Indians owner defends recent trades

Updated: August 6, 2009, 4:29 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- With financial losses mounting and the Cleveland Indians underperforming, owner Paul Dolan has had to accept life in baseball's mid-market world.

"Every four or five years, if we can have a shot at the World Series and compete for the playoffs like we did in '05, that's as good as it gets," Dolan said.

In a candid interview Thursday, Dolan projected that the Indians, currently in fourth place in the AL Central, will lose $16 million this season despite revenue-sharing from major league baseball. The Indians will need to borrow money over the next few years, Dolan said, but the club has no plans to ask the league for the loans.

Due largely to the team's troubled finances, Dolan said the recent trades of Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and All-Star catcher Victor Martinez were necessary long-term moves.

Dolan said he also is disappointed in the team's slide and will look at "the full body of work" during an offseason evaluation of general manager Mark Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge.

The Indians traded Lee and Martinez before the July 31 deadline. The deals have been widely criticized by Cleveland fans, who couldn't understand the rationale behind giving up two core players -- both of whom had contract options for 2010 -- for future prospects.

Dolan explained the moves were made to expedite the Indians' return to contention.

"After we traded Cliff, we had made a commitment toward a new direction for the franchise," he said. "At that point, you don't go halfway. We needed to make moves that put us in the best position to compete as soon as possible. The sense was in our organization that Vic [Martinez] was at his highest value and what we got back in return put us in a better position than we would have been had we kept them."

The trades will help offset financial problems brought by a drop in attendance. Before Opening Day, the Indians estimated they would draw at least 2.2 million fans to Progressive Field this season, but the number will be closer to 1.75 million, Dolan said.

Dolan expected the backlash from Indians fans unhappy about the trades.

"They're not happy with us now, but they weren't going to be happy with us for years to come if we didn't do the things we did," he said.

Wedge's performance also has been panned by Indians fans. He has led the Indians to one playoff appearance in seven seasons, but Dolan said he should be judged through a broader prism.

"Eric and his staff have achieved a lot in their time here. I think fans tend to forget that," Dolan said. "When he took over in '03, he took over what was, in essence, an expansion franchise. In a relatively short period of time, he turned it into a competitive team.

"He and others deserve a lot of credit for that. Despite that, we have not been successful the last few years with a team that should have been successful. We have to understand why that is. We also have to understand that sometimes fans want or need to hear a different voice. We have to balance that."

Dolan said he and his father, Larry, will be involved in any decision on Wedge's future.

Dolan said he has no plans to sell the Indians despite a steady drumbeat to do so from the outside.

"I get the suggestion to sell the team a few times a day," he said with a laugh. "We have not changed our plans in any way."

Dolan said he would be open to other investors.

"But we haven't been openly seeking that," he said.

Shapiro and Cleveland's front office will come under scrutiny once the season ends. Cleveland's draft has been suspect in recent years, but Dolan pointed out that Minnesota's farm system was replenished by the Twins picking high during years when the team was among the AL's worst.

"Since the early 90s, we've had one pick in the top 10, and that was the year we drafted [pitcher] Jeremy Sowers," he said. "We'd like to see more of our higher-round picks perform at a higher level. We haven't had that, so we have to understand why."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press