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Published: Saturday, 6/29/2002

Indians all shook up

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Indians GM Mark Shapiro discusses the Bartolo Colon trade. Indians GM Mark Shapiro discusses the Bartolo Colon trade.
AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Indians are in the early stages of a fire sale, and owner Larry Dolan is feeling the heat.

Not only from the fans, but from his players.

Seemingly everyone within 10 miles of Jacobs Field is upset with Dolan and rookie general manager Mark Shapiro after they dealt star right-hander Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for four minor league prospects on Thursday night.

“I don't think too many people are happy,'' shortstop Omar Vizquel said yesterday. “It's hard to see the ace of the staff go. He's one of the guys I'd never trade on my team.''

“No one trades their best pitcher - I don't care who they are or what the situation is,'' outfielder Matt Lawton said. “It was definitely a shock. I don't know what kind of message they are trying to send.''

Dolan and Shapiro spent much of yesterday trying to defend their blockbuster deal, which was about as popular as Art Modell moving the Browns out of town in the middle of the night.

More moves could be on the way before the July 31 trading deadline - names such as Jim Thome ($8 million), Chuck Finley ($7.9 million), designated hitter Ellis Burks ($6.7 million) and Charles Nagy ($6 million) have been mentioned - as the Indians try to reduce their payroll from $74 million to around $50 million by next season.

“We are clearly stating that we are in a rebuilding mode,'' said Dolan, who purchased the Indians for $323 million two years ago. “And when you rebuild, you tear down. We're going to get the players in place in the next two, three or four years and we'll put this team back into World Series contention.

“Today is the first step toward the World Series. We're making the decisions that have to be made - they're not popular, and we're taking a lot of heat - but I can tell you, without reservation, it has nothing to do with my ability as an owner.

“We're going to spend our money wisely, and I think people will be happy with the results.''

“We started to reach the conclusion a couple weeks ago that we did not feel contending was possible, and that we had to enter into a more dramatic rebuilding concept,'' Shapiro said.

Colon, 29, was enjoying one of his best major league seasons - he was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts - and he had lost just once in May and June. And he appeared to be on his way to becoming Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974 when he was dealt along with minor league pitcher Tim Drew and an estimated $500,000 in cash two nights ago.

In return, the Indians received infielder Brandon Phillips, pitcher Cliff Lee, outfielder Grady Sizemore and outfielder/first baseman Lee Stevens.

“There will be fallout; there will be repercussions,'' said Shapiro, who traded All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets last December. “Our fan base will be hit, but people are going to think this is a good trade in two or three years.

“Our core fans will be excited to see this team develop, and some fans will jump back on the bandwagon when we show them we can win again. A realistic objective is for this team to emerge in the second half of 2004 and be a contending team in 2005.

“We feel like this was the first strike in putting our foundation back in place so the Indians can have another prolonged championship run.''

Manager Charlie Manuel likely will finish out the season in a Tribe uniform. Thome, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, hopes to do so likewise, although he has been the subject of constant trade rumors.

“I'm going to sit down with Mark over the All-Star break and go over exactly what our plans are for the second half, see where we are, and what we're doing,'' Manuel said. “And I plan to talk to him about my own situation.''

Thome said Shapiro has not yet asked him to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.

“I know my name has come up a lot in trade talk, but nobody has asked me about being traded,'' Thome said. “And, right now, I don't want to be traded. We'll see what happens

“I don't want to leave, I really don't. I love the fans of Cleveland.''

The same cannot be said of Lawton, who is nursing a shoulder injury. He said if he was healthy, he'd ask to be traded. “It's not any fun round here right now,'' he said.

Manuel said he is concerned about how the Colon trade is being received in the clubhouse. He knows players are worried about being moved, and he plans to talk with each of them.

“You're getting paid to play the game and if you are a professional, you'll play the game the right way,'' Manuel said.



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