Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Toxic Situation in Cleveland

Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez seems to have missed the Indians media training sessions.

Perez in May lashed out at his team's fan base after a quick start failed to generate a boost in attendance. This is from an article by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans," said Perez. "We know the weather stinks, but people see that [attendance]. Other players know that.

"You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000 like Beltran chose to do, or you can come to Cleveland. It's going to take more money to get him to come to Cleveland. That's just how it is. That's another thing that you have to go against. It's not only the payrolls of the AL East teams, but that kind of stuff."

Fast forward to September and the team has utterly cratered -- including two recent sweeps by the A's. Perez, in a Fox Sports article on how some small markets (including Oakland) have found the recipe for success, this time rips into his team's ownership for being spendthrift.

When asked why the Tigers are successful and the Indians are not, Perez said this:

“Different owners,” Perez said frankly, in reference to Detroit’s Mike Ilitch and Cleveland’s Lawrence J. Dolan. “It comes down to that. They (the Tigers) are spending money. He (Ilitch) wants to win. Even when the economy was down (in Detroit), he spent money. He’s got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don’t. But most of the time you do.”

To summarize his thoughts: People don't come to the ballpark, even if we are winning.

We can't compete because ownership is cheap. Players don't want to come here because it is a ghost town.

Those exact thoughts regarding the A's have flashed across any number of fans' minds.

Spending money dosen't guarantee winning. Ask the Red Sox. Ask the A's opponent today, the Angels, how much of their recent success can be attributed to Vernon Wells' bloated $21 million contract and .228 batting average. You do have to spend money, but you need to do so wisely. The Indians spent more than the A's this year (opening day payroll of $78.43 million vs. the A's $55.37), but their investments in some big-money players has been a bust -- Travis Hafner ($13.5 million, injured, played in only 60 games) and Grady Sizemore ($5 million, injured, played in no games) and the gamble they took with Ubaldo Jimenez hasn't worked out ($4.2 million, 9-15, 5.58 ERA).

Even though the A's have a lower payroll, they did make two smart somewhat big-money signings -- Coco Crisp for two years and $14 million and Yoenis Cespedes for four years and $36 million. You need to spend money, but even more important is doing so strategically. Crisp is worth the extra money as a table setter and veteran leader. Cespedes' current production indicates that he is actually underpaid. A's GM Billy Beane knew that restrictions on international signings were coming, and exploited that market inefficiency.

Perez' diatribes against Cleveland don't quite work in Oakland. It is true that people aren't coming to the ballpark, despite the team's winning ways. With that comment, A's fans can sympathize -- except that the Coliseum is not the architectural gem that is Progressive Field. However, the A's success -- in spite of their paltry payroll -- is proof that the total amount of money spent isn't what counts, it's who it is spent on.

Time will tell if this remarkable season helps lure free agents and bring fans to the park. Recent off season history has indicated that both Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman spurned larger offers from the A's to play for other teams. While A's ownership used these instances as fuel for the new stadium campaign, it very well could also have been that these free agents didn't want to play for a team that wasn't competitive (Beltre signed with the Red Sox and made the playoffs in 2010 and Berkman last year signed with the Cardinals and won the World Series.) Someone might need to let Chris Perez know that the Indians haven't been all that good in a while. His example of a free agent turned off by the thin crowds in the 'Cleve is Carlos Beltran, a member this season of last year's champs the St. Louis Cardinals.

Winning fixes a lot of things and may make Oakland much more attractive this off season to free agents and season ticket holders. Sadly, and partially due to the toxicity of comments like Perez, Cleveland is not looking like an attractive destination for free agents or fans.

Marlins Owner Sets Record for Creepiest Quote

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was asked his thoughts on the current season by a reporter at the Miami Herald and responded, in part this way:

“What have I been thrilled with?” Loria said, asking his own question. “Watching Jose Reyes. Every breath he takes is worth watching.

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