Winning Wedge won't rest on laurels
2007 Manager of the Year has his sights set on 2008 campaign
ATLANTA -- He's the first Cleveland Indians manager to be awarded Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His teams have won 267 games since 2005, fifth most of any team in the Majors. He led the Indians to a tie for the most wins in the American League last season (96). His club has won 93 games in two of the last three seasons, and it nearly pulled off the daily double of knocking out both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox from last year's playoffs.
So how does Eric Wedge feel about his job heading into Year 6?
There are plenty of adjectives, but "complacent" isn't one of them. As far as Wedge is concerned, his job will be no easier this season than it is every year.
"I would never say easier," said Wedge, who brings a 415-395 record (a .512 winning percentage) into his sixth season at the helm. "Every year is challenging in its own way. I just try to be as consistent as I can be. I'm here for one reason and one reason only -- that's for the players. That's the reason I do this. I work off of them, and I enjoy doing that."
Keeping Wedge humble are the three sub-.500 seasons that have accompanied the two 90-plus-win seasons, two of which came in his first seasons at the helm.
As far as his historic recognition last year by the writers, that honor is just that -- history. It certainly doesn't give him any extra edge this year.
"Winning Manager of the Year doesn't mean anything to me," Wedge said prior to the Indians' 2008 Spring Training finale. "Regardless of what happens, the consistency with the players and the back-and-forth should always be the same. It's no different this year than it was last year.
"What matters to them is that we all take care of each other as teammates and play the game the right way. That's what they should worry about. If they look at me differently now than last year, then I'm doing something wrong. That's as blunt as I can put it."
Success certainly hasn't gone to Wedge's head, and won't. Helping keep him level are all the questions his team faces -- not about getting past Boston, but being able to challenge Detroit for AL Central superiority, a crown the Indians won last year but that many have already handed to the Tigers this year.
While confident, the Indians' skipper prefers to stay out of the prediction business.
"I think it's too early. I'm always hesitant to compare like that," Wedge said. "We have a good group here. The formula is the same as it's ever been. You have to play consistent baseball in all areas of our club, and we've got to show up and get after it every night.
"[If] we play pretty good baseball, we give ourself a chance to win. If we don't, we won't. It's pretty simple stuff. I think our guys understand that, and each player, to a man, has to show up and do his job each and every day. That's not rhetoric. It's fact. It's something that has to happen."
In the meantime, Wedge is proud of his rotation. He also likes the depth in the bullpen, and believes the 2008 team will avoid the offensive dips that occasionally plagued the '07 team. That would give Cleveland fans a team they should love -- of course, they can love Wedge, too, but that's not as important.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the fans," Wedge said. "Tribe fans are unbelievably passionate. I love that passion. I love the fact that they care so much about the Cleveland Indians and the players. Their focus is, and should be, on the players. Not me."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.