An Open Letter to Larry and Paul Dolan
By Bob Toth
I write to you speaking for myself, but possibly too on behalf of a bevy of loyal Cleveland sports fans, starving for the glory and accolades that come with the successful completion of a championship season.
Cleveland deserves a winner.
Forty-eight LONG, excruciatingly painful years.
There have been plenty of droughts throughout the history of professional sports. The current one haunting three-sport town Cleveland has been never-ending.
In that span, this city has seen just three championship series between its big three sports franchises – the 1995 and 1997 Indians’ World Series runs and the 2007 Cavaliers’ NBA Finals appearance.
No trophies. No rings. No champagne. No parades.
The Browns and Cavs provided a few close calls in the ’80s, but they ended in heartbreak. The Indians did the same in 2007, but we all remember how that ended.
This city deserves better.
I do not write to suggest like so many others have that you sell the Cleveland Indians. I can only imagine owning a professional sports franchise has to be a daunting task, albeit a rewarding one, financially or otherwise. It is the otherwise, the reward of seeing that World Series trophy raised, that Cleveland gets to benefit from, too.
What I do ask you to do is to take some serious time to consider whether or not your organization, as presently constructed, is capable of building the winner this city needs.
I am not suggesting a reactive firing of any and every scapegoat possible to distract the fans or to make it look as though the team is trying to address the problem. I am just asking that you do your due diligence and consider all possibilities. Do your research. Take your time. Do not make any brash moves based solely on emotion. Firing only Scott Radinsky thus far is a good indication that the organization is not letting the single worst month in the history of the Cleveland Indians franchise dictate its future. But please, do not allow this culture of losing to continue into 2013.
I understand that there are financial limitations to running a team. I know that every owner cannot spend with reckless abandon in the manner that the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, and Phillies have, despite being competitive nearly every year. I can live with the small market spending mentality, knowing that teams in Oakland and Tampa remain a threat each and every year, but this team has not shown that it can function successfully in that mode of operation.
My concern is in our talent evaluation and development. To compete as a small market team, cautiously selecting its free agents and trade acquisitions based on cost and fit as opposed to pure talent and star power, the team cannot afford too many misses. Unfortunately, misses have been one notably and frustratingly consistent part of your ownership reign, whether you want to accept that or not. The C.C. Sabathia trade netted us one reliable starter, Michael Brantley, who was not even the centerpiece of the trade. The Cliff Lee trade has failed to be much better, giving the team a backup catcher and middle infielder and two pitchers who have spent more time rehabbing from serious, career-threatening injuries than they have playing. Two Cy Young Award winning pitchers should have provided more than one full-time starter.
Based on the unsuccessful trades and the free agents who have failed to meet the needs of the team, no one person in the organization who assists with preparing the roster should be safe from scrutiny.
You may have no intention on making changes right now, and I am content with that fact. A change now would be a meaningless burden on the team. Ride out the end of the season, give some of the kids a chance to shine and win some favor moving into next season, and evaluate the roster, the personnel, and the front office afterwards.
The exam that ensues after the final out on October 3rd better be thorough and may require some rubber gloves.
The results of the failures of this organization have panned out on the field in the usual heartbreaking manner. In what should have been the biggest, most entertaining and competitive month of the year for the team and its fans, August became not just the worst month of the season or your regime, but the worst month in 98 years!
That team, the 1914 Naps, at least managed to win a sixth game and end one in a tie while losing 24 in the month of July. That team, led by Shoeless Joe Jackson and 39-year-old second baseman Nap Lajoie, in the last year of his career, would go on to lose 102 games on the season in the organization’s final year as the Naps. Unlike this year’s team, their team never once sniffed contention or the .500 mark, let alone held down first place for 48 days of the season.
This futility is just not acceptable. The failure that was the month of August should have been a clear message to this franchise – changes need to happen and they may need to be drastic.
The time is long overdue. The city of Cleveland and its fans need to hear from you or see some sort of passion, emotion, frustration, anything from you, to let them know that you are dedicated to resolving the problems and to putting a consistent winner on the field.
Your decisions and invisibility at times have sent a completely different message while the team fades into obscurity as one of the league’s laughingstocks and greatest disappointments of 2012.
The current cohort of young people in Cleveland is growing up not knowing what it is like to have a winning baseball team. These young fans, if passionate about the sport, will ultimately be lost to other more successful organizations, costing you countless dollars not spent on the hometown product.
The emptiness in Progressive Field this season, especially over these last four weeks, should be proof positive that fans in this city are distrusting of you and your front office and the moves they have made. The vacancies throughout the park over this final month of the season should serve as a friendly reminder of how your fan base feels about the product you have provided them this season.
You have to do something to win the fans back.
Show the fans that you want to own a WINNER, not just a mediocre sports franchise. Make a splash. Make some noise. Surprise us with a big move. Shuffle up the front office. Hurt some feelings. Do something!
Prove that you are paying attention to what occurs at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Show the fans that you care.
Help Cleveland get the championship it deserves. Helping the fans will help you, too.
Intend to make this team relevant once again.
Photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images