In case you missed it, Indians primary owner Paul Dolan gave an interview to Mlb.com’s Anthony Castrovince about the financial status and inherent hardships that accompany owning and operating the Cleveland Indians. In the piece, Dolan discussed the market differences that come with running a small market team compared to big market teams and payrolls, as well as indicating the Tribe is NOT going through a rebuilding phase, simply retooling the roster and striving for the postseason while paring back a payroll that was getting to be tenuous for the owners to afford. Also in the piece, Dolan comments that the organization has been working at a loss for a few years, something Kevin Kleps of Crain’s Cleveland doesn’t necessarily repute but also calls into question with the Forbes valuations of operating costs and valuations.
I want to make it clear here and now that I actually am a fan of the Dolan’s as owners. They have consistently fielded good rosters for the fans of Indians baseball and they have provided much-needed stability from the top down of the organization. They have gone through extensive remodeling of Progressive Field and never once asked for taxpayer money to do so. They aren’t caught up in legal battles outside of owning the team, like the Haslam’s. They didn’t write a Comic Sans letter to their best player when they left. Comparatively to some modern-day owners, they are angels. However, it’s the worst kept secret that the organization as a whole, and especially the Dolans, have an issue with bad optics when it comes to some of the public comments they make. I’ve written before that the @Indians Twitter account has had some issues in the past with being a bit too snarky at fans complaining about…generally anything…so it’s not terribly surprising that when Dolan brought up his flight status as something of a “hey, I’m a people just like you”, it was not taken well from the general public. While being honest with the fans is something that is refreshing, but there is such a thing as too much honesty and it can sometimes come off as complaining about owning a professional baseball team when you reduce it down so small. So despite not being asked to, I am here to give my two cents on how Mr. Dolan could have broached the interview a little bit better and save some face with the fans.
“As the owner of the Cleveland Indians, it is my pleasure to bring to you one of the finest collections of talent there is in the major leagues. We strive to put together a group of players that you the fan can connect with, feel safe having the younger fan look up to, and watch play without the sour taste of character flaws clouding the view you have on them. Through our expert scouting department and some long term talent acquisition, we have two top ten players in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, as well as inarguably the best starting pitching rotation in the game, right here in Cleveland. There are exciting players like fan favorites Carlos Santana returning and Jason Kipnis manning second base, the heroic story of Leonys Martin returning from a life-threatening disease, young stars-in-the-making like Jake Bauers, and Greg Allen who are the cusp of becoming household names. We have a world class coaching staff, led by manager Terry Francona. All of these combined is how we as an organization have been able to win 58 more games than any other American League team since 2013, how we have been in the playoff picture since Francona’s arrival and how we made the World Series in 2016 when no one thought we would. We like being favorite just as much as we like being the underdog, and that drive to be great is something we will always continue as an organization.
Now, we all know the socioeconomic struggles Cleveland has been through, and we have felt them here as well. There are some complications with being a small market team in a sport with no salary cap and big market teams that almost eclipse ours in terms of payroll. Those issues do not allow our front office to be bidders for the top-of-the-line free agents like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. We have to build from within and keep payroll at a level we feel comfortable with. While that does make the hoop smaller, we have continually been able to jump through it, time and time again, as we have won the AL Central for each of the last three years. Those issues might mean we make moves and trades to keep our window of contention open for longer, but in this current window of contention, we have never given up on a season and have always made adjustments and additions to the roster as best we could. We are as prepared as always to make 2019 a season in which our goals are in line with the fans: winning a World Series for the city of Cleveland.”