Wedge gracefully begins exit
Departing manager sees through the final games of 2009
CLEVELAND -- Dressed in full uniform and preparing for another day of work at Progressive Field, Indians manager Eric Wedge had a little matter to attend to.The press conference announcing his dismissal. This was no ordinary press conference. Because here Wedge was, addressing Wednesday's news that he and his coaching staff will no longer be in charge of the Indians, while simultaneously getting ready to manage the Indians in a doubleheader against the White Sox. But this uncommon situation, in which Wedge and his coaches will stay on board through the end of the 2009 season, served as a testament to the respect the Indians still have for Wedge and the respect Wedge has for his soon-to-be-former job. "The right thing to do," Wedge said, "is to handle this appropriately and professionally, and then move on." Wedge, 41, is likely to move on to another managerial job elsewhere in the Major Leagues someday. Perhaps not next season, when he will still be under contract with the Tribe for more than $1 million. But some speculate that Wedge, who had the fifth-longest tenure of any current manager with his team, will eventually find another home somewhere. For now, Wedge, who has managed the Indians for the past seven seasons and compiled a 560-568 record, said he would remain focused on the waning days of the Tribe's highly disappointing '09 season, then spend some quality time with his wife, Kate, and their two young children. Wedge, true to form, did not offer any parting shots despite having to contend with some difficult situations. In the past two years, the Indians have made the unprecedented move of trading away two Cy Young Award winners in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, as well as All-Star catcher and vocal leader Victor Martinez. Through all the turmoil that has followed a 2007 season in which the Indians came within a win of the World Series and Wedge won the American League Manager of the Year Award, Wedge put his focus on the players on hand, not the ones who got away. Wedge said he accepts full accountability for what has transpired the past two seasons, when the Indians entered the year with high hopes only to be out of contention by the All-Star break. The Indians went 81-81 last year and entered Wednesday with a 64-92 record, placing them in danger of finishing last in the AL Central. "Hey, I'm the manager of the team," Wedge said. "It's my job to go out there and win ballgames. I'm a big believer in being accountable for what you do. I preach it to the players, I preach it to the people around me. I take responsibility for this, no different than other people in leadership positions in this organization do as well." Wedge's dismissal is a result of an organizational review held by owner Larry Dolan, team president Paul Dolan, general manager Mark Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti. That foursome has been meeting for several weeks to address a wide array of topics and, at some point in the past couple weeks, the decision was made to make a change in the dugout. It is believed that Wedge has known his fate for at least the past several days, though he would only allow that he was informed "fairly recently" that he would not be staying aboard. The dismissal of the coaching staff was considered standard operating procedure, in that the new manager will have his pick of staff. The Indians are not only dealing with their worst season since 2003, Wedge's rookie year at the helm. They are also dealing with sagging attendance in a rough economy and a fan base that, by and large, never really welcomed Wedge with open arms. "There are real factors that have led to this point in time," Wedge said. "I understand that, the people that are in this organization understand that, and that's enough for me." Did the lack of fan support frustrate Wedge? "People who know me understand what I'm all about," Wedge said. "I want fans to like me like anybody does, but I don't get caught up in that. It allows me to show up here every day and be the same guy every day for the players." Wedge won't be showing up next season, but he had some thoughts on the situation the next skipper will inherit. "Obviously, you're going to have a lot of young talent," Wedge said. "It's going to be inexperienced. But what we're doing this year is really going to help them. I was here back in the beginning , and I understand really rebuilding. This is not that situation here in Cleveland. You've got a solid organization, solid leadership intact, a solid Minor League system, you've got a process here that works in this market. They're going to be fine." And Wedge seemed fine with what is taking place. He spoke and acted like a man at peace with himself, his surroundings and his situation. He even made light of it. "Joel Skinner's dad said, 'Until you've been fired, you've never managed or coached,'" Wedge said. "I told Joel to call his old man, because I'm going to be a manager and a coach now." As the speculation mounted that his day would come, Wedge never wavered in the way he went about his business with his players, his staff and the media. "If you're worrying about your job, you're not doing your job," he said. "You've got to just focus on today. As soon as I leave this room, my entire focus is going to be on that first pitch of that first game." And with that, Wedge left the press interview room and went back to work.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.