Terrific post sgm! I hope the Dolans do sell because they're set in stone from a fans perspective on many negative things. Indians had hard luck over the years but when we were really good, we didn't try hard to get better. Yea we resigned our own but we stuck with the chemistry instead of bringing in someone better and extending the payroll. Mainly the 06 and 08 offseasons. I thought the Dolans would spend extra because we were almost there. Just to prove it to the fans.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
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  13. polska2211

    polska2211 heady

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    Its brutally obvious that in mid-market baseball you need to have an owner that is willing to pony up an extra 10-20 million during your 'competitive' years to have a shot. Dolan isn't willing to do that, and he is driving our club down the fucking tubes.
     
  14. Nom

    Nom Sixth Man

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    He did do that in '08 and '09 but they failed to do so this time.

    Although I mentioned this before - they paid Grady $5mil and then had offers of $7million to Pena and $12million to Beltran out there. Part of me thinks Antonetti just didn't allocate the dollars well.
     
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  15. AZ_

    AZ_ Hall-of-Famer

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    Got to be able to sell it to the players, even if it is Cleveland.
     
  16. Bob_The_Cat

    Bob_The_Cat Sixth Man

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    Yeah...this really pisses me off. They gave $5 mill to a guy who looks like won't even see the field this year. They could have used that money to give Beltran at least an extra mill or two to possibly convince him to come. Maybe he was never really considering the Indians in the first place, but who knows. That extra money the FO devoted to an injured stiff (Grady hasn't played in 110+ games or hit over .250 since 2008) could have actually been used to improve the team.

    Even if they were able to sign Beltran, obviously there would have been some big holes on the pitching staff. However, a lineup that could go Choo, Kipnis, Cabrera, Beltran, Hafner, and Santana would produce way more runs. Of course Santana and Hafner haven't had great years either, but there certainly would have been a residual effect from adding a guy like Beltran to the middle of the order. Barring an injury, Beltran's going to finish in at least the top 10 in NL MVP voting.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
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  17. SOA

    SOA Banned

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    I don't think that is the case . I look at the current perception of the Tribe both by players and fan not unlike that of the Cavs in the Pre-Lebron era,. As much as some here aggressively defend current ownership with the passion of a lifelong fan, its obvious a number of current / former players and casual fans don't share that perception. the difficulty for Antonetti its difficult for him to attractive talent here that have other other options leaving him to over pay even for marginal talent to fill our many holes.

    IMHO its not that much of a reach to compare the Tribe's acquisitions Damon. Kotchman and Lowe to the pre-Lebron acquisitions of Ira Newble, Kevin Ollie and a host of fading stiffs at the end of their careers. The difference now is the Cavs have ownership and a coach in Byron Scott that are viewed positively . Like in the NBA , you have young millionaires that desire to play in the major media markets , however it is reassuring in the Post Lebron era that our perception among players is positive. The Cavs were as much of a playoff pretender as the Tribe this year , but the feeling towards the team IMHO with the casual fan was much more positive
     
  18. Binkster

    Binkster NBA Starter

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    To this thread and the OP:

    [​IMG]

    A well-formulated, logical, coherent piece grounded in statistical fact and impartiality. That's the way to do it bros.
     
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  19. GreasySpread36

    GreasySpread36 Sixth Man

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    Dolan's biggest failure, IMO, isn't a lack of spending in free-agency. No team in this market with this attendance should be expected to go out and break the bank in FA, regardless of who owns it.

    His biggest failure is sustaining a front office, starting with Shapiro and continuing with Antonetti, that has failed miserably in drafting and developing home-grown talent. A club in our position MUST draft and develop in order to have any chance of succeeding. The front office hasn't done that, and Dolan hasn't held them accountable for their mistakes. The one thing the front-office has done reasonably well- trading middling major-leaguers for prospects in the Perez-for-Cabrera mode- is not a sustainable long-term strategy. And the money they have spent has been largely wasted. WTF were they doing giving $5 million to Grady Sizemore?

    I'd be fine with Larry Dolan if he actually held his front-office people accountable. He hasn't done that.
     
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  20. AZ_

    AZ_ Hall-of-Famer

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    How many other front offices can say they have produced two Cy Young winners and a plethora of other All-Stars like Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin Soo Choo, Chris Perez and a few others (Kipnis, namely) who have the potential to be All-Star players.

    Whether it be by trade or draft or Latin America...the Indians have produced some top notch talent and few in their market have matched them IMO.


    In terms of "accountability," as I've mentioned at least 20 times now....This teams front office is almost completely different with the exception of Shapiro and Antonetti, who obviously recognized their scouting deficiencies and did something about it.
     
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