Is Eric Wedge in trouble?
Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
If you had asked me before last season's All-Star break whether or not Eric Wedge would return as the manager of the Cleveland Indians, I would have told you no way.
And rightfully so, by the way.
On July 9 of last season the Tribe was 37-53, 15 1/2 games back in the AL Central, and had just traded the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner in CC Sabathia.
In other words things were bad, and did not look like they were going to get any better. Keep in mind, too, that this was a team that was a game away from reaching the World Series in 2007.
But a funny thing happened. The Indians shockingly played better after the Sabathia deal, and their 40 wins following the All-Star break were the most among teams in the AL Central.
So, Wedge received a stay of execution and his team managed to get back to .500, finishing 81-81.
The strong finish, coupled with the carry-over from Cliff Lee's Cy Young season, the signing of Kerry Wood to shore up a perceived weakness in the bullpen, the return of a healthy Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, and the continued rising star of center fielder Grady Sizemore, had expectations running high for the Indians entering the 2009 season.
Things, though, have not gone well for Wedge's club in the early going. The Indians have again stumbled out of the gate, and with just one win through their first eight games heading into Wednesday's action, Wedge again finds himself on the hot seat.
Granted, I know there are still 155 games to play and firing Wedge now would rival the idiocy of the Baltimore Orioles canning Cal Ripken Sr. six games into the 1988 season, but something has to change.
Wedge has vastly underachieved since taking over for interim skipper Joel Skinner before the 2003 season, and his in-game management has been questioned ever since he took the helm. However, he always seems to do just enough to keep his job, then disappoints after the organization decides to keep him.
The one saving grace for Wedge is that there has not a standout team among the five in the AL Central thus far. In fact most people believed that team would be the Indians, but Lee hasn't been good, Fausto Carmona has continued to be the disaster he was last year, rather than the 19-game winner he was in 2007 and Carl Pavano, well, he's been Carl Pavano.
Cleveland's starters have been atrocious in going 1-5 with a 10.13 ERA through the first eight games, while working into the sixth inning just twice.
There have been rumblings that the team is sniffing around Pedro Martinez to help the rotation. But, even if they did bring him in, Martinez wouldn't be ready for at least a month.
Heck, the Tribe might be out of it by then. If you don't believe me take a look at last year's Detroit Tigers.
Come to think of it, Cleveland's start is eerily similar to that of the 2008 Tigers. Everyone had Detroit contending for the postseason last year, but it got off to a brutal start, never recovered, and became the most expensive last- place team in baseball history.
Like I said, it's probably too early to panic, but after the Tribe closes its series with the Kansas City Royals, they head to the Bronx to face a New York Yankees team that will be opening a new stadium. Not to mention that they will be facing Sabathia in what should be a raucous opener on Thursday.
It's not crazy to think that after this weekend they could have 10 losses, and history has told us that the Indians are not a franchise that recovers well from slow starts.
They actually haven't been 1-7 since winning just one of their first 11 games in the 1987 campaign - a year, by the way, that they were picked to win the AL Central and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the season.
Cleveland fired Pat Corrales midway through the season that year and if Wedge doesn't turn things around here soon, history is going to repeat itself yet again in the Ohio Valley.
Only this time, I have a feeling that Wedge won't get the 87 games Corrales got.