If Shapiro Leaves, What is His Legacy?

The report came during Thursday’s pre-season game between the Browns and the Bills, so it kind of went under the radar at the time, but it got legs on Friday morning, at least in Cleveland.

Fox Sports/MLB Network correspondent Ken Rosenthal came out with the story that the Blue Jays are targeting the Indians’ president Mark Shapiro to be their new team president.

Shapiro has been with the Tribe a long time, since the early 1992  working under John Hart, and served as the Tribe’s GM from 2001 or 2002 (depending on the source) through 2010, when he was promoted to president, with Chris Antonetti promoted to general manager.

From ’93-’98, Shapiro was the head of minor league operations, and was responsible for a fertile farm system that promoted many players who contributed to the success the Tribe had in the late ’90’s through 2001.

Hart is the GM of record for 2001, but it is said Shapiro was running things that season as Hart was stepping down following the year.  However, according to record, Shapiro was GM for nine season, turning in a 704-754 record (a .482 winning percentage).

In that time, there were two winning seasons, and one playoff appearance in 2007.

Since Antonetti was his hand-picked successor, in the 13 seasons of the Shapiro regime, the Indians have a .488 winning percentage, four seasons over .500, and two playoff appearances.

Shapiro has an incredible reputation around baseball and has been mentioned by several people as someone who could be the commissioner of baseball at some point in time.

However, he seems to have more support outside of Cleveland than in it.  This is mostly because he took over after perhaps the best era in the history of the franchise, and has not been able to sustain success.

The problem with the Indians since Shapiro has been in charge, either as GM or president, is they are always in a building phase, because they can’t repeat winning.

A 93-69 record in 2005 was followed by a 78-84 record in 2006.

After winning the AL Central in 2007 with a 96-66 record, the Tribe fell to 81, 65, and 69 wins over the next three seasons.  It’s difficult to build fan support when you can’t repeat success.

It was in this span that Shapiro dealt two Cy Young Award winners, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee, the latter even though he was still under club control for a full year after the deal, and also moved professional hitter Victor Martinez.  Those players were moved in the 2008-09 season.

The Indians would not have back-to-back winning seasons until the past two years (2013 and 2014), but they will not make it three in a row this season.

Shapiro likes a stable organization, which is good if you are successful, but the record shows differently.  He held on to Eric Wedge as manager for several seasons beyond where he should have.

His relationship with Terry Francona enabled him to bring the two-time World Series manager to Cleveland, and that has worked out brilliantly.

However, there has always seemed to be a lack or urgency under Shapiro’s leadership here.  The organization never seized the opportunity to win when they were in contention.

In 2007, the big move was to bring back 40-year-old Kenny Lofton, which helped the Tribe down the stretch, but wasn’t a real impact deal.  In 2013, the big trade was getting lefty reliever Marc Rzcepczynski.

Shapiro also has to be responsible for the abysmal drafting record of the team when he was GM.  The only first round choice of consequence from 2002-2010 was Jeremy Guthrie, who is a journeyman at best, and pitched in just 16 games for the Indians.

So the reputation around the game for Shapiro isn’t based on a lot of winning or success.  He is by all accounts a tremendous human being, and that is great.  He has reflected well on this franchise.

Still, baseball is a business where you are measured based on wins and losses, not on humanitarianism.

Perhaps he is given credit for keeping the Indians fairly competitive with a payroll usually in the bottom third of the sport.  However, the Rays and A’s are in the same predicament, with much more success.  Tampa has four post-season appearance from ’08-’13 and six straight seasons over .500.

Oakland in the same time span as Shapiro’s GM/President years here, has six playoff appearances, and nine winning seasons.

The bottom line is the Indians probably need a breath of fresh air through the offices on Carnegie and Ontario.  It’s time for a change.

Maybe a fresh viewpoint is exactly what the Cleveland Indians need going forward.

MW

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