The Plain Dealer’s Bill Lubinger did some good work with a relatively comprehensive interview of Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro that ran over the weekend. The following on MLB’s growing competitive balance problem is one of the most encouraging things Cleveland fan has had to read in the sports pages in awhile.
PD: What is the club doing about the league’s competitive balance problem? There are more small- and mid-market clubs than big-market teams, so why not band together for change? How far do you push to level the field?
MS: I think the system works well for most teams. Part of what’s enabled baseball to thrive overall as a game has been the commissioner’s ability to keep all 30 teams together despite things being better to some than others. Certainly, from our standpoint, we get frustrated with what we feel are clear objective reasons that competitive balance doesn’t work as well for us. And, believe me, we don’t just silently accept that. We spend energy, time and lobbying and explaining our situation and we engage with the commissioner’s office and with other teams in an attempt to improve those conditions. … There are things that we clearly and very specifically believe that will help, but we think it’s more effective to keep those between us and (the league office in) New York.
Hopefully this is more than just lip service, and if there’s no perceptible improvement in the coming years we’ll naturally expect to hear more from the Indians front office on the issue, but for now it’s a lot better than denying that a problem exists like Shapiro did elsewhere in the interview with respect to a separate but related issue of significant import.
Here’s the Tribe Prez on “anti-Dolan criticism,” referring, of course, to the club’s owners:
I wish the fans could know the Dolans like I know the Dolans. I wish they could know how much they care about the city, how much they care about the Indians and how badly they want to win. They’ve operated extremely responsibly, they’re respected in Major League Baseball, they’re excellent owners and operators and, most importantly, why people like me have chosen to work here and stay here is because they’re good people, they have impeccable character and integrity and they want the same things that every fan wants and that we all want.
Of course, until the Indians renounce Chief Wahoo, the Dolans’ character and integrity will remain thoroughly peccable, which has to keep them firmly out of “excellent owners” territory as well. Shapiro was described in a 2007 piece by the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy as, “clearly uncomfortable with the topic [of Wahoo], but powerless to change things.”
“It’s not an area I have control over or choose to focus,” Shapiro told Shaughnessy.
Which of course makes it an especially huge bummer that Lubinger apparently didn’t ask Shapiro what he thought about the recent groundbreaking Scene cover story on the issue, because of course, after reading it, nobody decent could possibly be uncomfortable accepting the truth that Wahoo is a disgusting embarrassment; and with so much conclusive research in hand, nobody with half a brain could possibly be powerless to demonstrate why. Anyway, we have as much faith in Shapiro as we do in just about anyone who’s in charge of anything important in Cleveland, so for now we’ll hope this is another one of those “behind closed doors” things.
In other weekend news, the Hey Mary Kay! letter of the week is from Joshua Hole of Plain City, Ohio:
Hey, Mary Kay: Still wish we would have taken Justin Blackmon? — [Mr. Hole, Plain City]
Hey, Joshua: In this pass-oriented era, I still think the best receiver in the draft trumps the best running back. I don’t think Blackmon’s DUI last week means he’s a failure, but I’d send him to rehab right away if I were the Jags. I also question how great he’s going to look with Blaine Gabbert throwing to him.
Yes, the Browns should have drafted Justin Blackmon and sent him to rehab right away, and if there’s ever any reason to question that proposition it will be Blaine Gabbert’s fault.
Finally, the most anticipated NBA series since forever starts tomorrow in Oklahoma City and since LeBron will “only have one” championship if the Heat win, nobody can lose here, so happy Monday, everyone, and we’ll see about a Finals preview tomorrow.