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06/26/09 7:00 PM ET
Shapiro addresses speculation on Wedge
Tribe GM says no one person to blame for club's troubles
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The fingers of fans remain pointed at Indians manager Eric Wedge, but general manager Mark Shapiro continues to deflect the negative attention away from his beleaguered skipper. Addressing the ongoing speculation that Wedge's job is on the line, Shapiro reiterated to reporters Friday that he takes the brunt of the blame for what has transpired this season with the Indians, who, at 30-44, entered the day 12 games back in the American League Central.
"The accountability and responsibility for what has been a bad year is broad-based and shared," Shapiro said. "The arrow should not be pointed at Eric. It should point toward a broad spectrum -- players, our staff, Eric, myself, the front office. There's shared responsibility, and I'm accountable for all those groups." Still, it's Wedge's job that is the hot topic among fans and the media, and it's Wedge's job that is possibly a subject of discussion between Shapiro and the Dolan family that owns the ballclub. Shapiro said he has met with owner Larry Dolan and team president Paul Dolan, just as he does at various junctures every season. "Of course, one of the topics of conversation has been the performance of the manager and his staff, of the front office, of the players and evaluations of everything," Shapiro said. "So [Wedge] has been a topic of conversation." And it appears to be an ongoing topic, as Shapiro did not offer any assurances that Wedge's job is safe. "If there's an announcement to make, I'll make an announcement," he said. "But I've never been in the habit of updating people on the progress of decisions or junctures we're at. We conduct that business internally, and obviously ownership is involved as well." So, is Wedge on the proverbial "hot seat"? "I don't know what that means," Shapiro said. "In this business, every single one of us has a sense of urgency and accountability. We all go through junctures where we're evaluated. For me, now is not one of those junctures [to evaluate Wedge]." But the Dolans, of course, have the final say. For his part, Wedge, who is 526-520 in seven years at the helm of the Tribe, acknowledged the speculation for a second straight day in his pregame talk with reporters. He said he doesn't feel it's becoming a distraction in the clubhouse. "That's real," Wedge said of the talk. "But I'm a big boy, and we've got some men on this team. You take the good, the bad and the ugly." Still, as this issue lingers in the press and on the lips of fans, it certainly has the potential to further unravel an already reeling ballclub. Last year, as rumors mounted that ace CC Sabathia was on the trading block, the Indians found themselves in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. When the team finished strong in the second half, after Sabathia was shipped off, both the players and Wedge said the Sabathia speculation had been a weight on the collective shoulders of the team during that rough patch. It is possible that the Wedge speculation is serving or could serve as an albatross much the way the CC talk did. Shapiro, though, doesn't want to hear such excuses. "That's one area I'm not real sympathetic to," he said. "Championship players deal with distractions. They need to focus on their job. Good players and good teams filter distractions out." Plenty of distractions are available to the Indians right now. Not only have their hopes of contention all but vanished, but as the July 31 Trade Deadline nears, the possibility of players getting shipped out is very real. "We're in a tough spot, with the evidence mounting that it might be one of those years," Shapiro said. "I don't think you ever stop playing to get better or to win. Our primary goal remains winning today and winning a series and taking it step by step. But obviously, we've had a lot of cards stacked against us, and it's been a tough go." Whether ownership will decide if it's Wedge's time to go remains to be seen. It's possible this speculation could linger into the All-Star break or through the remainder of the season before the Indians make a firm announcement, one way or another. For now, Shapiro said his daily conversations with Wedge cover a variety of topics, job speculation included. "We have consistent and open communication with each other," Shapiro said. "Our focus is joined. It's on this team now and winning, game by game and series by series. Obviously, we have conversations beyond that, and we address everything. It's a broad scope of issues."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.