Eric Wedge's dismissal Wednesday as manager of the Cleveland Indians wasn't so much a firing as it was a mercy killing.
The Indians are not going to win next year, and general manager Mark Shapiro tacitly acknowledged that in trading slugger Victor Martinez and ace Cliff Lee this summer even though both players had affordable 2010 options.
Wedge had presided over the American League's most disappointing team for two seasons running and, amid Wednesday's developments in Cleveland, what's more important than who will run the club next summer is what it says about where the Indians are now, period.
Shapiro has steadfastly stood by Wedge since hiring him in 2003, insisting from the beginning that theirs was more a partnership than anything else.
What's changed now is that it's clear that Cleveland ownership is growing more and more impatient amid the mounting losses and declining attendance.
Shapiro was under pressure to remove Wedge, and now that pressure will mount squarely on the GM as he rolls up his sleeves in the midst of another rebuilding project -- this one unforeseen as recently as a year ago.
Shapiro was considered one of the game's brightest young GMs back when he replaced John Hart, and maybe he's part victim of his own success. Nobody expected the Indians to contend as quickly as they did following the Manny Ramirez/Roberto Alomar/Jim Thome years, but Shapiro rebuilt them so adeptly that, after the last remnants of that group won 91 games in 2001, a retooled Indians team won 93 games just four years later.
Whomever is the next manager of the Indians will not have Martinez, Lee, CC Sabathia or Casey Blake. What Shapiro and his baseball people are banking on is that in some of the prospects they've acquired for the latest dispatched band of Indians stars -- like outfielder Matt LaPorta, right-hander Chris Perez and Jess Todd, catcher Lou Marson -- can become the next generation's Martinez, Sabathia, Lee, et. al.
The Indians acquired 11 prospects during a whirlwind, midseason trading spree, each of whom is 24 years old or younger, nine of whom are pitchers.
Shapiro has excelled on the trading market far more often than not in his eight seasons in charge.
Now, after one of their most disappointing seasons in decades, the GM really needs that magic to continue. Probably more now for his own sake than for the sake of whomever they find to replace Wedge.
Likes: Michael Young back in Texas' lineup this week for the first time in nearly two weeks. He's a class act and the unquestioned face of the Rangers, and it's been weird not seeing him in the lineup this month while he was recovering from a strained left hamstring. Before he missed 11 consecutive starts with the injury from Sept. 2-14 (and 11 more in a row after he came back too soon on Sept. 15), he had not missed more than two consecutive starts at any time since the beginning of the 2002 season. ... Have there been any more dramatic moments than what we've watched in Coors Field this year? Chris Iannetta's game-winning homer against Milwaukee on Tuesday night adds to the list. ... The song is old and corny, but it's still become a cool moment when the Angels blast The Foundations' insanely catchy Build Me Up, Buttercup during the seventh-inning stretch. Maybe it's because the song never fails to bring a smile thanks to memories of the end credits in There's Something About Mary. ... This Tom Gage column in the Detroit News. He's right.
Dislikes: That is one ugly Chuck Knoblauch story.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
"I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
"I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
"Looking into their eyes I see them running too"
-- Jackson Browne, Running on Empty