GM agrees to multiyear extension with Indians
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- For Mark Shapiro, the lure of a bigger market, a fatter paycheck and a chance to work for a deep-pocketed owner wasn't appealing.
One of baseball's sharpest general managers, Shapiro decided to go where he felt safest -- home.
Shapiro, who despite a limited payroll has dismantled the mid-market Cleveland Indians and rebuilt them into a playoff contender, agreed Thursday to a five-year contract extension, a deal that keeps him with the club through the 2012 season.
"This is a very big signing," team president Paul Dolan said following a news conference to announce Shapiro's extension.
Shapiro, who was entering the final year of a two-year extension he signed in 2004, said his decision to stick with the Indians was an easy one.
"It was driven by the people and the things that I value and the overarching desire to finish the job that we started, and to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland and its fans," Shapiro said. "There is no place I would rather work and there are no people I would rather work for and with."
Shapiro and Dolan reached a preliminary agreement on the extension several weeks ago, but decided not to finalize it until both were at spring training. Dolan said that from the outset Shapiro made it clear of his intent to remain with the Indians, who haven't made the playoffs since 2001 or won a World Series since 1948.
The chance to work for a big-spending club intrigued Shapiro, but in the end the 39-year-old concluded he was in a perfect place.
"The more I examined what I value and what's most important to me in life, the more I was confident and sure that Cleveland was the right place for me, not just for the short term but for the long term," he said. "For me, just like a player, you weigh everything out there: money, notoriety, what drives you to do the job. And what drives me to do the job is to be an effective leader and win championships.
"I'm not sure there's another place out there, bigger payroll or not, that would provide me with the fulfillment that I have doing the job here."
Shapiro, who joined Cleveland's front office in 1992, has been the driving force behind the Indians' resurgence in the AL.
In 2002, with the club unable to contend and rebuild simultaneously, Shapiro traded top pitcher Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Cliff Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips.
The deal signaled the beginning of Shapiro's massive reconstruction of the Indians, who had been one of baseball's top franchises since 1995, winning six AL Central titles and two pennants under GM John Hart.
Several other shrewd moves and trades by Shapiro have the Indians back in the postseason mix.
"Since Mark took over, this franchise has gone from the bottom to what we consider the top in a record amount of time," Dolan said. "By rights, a team in a market of our size, given the cycle of winning and losing, we should be mired in our fourth or fifth year of losing. Instead we've gone from a non-contending team to a team we look forward to contending with for a long time."
After winning only 68 games in 2003, the Indians jumped to 80 wins in 2004. The following season Cleveland went 93-69 but missed the playoffs when it collapsed in the season's final week. However, Shapiro was named baseball's top executive by the Sporting News.
The Indians were expected to contend last season, but a poor start coupled with baseball's worst bullpen resulted in a 78-84 record and fourth-place finish in their division.
This winter, Shapiro put off working on his own contract to rebuild Cleveland's bullpen and add championship-caliber players to complement a roster of young stars such as Sizemore, Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia.
"I think this club is positioned to be in contention for a long time," Shapiro said. "We've got challenges ahead of us but so does every other team in our division. Our goal is to get into the playoffs starting now and every year, and we feel we have a legitimate reason to believe we can."
Now that his deal is done, Shapiro can begin focusing on manager Eric Wedge, who is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Indians hold club options on Wedge for 2008 and 2009.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press