Monday, February 22, 2010

A final word on Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti

This past week, the Cleveland Indians announced the promotions of both Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti, effective at the end of the 2010 baseball season. Shapiro will take over the roll of president from Paul Dolan, while Antonetti will take over Shapiro's old job as General Manager and executive VP. Paul Dolan will take over the role of chairman and CEO from his father.

Shapiro will now become the visionary for this franchise, overseeing not only the baseball side of operations, but the business side as well. Antonetti will focus solely on the baseball side, running the day-to-day operations of the club.

Mark Shapiro: It's hard to take a clear look at Mark Shapiro over the years without feeling that he's both been an unadulterated success and failure at the same time. Shapiro rebuilt the organization after taking the team over from John Hart in 2002. He re-stocked the minor league system through trades, while getting the Indians to a game away from the 2007 world series. He was twice honored by the Sporting News as executive of the year (2005 and 2007) when the Tribe won 93 and 96 games respectively.

His major failures surround both the draft and the perceived inability to make the team distinctly better after the 2005 and 2007 seasons, that had the Indians knocking on the door of the playoffs. Shapiro will be the first person to admit his failures, but people often forget the financial constraints the Indians are under.

Shapiro is considered a top five executive in the game of baseball today, and the day he is fired by the Indians, is likely the day he's hired by the Yankees. Imagine what he would do with those types of resources.

My issues with Shapiro focus around the spending culture. I understand the restraints he's under, but don't understand how you can not make moves that may even require going over budget to take a final step towards the world series. Sometimes you have to spend to win. Not during the building phase, but certainly during the end-game.

Shapiro will be a solid Team President, if he leads this team to take the final step when they are standing on the edge. He's a smart guy, and tying together both baseball and business is a smart move for any team.

Chris Antonetti: Antonetti is the most sought after GM candidate in baseball. I'm still shocked that he turned down the job in St. Louis to stay with the Indians, even if he was given GM type money. We aren't talking about the GM of the Nationals here, we're talking about the GM of one of baseball's most storied franchises, the St. Louis Cardinals. He chose to stay in Cleveland. That's crazy to me in a baseball sense.

Antonetti's going to be a good GM. There's just something about listening to the guy talk that really makes you believe he's going to bring a title to Cleveland. I can see why Antonetti was high on signing Acta, because the two are similar in that regard. The real curiosity with this move is how autonomous that Antonetti becomes. Is he just an extension of Shapiro, or is he going to bring a whole new energy to the team?

The big picture:
What makes me happy about this move is their take on the city of Cleveland. Both were adamant in discussing Cleveland as their home, and their dedication to bringing a title to the North Coast. To many times, the folks that come to Cleveland use it as a way station on their way to bigger and better gigs. Both have obviously turned down offers to do just that.

Paul Cousineau also brought up an interesting scenario at The Diatribe on Sunday.
"With 2010 looking like a certainty as a transitional year, Shapiro will be completing his tenure as GM helming the early stages of the second rebuilding process that he oversaw. Thus, does anyone else find it interesting that Shapiro’s final year (if he’s choosing when that final year is) at the GM helm is a season in which the Indians are very unlikely to compete?

That is, Shapiro could have insisting on sticking around until after the 2011 or the 2012 season, when the prospects of the team competing look to be brighter or when he could hand the reins off to Antonetti, with the team contending or at least closer to contention. Instead, the transition will come about half of a season after the second rebuild/reload/whatever began in earnest, with Antonetti coming in more or less after Shapiro will have been the point man on most unpopular decisions...when…not if, when the Indians trade (or at least attempt to trade) Westbrook, Wood, Peralta, and maybe even Branyan this coming season. By the time that Antonetti will assume the GM reins, all of the dirty work will have been done in the rebuild, with the roster purged and the contract situations of Lee, Victor, Wood, Westbrook, and Peralta in the rearview mirror…all completed in the “Shapiro regime”."
Cousineau goes on to discuss that Antonetti will get a clean slate to begin his duties. It's an interesting take, fitting in perfectly with that group mentality that Dolan, Shapiro and Antonetti all discussed during the presser. The Indians normally work together when making major moves, and this wouldn't be any different.

Should Shapiro be held accountable for the failings of the Indians over the past two seasons? The easy answer is yes. He's the GM of the team, and if they aren't getting the job done, then he is ultimately responsible. The more interesting question I have is whether or not there is another GM candidate out there that would have done better. I'm not sure that there is.

The real issue in Cleveland is the money situation, and as long as the team is dealing with fiscal restraints, these are the Indians that we get.

At least we'll have stability at the top of the administrative structure, and that stability will be some of the most respected executives in the game today.

Now bring us that title...

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