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"[Oakland GM Billy] Beane likes to say competing against big-market
clubs like the Yankees and Indians and Rangers is ‘like using bows and
arrows against smart bombs.’" — Bob Klapisch, ESPN.com, May 12,
2000.

"So what’s the problem here? … First off, Cleveland is just the
No. 13 media market in the U.S., which makes it tough for the Indians to
compete financially with the big boys." — Rob Neyer, ESPN.com, June
23, 2000.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Here on a windy summer day just off the Erie River,
long-time Cleveland native Steve Hatch is selling apples for a quarter in
front of a boarded-up skyscraper. "Just six weeks ago, I had a
lucrative job in a thriving metropolis," the lanky 31-year-old
bemoaned. "Then, overnight, everybody left and all the businesses
closed. It’s like a ghost town." The sudden collapse of the Cleveland
market has residents here scrounging just to make ends meet.

Local perturbations of the economy are not unusual, but even seasoned
economists are surprised with the magnitude of the shock that has hit
Cleveland in the last two months. "I remember the depression that hit
Chicago in the summer of 1997," said analyst Greg Mendelsohn,
"but that came in gradually over the course of three years. I’ve never
seen anything like this, with a large market becoming a small market in
just a few weeks. It’s like an asteroid hit."

Experts say that the Cleveland Panic of 2000 is just another manifestation
of the problem of sportswriter-caused runs. "Just as day traders can
bid a stock up or down $20 in a matter of minutes, and currency traders can
cause a massive devaluation in Southeast Asia, all it takes is a few
sportswriters seeking to rationalize a baseball team’s failure and an
entire city’s economy crashes like Carney Lansford making a play on
a ground ball three steps to his left," a highly-placed administration
source noted.

In this case, the Cleveland Indians, long the dominant team in the AL
Central, have slipped deep into second place. They may not even make the
playoffs this year, despite the purchase of Chuck Finley and the
sixth-largest payroll in the major leagues. The team has been racked by
injuries, most recently its star right fielder, Manny Ramirez.
"Chuck Finley won 18 games in 1990 and 1991. Who would have thought he
would be 5-5 a scant nine years later at the age of 37? He won all those
games against the Yankees back when the Bronx was a small market, and we
figured his pitching would have a sort of a plastic memory," Hatch
noted ruefully.

Sportswriters fear a paradigm shift that challenges the conventional wisdom
that a team can only succeed if it’s in a large market. Immediately, they
seek to redefine where those markets are. "Because you can’t print
anything on the Internet unless it’s 100% true, these conglomerate media
concerns like Time Warner and Disney take drastic measures to ensure that
the lowliest reporter’s throw-away comment is accurate," said
Mendelsohn. "Property values in Dallas dropped 10% after Ruben
Mateo
went on the DL."

The 1990s saw Toronto, Boston, Anaheim, Miami and even Cincinnati go
through the gyrations caused when sportswriters redefine a large market as
a small market and vice versa. New York residents are beginning to be
nervous with recent Yankee and Met failures, and many are seeking refuge
with relatives in St. Louis and Phoenix. It is suspected that the Federal
Reserve Board is behind the Yankees’ move to trade for Juan Gonzalez
in an effort to avoid nationwide economic consequences in an election year
should the unthinkable happen.

But such intervention comes too late for people like Steve Hatch, who can
only look back at the Carlos Baerga glory years. "No matter how good
the Indians were, we kept losing to larger markets like Atlanta or Florida
or Boston. I guess we were bound to become a small market eventually."

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