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Just Wait 'Till Next Year!

Mark Shapiro: It gets back to the bullpen and the infield defense are the things that didn't work. Those things snowballed early. And I think it's as much as what went right for the other teams as it is what went wrong with us. We stubbed our toe this year, had a little bit of a regression, I think we'll get to see what their potential as a group is next season.

Stubbed our toe. For many fans, the season's disappointment stung deeper than a stubbed toe. And though fans are often accustomed to hearing that line about rebuilding and 'just wait till next year,' Shapiro offered a reason to feel a little optimism, especially that kind of optimism that comes with knowing your team might be able to afford a star or two in the coming year.

Mark Shapiro: I don't know the bottom dollar. I do know that Larry and Paul Dolan have made it clear that, for the first time since maybe they took over the team, that the payroll is not going to (be) directly tied to our revenues or our attendance, and that they're going to outspend that if the right players are there, that's one part of the equation, only one part. Because the talent has to be there to spend it on.

Oh yeah, the talent - which of course brings to mind the talent-wanting bullpen and former star closer Bob Wickman. His mid-season trade to the Atlanta Braves saved the Indians a million dollars, opening the door to some important acquisitions, but what man woman or child out there doesn't miss Wicky and his uncanny ability to simultaneously load the bases and save a game. Shapiro certainly does.

Mark Shapiro: I know that that could have meant four to six more wins for us. Would you have been any more happier if we had won 84 games? I would have been happier because it would have been one of the realities of this team. I'm not sure fans or anyone would have been any happier. I would have felt like, hey, that's what we said could happen this year.

So now, the gates at the Jake are locked and the front office staff has gone off to begin some off-season strategizing. So many sports fans are now single-mindedly focused on the Buckeyes and their November showdown with Michigan, or on gnashing their teeth over the Browns' missteps. Some are feigning an interest in the playoffs and maybe even cheering for Detroit. But don't worry, Mr. Shapiro, we know - there's always next year.