A lot of Cleveland Indians fans were glad to see manager Charlie Manuel go, but they're discovering that new manager Joel Skinner isn't the answer and Manuel was never the problem.
They're finding out, in fact, that there's more to Manuel than meets the eye.
Manuel gave Indians management an ultimatum: reward him with a long-term contract, or put him out of his misery.
If he accepted the Indians' offer to continue as manager, Manuel received no assurances from general manager Mark Shapiro he would return to the dugout in 2003.
Manuel is having the last laugh, though. He's being paid for the rest of this season without having to work. And he doesn't have to watch the Indians play anymore.
The Indians are terrible. Excuse me, they're rebuilding. That's the company line, according to Shapiro, who has not distinguished himself as Cleveland's new GM.
Even if you haven't seen the Indians in action, you can tell how bad they are by the empty seats at Jacobs Field, owner Larry Dolan's decision to downsize the roster and Shapiro's inability to make fans forget John Hart.
Sending left-hander Chuck Finley to St. Louis was a great move, the Indians' best trade this year. Finley was acquired to help the Indians win in the postseason. But Finley never did what he was brought to Cleveland to do: win during crunch time. He made two disappointing starts against Seattle in the AL playoffs last year.
At 39, Finley was dead weight on a ballclub whose future is in 2006.
Manuel never had a chance managing the Indians. He took over a team in transition, a ballclub of big-name stars on the downside of their careers.
When Dolan decided to slash payroll after last season, Manuel was criticized for not playing hit-and-run baseball with less talent.
Manuel was a good soldier who took one for the team. He never made excuses. He was a player's manager who didn't point fingers when the losing started.
If Manuel has a weakness, it's that he's too loyal and trusting. He naively believed he would still be the manager when the Indians made their turnaround.
Maybe that's why Manuel took the stand that he did. After all Manuel had done for the franchise, Shapiro's offer was an insult.
Most employees would bite their tongue and go along with the program. Manuel refused to compromise his principles, revealing a stubborn side that he rarely showed to the public.
It's a side that Manuel perhaps should reveal more often.
Some of Manuel's critics believe he was too easy-going as a manager, that he should have gotten in the faces of some of his players and demanded better effort and smarter play.
Manuel, though, realized that no amount of posturing and shouting was going to turn this year's Indians into a winning team. He's not a phony.
Manuel's a baseball lifer. I'm sure he already misses miss the game, the players and the fans. He'll resurface with another team, probably as a hitting coach.
Time away from baseball will give Manuel, who has suffered from a myriad of health problems, a chance to rest and reflect. He'll be better in his next job, better than the Indians deserve.
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