Indians revel in return to glory
Club leadership sees belief and planning pay off big
CLEVELAND -- Mark Shapiro remembers the reaction when he traded ace-in-the-making Bartolo Colon to the Expos in 2002 and officially initiated the Indians' rebuilding plan.Contention in Cleveland had been taken for granted until that point. But Shapiro, in his first season as general manager, knew the changing economic structure wouldn't allow that to be the case any longer. "I looked at a lot of blank stares," he said Sunday afternoon, as champagne, beer and, of course, pies to the face dominated the scene in the Indians' clubhouse. "Very few people believed in what we were going to do and how we were going to do it." The Indians have plenty of believers now. The faces Shapiro looked at on this day were the ones of champions. In the celebratory aftermath of a division-clinching victory over the A's, Shapiro could look around and see all the elements of the Tribe's first title and postseason berth since '01. On one side of him stood team owner Larry Dolan, who had dutifully endured the inevitable public-relations hit that comes with tearing up a team to build for the future. Dolan was around the last time the Indians clinched a crown. But this one, he said, felt much more special. "I think it has to do with the relationship with this team today, as opposed to 2001," he said. "In 2001, I had nothing to do with it. I was just riding along. I'm not going to say I'm responsible for this team, but I was involved with decisions -- the right ones and the wrong ones. This is a product of a lot of people I now know well, and I'm so proud of all they've done." Shapiro made a decision earlier this summer to give manager Eric Wedge a three-year contract extension, even though Wedge had never guided a club to the postseason. On this day, that faith was rewarded. And Wedge, a tightly guarded, even-keeled personality, finally allowed himself the luxury of celebration. This moment, Wedge said, was defined by the smiles on the faces of his close-knit group of ballplayers, who never complained or offered excuses even when this season dealt some bizarre blows. "If you care about a group of people, you want to see them happy," Wedge said. "You want to see them have success. These guys care about each other, and I care about them. It's great to see them in a state of euphoria." Wedge was so caught up in the moment that he didn't mind much when team prankster Trot Nixon nailed him in the face with a chocolate whipped cream pie. "I thought I was going to go all year without that happening," Wedge said with a smile.
|"To do this at the highest level, this is why you play the game right here. It was just a total team effort, and it's an unbelievable feeling."|
|-- Travis Hafner|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.