Indians Owner Blames Steinbrenner For Baseball's Woes

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) - The boss of the Cleveland Indians took a shot at The Boss.

Indians owner Larry Dolan (pictured, right) blamed New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for some of baseball's economic problems.

Dolan, speaking Tuesday at a luncheon in the Cleveland suburb of Mayfield Heights, criticized Steinbrenner for increasing his team's payroll even more through trades for Raul Mondesi and Jeff Weaver as the Yankees make another postseason run.

"George is a large part of our problem," he said.

Dolan, who has been under fire while his team has fallen in the standings, said he took offense at Steinbrenner's criticism of Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad for not spending enough money.

"What he doesn't say is George is not spending George's money. George is spending revenue that most of us don't have," Dolan said.

He said the Yankees are forcing other teams to overspend so they can compete. He used the World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks as an example, saying they "bought themselves a World Series last year."

"Baseball cannot continue with its current economics. It just can't," he said. "It's not in any of our interests to have baseball be such that each season it's going to be the Yankees against some other team in the World Series. That can't continue."

Dolan said the owners have unified to come up with a revenue sharing plan that will restore competitive balance in baseball. He said a strike is possible, but not inevitable, and "will be very harmful, but necessary perhaps."

"If we don't get something from the players relative to revenue sharing ... I'm not sure what's going to happen," he said.

Some fans have accused Dolan of not being able to afford the team.

He said Tuesday that he can handle criticism, but is upset with the misconception that his stake in Cablevision Systems Corp. -- which has fallen in value on Wall Street -- is holding him back from spending on the Indians.

"The value of Cablevision stock has nothing to do whatsoever with our ability to run this team," he said.

He told fans that the team is rebuilding and doesn't expect to compete for a World Series until 2005 and that they "need to come to the ballgames in the lean years."

The Indians traded Roberto Alomar in the off-season and Bartolo Colon just before the All-Star break. Jim Thome, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, could be the next player to go, but has a no-trade clause.

Dolan said the team won't discuss a new contract with Thome until the fall. Thome says he wants to stay in Cleveland.

"I feel that I want to re-sign him. Whether we can or not is based on information I don't have at the present time. I have no idea what his thinking is, economically speaking," Dolan said.

The Indians have fallen in the standings and in attendance this year as the team's payroll has been cut. More salary-related moves are expected.

Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio said the Indians lost $20 million in 2001, when they had a payroll of $96 million.

DiBiasio said fans don't understand that the team's payroll, now at $82 million, is still ninth highest in the major leagues.

Dolan also said he:

  • Doesn't blame manager Charlie Manuel for the team's poor performance this season, but supports his firing because the front office wasn't ready to make a commitment to him.
  • Believes that failing to sign Manny Ramirez to a hefty contract two years ago was the "best thing that's never happened to me."
  • Supports baseball commissioner Bud Selig's decision to halt the All-Star game with the score tied 7-7.
  • Wants player testing for steroids.

Dolan told fans that the team's days of going after high-priced ballplayers are over.

He said the team has restocked its farm system through the Alomar and Colon trades and promises future success.

"When we do win -- sooner than you think -- it won't be a one-year wonder," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)