Meeting Paul Dolan, rooting for the Tribe, and balancing criticism

WFNY Goon Squad Dolan

WFNY Goon Squad Dolan

In case you missed it, we had a chance encounter with Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan yesterday. Given that it’s not every day that I meet a billionaire who happens to own the team which I root for on a nightly basis, I’ve been thinking about it a lot since it happened.

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a bit strange when we were taking our photo with Paul outside of Progressive Field. I’ve been pretty critical of him and his ownership of the Cleveland Indians. Even as recently as this season, I feel as if I’ve crushed a great portion of the Indians organization. I don’t think I was wrong about many or most of my criticisms, but it still felt a little bit strange to take my picture with the man who had been a subject of many of my critical words for years.

After thinking about it for a while, I’m feeling a lot better, because I know I have always wanted the Indians to do well. I never wanted them to fail so that I could look smarter for being so very critical. And now that they’ve had such a great September and gotten themselves in the hunt, this is when we’re all supposed to get along, right? Isn’t this how these things are supposed to work?

In Cleveland over the last few years, being a sports fan has been like following politics. People measure each other’s stances, dig in and pick sides. Are you pro-Brandon Weeden? Do you think attendance at Tribe games is understandable or embarrassing? Do you like the Trent Richardson trade? Should the Dolans sell the Indians and should they have fired Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti? It’s been warfare between the factions of fans as they’ve contributed to their own miserable culture fueled by the fact that the teams haven’t performed well. Tell me how pointless all the “Tribe Town” vs. “Browns Town” bickering was when the Indians started their pre-season marketing?

Now that the Indians made it to the playoffs though, it’s a time to reflect on the fact that, in the end, we’re all Clevelanders who love the Tribe. Even though I’ve been critical of Dolan and suggested that his family isn’t suited to own the franchise, I always wanted the team to achieve. And I have to tell you, even though I felt a little badly about posing for a picture with a guy who I’ve been critical of, I meant every word of it when I congratulated him yesterday.

Even when you disagree with the President, you have to respect the office. It was in that vein yesterday that I was really happy to see Paul Dolan walking by as we were taking a photo. As we were goofing off and enjoying the Tribe’s appearance in the playoffs, standing under a giant sign which praised the team’s accomplishments, how can you not get a little giddy and happy to see the guy who – if you believe my opinions from the last five or so years – bucked the odds and got it done this season?

You can’t be Paul Dolan, Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona or any of the Indians players and not know that criticism comes along with the territory. As long as the criticism is coming from a place of fandom where everyone basically wants the same things, it should be just fine. Maybe I’m justifying it to myself, but I’m feeling alright with it. I am happy for Paul Dolan. I’m happy for us. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed wearing my Tribe shirt today and talking with strangers about the team from elevator patrons who I normally wouldn’t talk to, all the way to the Subway Sandwich Artist who chatted me up while making my lunch.

Now let’s just hope they can win tonight so we can keep these feelings going for a little while longer.

Congratulations, Mr. Dolan. I mean it. Go Tribe.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Good piece. Did you guys have a chance to ask Dolan any Qs/address any criticisms?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Also, for kicks: “Are you pro-Brandon Weeden? Do you think attendance at Tribe games is understandable or embarrassing? Do you like the Trent Richardson trade? Should the Dolans sell the Indians and should they have fired Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti? Tell me how pointless all the “Tribe Town” vs. “Browns Town” bickering was when the Indians started their pre-season marketing?”

    Yes. Understandable. Yes, though at the time it felt like a slap to season ticket holders. Probably, and no. Completely pointless.

  • Mike Stein

    You’ve been taking those bats down there for months planning to use them on him, right??

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Brandon Weeden? No
    Attendance? Understandable
    Trent Trade? No
    Dolans/Shapiro/Antonetti? No (for today. lol)
    Tribe Town vs. Browns Town? Pointless

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Nope. It was really quick. He was going to go eat his lunch.

  • mgbode

    AND HE DIDN’T INVITE YOU TO JOIN HIM? THIS IS WHY THE INDIANS FO IS SO TERRIBLE! GAARRRRR!

    (sorry, couldn’t help it and I doubt our normal chicken little’s would respond today :) )

  • MallaLubba

    You’re being too hard on yourself. Your position is one that requires a critical eye.

    I work in an industry where I am (and was taught to be) criticized constantly. Paul Dolan and whoever else makes up the ownership team face criticism all day, every day (I imagine). From my standpoint, you begin to even appreciate the less than favorable words that you tend to receive. I’d have to believe that if you were to ask him, directly, he’d have the same feeling.

    Passion is good. Whether it manifests as criticism over loses and perpetual loosing seasons or shear, fandom delight of playing in October: it all comes from a place of love. It’s all energy pushing towards the goal of success.

  • MrCleaveland

    Nice. But I wouldn’t want to run into you guys in an alley.

  • Steve

    I didn’t get a lot of the criticism that the Dolans got. Not the “too loyal to Shapiro/Antonetti” criticism. I get that. Though this season does demonstrate why they stuck with them. Those two (and the rest of the FO for that matter) is well regarded around the league, that’s how they got Francona on board.

