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Cheap Indians break off talks with Justin Masterson

Good grief. There’s every reason to e excited about the Cleveland Indians this year, as the young pitching staff has huge potential and they have a solid lineup. With Terry Francona at the helm and a higher budget for free agents, the Dolans finally decided to join the major leagues again and actually compete, as opposed to just acting as a minor league team for franchises who were serious about winning.

But these negotiations with Justin Masterson are a real buzz kill. Masterson offered the Indians a proposal for only 2-3 years with a reasonable salary given today’s market. Sure, the Indians have plenty of young pitching and can probably survive losing Masterson. But Masterson isn’t insisting on a ridiculous long-term deal. He gave the Indians a real option, and the should have come to terms with him.

Now they’ve given Tribe fans another reason to be skeptical, and we’ll have to hear more stories about payroll and attendence in a year when everyone should be excited about the team’s chances.

The Dolans came a long way last year in rebuilding some trust with the fans. I gave up my season tickets when they unloaded Cliff Lee for a song one year too early, and many other fans were finished with them after that abomination. Now they’re taking another step back when they should be celebrating a real contender.

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Indians sign Nick Swisher

From my perspective, the Indians have been a mess since they traded Cliff Lee for a bag of beans. Last year was a mess with the idiotic re-signing of Grady Sizemore and the miserly approach of the Dolans.

But since they added Terry Francona as the new manager, I have to say I’m impressed with the approach of the front office. The signing of Nick Swisher is excellent news, as he rounds out a lineup that has a legitimate bat at every spot in the order. Yes, a couple of them are strikeout machines, but now they can be parked later in the batting order where their power will be a plus.

I’m still hoping the Tribe moves Chris Perez, not because I have anything against him, but just because closers are overvalued, and they should be able to get real value in return while handing the closer job to Vinnie Pestano.

Victor traded

After dumping Cliff Lee, it made sense for the Tribe to trade Victor Martinez. If you’re going to blow up the team and give up on 2010, this was the only logical move.

That said, it still sucks to watch them trade a player like Victor. He reportedly cried when told the news. It also sucks to see him go to Boston. It’s hard enough watching Cliff Lee pitch a complete game in his first outing for the Phillies, but at least he’s in the NL and not playing for a team Tribe fans hate.

The whole thing sucks. The Dolans should just give up and sell the team.

Of course, the Indians now have a ton of young players, mostly pitchers, added to their farm system. Given Mark Shapiro’s track record, these guys have a shot to contribute over the next several years. But does it really matter? Won’t the Dolans eventually give up on the players who do pan out?

The Tribe’s salary dump

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts July 17, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The trading of Cliff Lee is an embarrassment for the Dolan family and the Cleveland Indians, because they are giving up on 2010 along with this season for purely financial reasons. That’s the only explanation for this trade, and it feeds the long-standing criticisms of the Dolan family – that they don’t have the financial means to be playing in the big leagues.

The Dolans will counter that they have stepped up in the past and that the current payroll was substantial. In that respect they have a point, and Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge need to answer for the team’s performance. But that criticism will be left for another day. The point here is that they are not willing to spend money when the inevitable adversity faces a franchise. Even good front office people make mistakes, and teams need to adjust a retool. In that respect the Sabathia trade last season was much more defensible. The season was lost, and there wwas no way they were going to be able to sign C.C., who despite his bullshit expressions of love for Cleveland and Milwaukee ended up taking the highest offer on the market from the Yankees.

That deal makes sense, but this deal makes no sense. The Indians do have a solid core group of players, and they could contend if they had Cliff Lee at the front of their rotation if they made some key moves on the pitching staff and got rid of Wedge. But now we’ll never know because the Dolans cried “uncle.”

Trading Cliff Lee, a Cy Young Award winner, for a bunch of prospects when you have another FULL SEASON left on his contract is a disgrace. No amount of spinning from Shapiro can save this one. Sure, Shapiro might strike gold again with this deal, he does fairly well evaluating other teams’ prospects, but that doesn’t really matter. The Indians are giving up for now.

I’ve shared a season-ticket package with friends for 15 years. I will not be joining the group next season.

UPDATED with more recent photo of Cliff Lee.

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