The View From Pluto: Indians' Success Is Vindication For Owner Paul Dolan
The Indians are riding a high heading into the postseason. They’ve won their second consecutive American League Central Division title, fueled by a historic 22-game winning streak. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says it’s vindication for Indians owner, Paul Dolan.
"Dolans are cheap; that's all you hear," Pluto says.
After last year's World Series run, the team raised its payroll from $97 million to $130 million, which is around the league average. Still, Pluto says, he gets emails from fans complaining that the team's payroll is average.
Pluto says that while the Indians have spent more money, it's not the only factor that drives a winning team. The Indians were the only team outside the top 10 payrolls in the Major League Baseball to make the playoffs last year. "But there are a lot of teams that spend a lot of money and lose anyway," he says.
The Indians have their fifth winning season in a row and this will be their third trip to the playoffs in that span.
"You have to go back to the Indians of the '90's to have that," Pluto says. "And when you start talking about the Browns, it's the '80's. And the Cavs without LeBron James -- I'm not sure that's ever happened."
It's been a slow turnaround for the Dolan family, which bought the team after the 1999 season. For example, there were three 90-plus-game losing seasons between 2009 and 2012.
Still, Pluto says, it wasn't all wasted time.
"A lot of things were put in place during those lean years. Players like Francisco Lindor, Bradley Zimmer and Jose Ramirez were signed then."
Passing on the credit
Pluto says Dolan gives the credit to President Chris Antonetti, Assistant General Manager Mike Chernoff and Mmanager Terry Francona.
"But here's a key," Pluto says. "They want to work for Paul Dolan. And the fact that he creates stability, they're able to do their jobs. He feels confident in them because he's worked with them for a long time."
And, Pluto says a lot of that did have to do with spending.
"Dolan didn't trade for Andrew Miller -- that was the baseball people. But he had to pick up $3 million in Miller's salary that year. Same with Jay Bruce this year." And, as for Edwin Encarnacion's three-year, whopping $60 million deal: "Dolan said it was a leap of faith," Pluto says.
And the pieces fell in to place.
"The Indians have had 12 sell-outs. And, fans aren't breaking down the doors for every game, but clearly this is going to be their best attendance since 2008."
Last season, the team ranked 27th out of 30 teams in attendance.
"Now, finally, the fans -- other than some people who have to cling to their old narrative -- realize that the long, painful road has paid off this way. "