    I never got “the Dolans don’t care about . . . (fill in the blank – winning, the fans, anything but money)” argument though. These are local guys who bought the team specifically because they cared. I know this team hasn’t been 90’s good (though its an important discussion as to whether that would ever be attainable again), but there have been more than a few highlights. I feel sometimes fans act like this is the 60s, 70s, and 80s all over again, but it’s not even close to that. We need to recalibrate what we understand to be pretty good ball.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    Ha! Craig and I had the discussion on the way there that I must look like some kind of mafia thug walking down the street with a bat.

  • Harv 21

    NOT TERRIBLE, JUZ CHEAP

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    Why is it “The Dolans?” (Not in this article, but often.)

    I thought only one Dolan (Paul) owned the Indians and the other one (James) has the Knicks and is a deserved punchline for Bill Simmons.

    I get that daddy bought the team, but Paul is the Indians’ Chairman/CEO and officially ‘control person‘.. can it be Dolan singular now?

  • Harv 21

    Paul Dolan has admitted rethinking the failed organizational strategy after last season. If he now publicly recognizes that failure, there was obviously nothing wrong with fans and bloggers doing so. In fact, you, Craig, YOU, might have been part of the impetus toward change.

    For a few seasons I have complained here that there appeared no road out of the team’s losing/falling attendance/low spending death spiral, not without serious improvement in their scouting and development. Well, they convinced Francona to come, and they chose to use the rope of their one-time financial windfall in selling the cable rights to pull themselves up and attempt to regain fan interest. I applaud them for this.

    This may not be the afternoon to mention this – hopefully it’ll be deferred 3-4 weeks – but the next item of business is whether the boost is sustainable. Is this year a confluence of good fortune and happy events, like ’07, or is it something? They will have to be excellent at drafting and development to compete every year like our opponent tonight. But at least for tonight, Giambi is ageless and Salazar is eternally a phenom on the cusp of greatness.

  • MrCleaveland

    Yeah, you definitely look like made guys. Goodfellas.

  • Steve

    “Is this year a confluence of good fortune and happy events, like ’07, or is it something”

    I think this severely underrates what 05-08 was. Yes, only playoffs in 07, but those were some quality rosters. They were undone by bullpens, by far the hardest part of a team to predict.

    And as far as the first paragraph, I’m not sure what the big “failed organizational strategy” and “rethinking” was. This is a team that has constantly been tweaking. The change in scouting came after the 2007 season, not any time recently. Sometimes a Salazar is going to work out, and sometimes a LaPorta is going to bust. And sometimes, a Gomes will come out of nowhere, just as a Sizemore is just going to seemingly fall apart at the seams. I think we assign way too much narrative to a “great” or “failed” front office based on these things that could happen to anyone.

  • dwhit110

    I believe it’s Larry who owns the team and Paul who is President/CEO. It’s my understanding that Larry is as involved as any fairly hands off owner, and Paul is the head honcho making day-to-day decisions, but that’s why you get the plural.

    I believe the infamous James is Larry’s nephew.

  • Harv 21

    Dolan said it was a decision to buy mid-level FAs like Swisher and Bourn. Constantly tweaking what? After 10 years the GM was booted upstairs and supervises his former assistant.

    ’05 -’07 undone by bullpens … wha? In 2005 the team choked down the stretch offensively and defensively in the last weeks when they seemed a lock for the playoffs. In 2007 the bullpen was one of the best in the league (Raffy left and right, anyone?). The two best starters, Sabathia and Fausto, choked against Boston.The person in charge of the draft may have changed in ’07 but there were bad results after that too. Not sure how you can defend the drafting when no drafted position player made an all star team from the drafts of the ’90s until Jason Kipnis. Drafting is not just one aspect of this organization, it’s the lifeblood for any sustained success in this market. The drafting of pitchers has recently improved somewhat but there was decade of utter failure, across the board under the Dolans. Not “oh, every team hits and misses,” abject failure, the inability to draft a viable major league starter. I know how staunch a Dolan defender you are but If you are going to defend the drafting under the Dolans then that’s all you’re doing, reflexively defending the Dolans.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    ok, thanks for clearing that up.

  • Steve

    Dolan tried to buy mid-level FAs, Willingham and Beltran, the year before. I’m sure he likes to believe that he got Swisher and Bourn because of his hard work and elbow grease, but the fact of the matter is there were significant other factors, Francona, and a dead market for Swisher and Bourn, that led them here. And the Indians have done a lot more than push Antonetti into the GM chair. I know the narrative looks at just the big events, but there’s a lot more that happens underneath.

    I note you clipped 2008 out of the bullpen argument. Yes, 06, and 08 were undone by the bullpens. In 2006, the Indians converted just 51% of their save opportunities, worst in the AL, in 2008, it was 61%, still pretty awful. 2005 was fine, and they won 93 games, the second highest win total to never make the playoffs, sometimes the breaks don’t go your way.

    And I’ve never defended the results of the drafting, but asked people to evaluate the process, and to realize, despite all this “abject failure” to the “lifeblood”, that there actually has been some success. Maybe all this harping over the draft is a bit much. So many act like this is a terrible FO, or has set the team back years, but seem to not notice the precedents set elsewhere, where success is even more scant.