OK. That's not really what I want to talk about.
It's been a few days since the Dolan family told us all that the hard reality of MLB in the 2000's is that Cleveland, and other towns like it, has to accept second-class status. At least as long as the sport's current economic system is in place, and it isn't likely to change any time soon.
So far, from what I can tell by reading reaction on a variety of online sites, Paul Dolan's comments are not being well received by most.
The comment by Dolan that pretty much said it all to Tribe fans, and brought home to many the distasteful position we are in as fans of a small market team, is the following:
"Every four or five years, if we can have a shot at the World Series like we did in '07 and compete for the playoffs like we did in '05, that's as good as it gets."So those are the goal posts - one run for a playoff spot, one shot in the playoffs and three seasons of underachievement every five years.
It's a statement that is frank, and a reality that hits Tribe fans right between the eyes.
Dolan is right.
The truth is that under baseball's current system there really is no long-term run to be made by small-market teams.
Instead, they have to get rid of anybody that's worth anything to the big boys (or some other also-ran who happens to be having a hot year), load up with youngsters that will all mature at roughly the same time, and make a one- to three-year run sometime four or five years from now.
As hard as that is to accept. It is reality. And to make matters worse, the small market teams have to hit paydirt on virtually every one of their trades made in the dismantling period, or they will find themselves several players short for a serious run down the road and forced to rip things up yet again.
(See KC Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A's - despite their reputation a few years back as a team that learned to beat the system - and now the Tribe).
The disparities between baseball's haves and have-nots are blatantly obvious at the big league level, but they go all the way down the minor league chain and right to the feeding of the system - the draft.
While most of the headlines from Dolan's presentation were about the projected financial losses for this season and next, and Dolan's assertion that playoff runs will - by design - have to be periodic, one of his points received less attention than I thought it deserved.
It's a point I try to argue with my Yankee-fan friends, neighbors and colleagues when they think they've trumped my argument that the team buys its success. They rattle off the names Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera and point out that this long-time core of the team was home grown.
But what few people know, or at least recognize, is something that Dolan pointed out this week. The system is skewed toward the big boys when it comes to acquiring young talent too.
While there is no pay cap at the MLB level, there is also no restriction on the amount of money a team can spend on draftee signing bonuses and foreign talent.
Dolan says that plays to the advantage of big-market teams.
"The larger market teams have managed to take their money and, in fact, manipulate the amateur draft situation so that not only are they bringing in the elite talent at the Major League level, but they're bringing in at a disproportionate basis the elite talent at the entry level of Major League Baseball."While the have-nots typically go first in the draft by virtue of their awful win-loss records at the MLB level, it is not uncommon for teams to take not the best player, but the best player they think they can afford when it's their turn at the draft table.
Or, they can take a chance on the bigger talent and then watch the youngster say "no thanks" and go back to college and hope for a higher payday from a richer team a year later.
Did you know that the Tribe once drafted Tim Lincecum? It was back in 2005, but they couldn't get him to sign and he ended up with the Giants a year later.
It's happened close to home and it happens around the league every year. There's no way to prove that a team has passed on a better talent in favor of an affordable talent on draft day, but that could explain the dismal early-round performance of the Tribe in the past decade.
And then there's the role money plays in bringing in talent from Japan, Korea and Latin America.
Dolan suggested a world-wide draft with a slotting system as a way of helping to balance the disparity of teams at the MLB level by making things a bit more fair at the player-entry level.
The suggestion makes a lot of sense.
In the next round of collective bargaining the players are no more likely to accept a salary cap then they have been for the past 20 or 30 years. But the rank and file of the players union might be willing to throw the young, unknown and as yet undrafted players under the bus as long as they get to keep their unrestrained salaries at the MLB level.
That may be especially true if it starts to look like some of the small-market teams just can't make it work anymore - meaning fewer jobs at the MLB level.
But until something changes in the way MLB does business, as the Dolans have reminded us, we will have to be content to take a once-every-five-or-six-year run at things.
It's been the Florida Marlin way for years, and they've been reasonably successful at it.
The Tribe's first stab at it has been a bust and we now find ourselves in rebuild number two.
The life-insurance actuarial tables say I've only got four or five more rebuilds to go, And given the fact that I don't exercise or eat the way I should, it could be even fewer than that.
So let's hope the Tribe gets it right sooner rather than later.
(To check Top 50 TV markets based on figures provided by Nielsen Media click here and scroll down a bit. The numbers are from 2004 so there may - undoubtedly has been - some reordering of the markets.)
On the field, the Tribe has been looking a lot better lately. They're 11-6 in their last 17 games and over .500 (12-9) since the All-Star break.
We've gotten two decent looks at Justin Masterson - one of the major acquisitions by the Tribe in their recent fire sale - and he's looked quite solid both times out. It'll be fun to see what he does when he is stretched out enough to really take hold in the rotation.
Jhonny Peralta and Kelly Shoppach have started their "keep-me-on-the-team-next-year" hitting binges. Too little too late, but at least it makes the games a bit more fun to watch lately.
Trevor Crowe appears to be a different person in his third go-round with the Tribe.
Chris Perez has, for several appearances now, looked like what he was advertised to be when he was brought over from St. Louis as partial payment for Mark DeRosa. Jess Todd was a little later getting here, but it will be interesting to see what he adds to the pen as well.
Overall - save last night once Masterson left - the team has looked crisper and a lot less disinterested than they did a few weeks back.
All of this, one would think, would be a positive for Tribe fans.
But many fans seem to be worried that a second-half surge (or at least a surge-ette) will bolster the argument for Eric Wedge's return next year - something I feel comfortable in saying the vast majority of fans do not want.
In his chat with the media during the week, Paul Dolan addressed that as well.
It's difficult to say where he stands on the prospect of Wedge returning on 2010.
On the one hand:
"Eric and his staff have achieved a lot in their time here. I think fans tend to forget that. When he took over in '03, he took over what was, in essence, an expansion franchise. In a relatively short period of time, he turned it into a competitive team. He and others deserve a lot of credit for that."But on the other hand:
"Despite that, we have not been successful the last few years with a team that should have been successful. We have to understand why that is. We also have to understand that sometimes fans want or need to hear a different voice."My gut tells me that with a fan base as disgusted as Tribe fans are with the recent trades and the team's overall lot in life in MLB, that last point Dolan makes will weigh heavily in the Dolans' decision on Wedge. (It's theoretically Mark Shapiro's call but the Dolans will obviously have a big say in the matter.)
After telling the customers they'll have to eat lots of hamburger before they get even a whiff of steak, it just seems to me that Wedge will be the sacrificial lamb in the offseason. Something to satiate those thirsting for blood.
And that ain't necessarily a bad thing.
One last thought before I go.
Haven't we seen enough of Chris Giminez? The guy is not bad as a catcher, is a stiff at 1B and doesn't appear to be much of a hitter.
Can we PLEASE get Matt LaPorta up here, put him at 1B, and see what he can do? Why is the Tribe so reluctant to bring him topside?
At the very least let's get Andy Marte in there every day. I still think he's a bust, but let's give him an every-day job so he can - once and for all - show what, if anything, he has to contribute.