As so it was that Wedge fell, in the span of 24 months, from the cusp of the World Series to a Peralta groundout that ended the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader against the White Sox. In front of a sparse crowd on a chilly last night of September, Wedge managed and lost the last home game of his Tribe career, so very far away from recent history.
Wedge managed the Indians for seven years, longer than most managers get. He'll go into the record books as the fifth-winningest and third-losingest manager in Tribe history. His lofty standing among Cleveland managers speaks more to endurance than accomplishment. Only Lou Boudreau, Mike Hargrove and Tris Speaker will have managed more Indians games than Wedge when all is said and done this year.
For a low-key guy who preached stability and frowned upon sideshows and distractions in his clubhouse, Wedge will be continually linked to controversy in Cleveland sports circles. The media and fans took frequent issue with his game management skills, his bizarre fascination with players who can play multiple positions, his lack of extensive big-league playing experience on his coaching staff, and his use of the phrase "grind it out," which became part of the Cleveland sports lexicon, but not in a good way.
Most of all, he'll be remembered for walking in lockstep with Shapiro. Wedge will be remembered by the Cleveland baseball-watching masses as Shapiro's puppet, a front office lackey that Shapiro had, in the past, referred to as his "partner."
It's not entirely deserved. Shapiro and Wedge might have been involved in a game of circular back-scratching early on in their partnership, but as the past couple of seasons progressed, the groupthink started to disintegrate.
Some fans might argue that terminating Wedge was a move made to placate the ticket-buying public, who have been staying away from Progressive Field in droves. That's not true. Nobody in baseball thinks offering a manager up as a sacrificial lamb is going to directly solve the problem of lagging gate receipts on any level. If any baseball executive thinks that, he shouldn't be a baseball executive.
Bottom line, if Shapiro and Wedge were still seeing eye-to-eye, Wedge doesn't lose his job.
There will be time to debate the ups and downs of Wedge all winter, as the Indians commence the search for a new manager. Right now, what we have is a manager that was, Octobers that never were and the shaky prospect of what this team might be in several years.
It's a shame it had to end this way. Wedge wasn't the greatest manager in Tribe history, but he wasn't the inept buffoon some believe.
The past seven years could have been better. Maybe they should have been better. But the current reality is that the Indians are right back where they were when Wedge took over in 2003: at rock bottom and trying to claw their way back up through the American League.
Fortunately for Wedge, that's not his problem anymore.