Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cleveland's Never Ending Heartbreak

The Cleveland Indians currently have the best record in baseball and sit atop the American league central by 4 1/2 games over the Kansas City Royals. They have taken advantage of a slow start by the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins and the younger players are starting to produce. That should be cause for excitement and optimism for a city that clearly deserves it, but history has shown us that their success will be short lived.

Cleveland went through this exact same scenario in the mid 90's when they developed superstar players like Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome. I still remember being in Cleveland on my birthday in 1997 all set to storm the downtown area after game 7 of the World Series. Unfortunately Jose Mesa blew the save in the 9th inning and the Indians World Series dreams were shattered. Shortly thereafter the organization started to dismantle the team and Cleveland fans were forced to suffer through another decade of mediocre baseball. It wasn't a lack of desire that led to the dismantling of a championship caliber team, it was the economics of baseball.

Once you reach a certain level of success it becomes too expensive for most teams to keep productive players. Eventually the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets, and Cubs will raid your team for its free agent talent and you'll be forced to start from scratch. It's only a matter of time before the big boys come calling for Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Austin Kearns. We've already seen what happened with Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia.

If Cleveland was a big market city capable of carrying a 100 million dollar payroll the Indians would be World Series contenders every year. Instead they have to resign themselves to the fact that The Indians are nothing more than a glorified farm system for the elite teams. Since baseball has no profit sharing or salary cap the teams with the deep pockets will always have the advantage. Hopefully the Indians do something special before it all comes to a grinding halt. Good luck Cleveland.

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