Indians fire manager Eric Wedge and entire coaching staff

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Last week I wrote that Eric Wedge was unlikely to be back for his eighth season as Indians manager in 2010 because “general manager Mark Shapiro probably needs to make someone the fall guy before all of the attention turns to him.”
Sure enough, this morning Shapiro cleaned house by firing Wedge and his entire coaching staff, including hitting coach Derek Shelton, pitching coach Carl Willis, bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, first base coach Luis Rivera, and third base coach Joel Skinner.
Making the announcement with less than a week remaining in the season is curious timing, but apparently Wedge and his staff have agreed to stay on for the final six games before clearing out their offices. Don’t feel sorry for him though, because Wedge has one season left on his contract and the Indians will be paying him $1.3 million in 2010.
Indians fans can provide a laundry list of Wedge’s faults and I’m certainly not going to suggest that he deserves to stay on the job for an eighth season after going 560-568 with just one playoff appearance in seven years. However, the team’s problems clearly stretch beyond the man writing out the lineups. When viewed in isolation most of Shapiro’s moves look sound, but the end result of his wheeling and dealing has been a series of disappointing teams that have now turned into a full-fledged rebuild. Again.
While in Cleveland for the Society for American Baseball Research convention two years ago I attended a panel discussion featuring Shapiro and St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck. Shapiro came across as incredibly intelligent and capable, impressing a room full of hardcore baseball nerds with both his open-mindedness and experience. Yet even then there was plenty of unrest among the Indians fans in the room and he had a hard time shrugging off questions about Wedge’s job security.
Now that Wedge won’t be around to take the first wave of criticism, it’ll be interesting to see if Shapiro can get things turned around before the attention turns to him. He’s been on the job since 2002, constantly rebuilding and reloading, but has just one playoff appearance and two winning seasons to show for it despite playing in a weak, low-payroll division that the Indians absolutely dominated from 1995-2001.

MLBPA thinks all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration

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There’s something interesting deep in Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes column. It’s about arbitration, with Rosenthal reporting that the players union believes that all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration this winter.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, it breaks down thusly:

  • In mid-January, teams and players who are eligible for arbitration will exchange proposed salary figures. The player says what he thinks he’s worth based on comparable players of his quality and service time and the team will propose a lower counter-figure;
  • Generally, the parties then use these proposals as negotiable figures and eventually reach a compromise deal, usually near the midpoint between the two figures, avoiding arbitration;
  • If a deal cannot be reached, they go to an arbitration hearing and arbitrators pick one of the numbers. They CANNOT give a compromise award. It’s either the higher player’s number or the lower team number.

In the past, a handful of teams — most typically the Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Rays, and White Sox — employed a “file- and-trial” approach, meaning that they treated the figure exchange date as a hard deadline after which they refused to negotiate and stood content to go to a hearing. As more teams have adopted this approach, there have been more arbitration hearings. As Rosenthal notes, last year there were more hearings than in any offseason for the past 25 years. Now, the union thinks, every team will do this. If they do, obviously, there will be even more hearings.

There is certainly an advantage to file-and-trial for a team. It makes the player and the agent work harder and earlier in order to be prepared to negotiate with the club before the file deadline. It also makes them work a lot harder to come up with a defensible filing number given that, rather than merely being an opening salvo in an extended negotiation, it’s something that they will certainly have to defend in open court. It’s also simple hardball. Teams have greater resources than the players and the agents and it’s less painful for them to pay for lawyers and hearing prep and to conduct the actual hearing. There’s risk to the team, of course — they might lose and pay more than a settlement would’ve cost — but teams are obviously concluding that the risk is worth it.

The only question I have is, if the union is right and all 30 teams will now proceed this way, how was that decided? Everyone suddenly, after several decades of arbitration, simply decided to take the same approach? Or was there, I dunno, a meeting in which the strategy was coordinated? Inquiring minds want to know!