Mark Shapiro now Indians president
CLEVELAND -- The questions came at Indians general manager Chris Antonetti from all sides and in rapid-fire succession.
How did first-year manager Manny Acta do this season? What's the pitching staff look like for 2011? Will Grady Sizemore be at full speed in spring training? Can Cleveland challenge in the AL Central next year? Will the team offer Shin-Soo Choo a long-term contract. How do you get your fans to believe?
As Antonetti spewed out answers on his first day as GM, his predecessor -- and mentor -- leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"This is actually kind of enjoyable," Mark Shapiro said.
On Monday, the Indians officially passed the bat(on) of power in their front office as Shapiro moved into his new position as team president and Antonetti, the team's assistant GM, assumed the job Shapiro had held since taking it from John Hart in 2001.
Cleveland's front-office transition has actually been evolving over the past few seasons with Antonetti taking a more prominent role in the club's day-to-day operations, and Shapiro gradually branching into the business side of running the ballclub.
Close friends and colleagues, Shapiro and Antonetti have shared the same vision for the Indians. And while their roles and titles have changed -- they'll both keep their old offices -- the pair will continue working together to try and bring Cleveland its first World Series title since 1948.
It won't be easy, but that's the challenging part.
"I'm more excited than nervous," Antonetti said of assuming the GM duties. "That comes from knowing that we have done it before and the opportunity is there again."
Antonetti, whose career as a baseball executive began as an intern in Montreal's organization, said he intends to call upon Shapiro's expertise from time to time. Before making any trade or decision, Antonetti said he will continue to consult with the man who pulled off some of the biggest deals in franchise history.
"I'd be foolish not to tap into Mark's experience," he said.
Because they have worked together for several years, there is an outside assumption that Antonetti and Shapiro share the same philosophies on how to build a winner. In reality, the opposite may be true.
The two may come to similar conclusions, but only after approaching problems differently. Antonetti is the more analytical of the two, relying on facts and figures to form the basis of his thinking. Shapiro, on the other hand, is more emotional and will often go on "feel" before making a decision.
So, how are they different?
"He's about 4 inches taller and wearing a tie," Antonetti joked before turning serious. "Obviously, we share a lot of baseball philosophies because we have worked together for so long, but we are individuals and have different leadership styles and personalities."
When was the last time they clashed?
"This morning," Shapiro cracked.
While he has his own new challenges ahead, Shapiro thinks the Indians are being left in capable hands with Antonetti, whose input went into the difficult decisions to trade Cy Young Award winners Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia and All-Star catcher Victor Martinez.
Shapiro knows what lies ahead for his protege.
"There could not be a human being more prepared for that job than Chris, but the day you are responsible for a city's emotions, for an organization's future and your decision making is what people are looking for -- that's a huge emotional burden," Shapiro said. "It can be disruptive to your planning. Chris already knows that the fear/worry/doubt that you have to deflect from the people around you, you have to let out to someone."
The Indians just completed a 69-93 season under Acta, whose job got tougher when Sizemore and catcher Carlos Santana went down with season-ending injuries. Antonetti said he expects both players to be ready for the start of the 2011 season.
During a meeting with reporters, Shapiro and Antonetti addressed several other major topics heading into the offseason:
The Indians drew just 1.3 million fans, their fewest since 1992. There are obvious reasons for the attendance drop, chief among them the region's economic downturn. Shapiro is confident Cleveland fans will return to Progressive Field if the team is competitive.
"It is harder to get people to make the effort to get up off the very comfortable entertainment experience in their living room," he said. "We have to be more competitive in every single facet of what we do. That means continuing to enhance and preserve the ballpark, which is a special asset for us, but is 17 years old now. More than anything else, we have to work to put a winner on the field."
Choo has emerged as one of the AL's top outfielders. The Indians control his rights for three more years but would like to sign him to a long-term deal. The club had talks with agent Scott Boras last winter, and Antonetti expects the sides to meet again.
"We'll take the opportunity to revisit that this offseason and see where those discussions go," he said. "He has been exceptional and the way he contributes is as a complete player, in all facets of the game. Whether that is his ability to hit, to get on base, power, defense, running the bases, his arm, he really has been a complete player."
Both Shapiro and Antonetti said it is unrealistic for Cleveland fans to expect the organization to spend more money simply because the revenue is not coming in from ticket sales.
"You are asking for something that doesn't exist," Shapiro said. "Changing an owner is not going to change that."
Shapiro said the best way to get fans back is to win.
"We are going to work tirelessly and collectively to do that," he said. "We did it just three years ago. We had a nice four-year run of 94 wins, 96 wins, two .500 seasons and we are working to put ourselves right back there and hopefully this time it will result in a World Series championship."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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