Thank you, Mark Shapiro

The Cleveland Indians entered 2015 with lofty expectations that were highlighted by an appearance on the cover of a sports-publication-that-must-not-be-named. They’ve spent the majority of the season in last place and haven’t been above the .500 mark since the third game of the year. So Cleveland.

Before the July trade deadline, the club shipped two of its biggest free agent signings in history to Atlanta for a 30-year-old platoon guy that was hitting .215 against right-handed pitchers. They also sent $15 million American dollars to the Braves to convince them to take Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn off our hands. SO Cleveland.

Earlier today the team held a press conference announcing the departure of team president, two-time Sporting News Executive of the Year and 24-year Indians employee Mark Shapiro. At the conclusion of this season he’ll head north to become the President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre. Yep, those same Blue Jays who acquired the best shortstop and one of the best starting pitchers in baseball at the same time the Indians paid a team the AAV of said shortstop’s contract to mercifully take two of their players from them. They’re currently in first place in the AL East and lead the majors in pretty much every offensive category. The Tribe takes their five game winning streak on the road tonight to…. where?

And they’ll face who in the opener?

Can’t make this stuff up folks.

As to be expected, the anti-Shapiro/Antonetti/Dolan/Indians/Chief Wahoo/joy/happiness chorus have flexed their golden pipes to their absolute fullest since the news initially broke last night.

(Side note, if you’re looking for some tweets to throw in a blog, typing in anything having to do with Cleveland sports followed by “sucks” is wonderfully efficient)

I was never really on team Shaponetti before I started blogging a few years ago. Hell I really don’t consider myself a Shaponetti apologist to this day. But when people like the guy above say shit like “thanks for ruining a once proud franchise…with awful trades” it drives me fucking CRAZY. It shouldn’t and I know it shouldn’t but it does. Here’s a quick list of players he traded for, either as GM or President, off the top of my head: Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Carlos Carrasco, Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore IN THE SAME TRADE, Travis Hafner, Coco Crisp, Shin-soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera. Just awful.

Now I’m not hoisting him up on this pedestal like some people seem to be, either. His tenure here wasn’t without flaws. Drafting is probably the #1 knock on his administration, and rightfully so. Although, as Matt points out, his success at evaluating talent in other arenas probably hurt his chances of nailing draft picks.

Shut up I know that doesn’t excuse his picks that were outside the top 10 overall, and I don’t have any statistics to back me up, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot easier to find a stud within the first top 10 picks than it is to find one after that.

So he was great at trading, not so great at drafting. What other criticisms, guys? He doesn’t control the budget he’s given. We had probably the most successful run of the franchise during the 90s while he was director of player development/assistant GM, something the naysayers don’t like to give him credit for. Sure he wasn’t GM yet but he wasn’t mopping floors or running out to get John Hart’s dry cleaning either.

Some bits from the press conference and various interviews he did today:

FACT. Find me your tweet or text or email about how stupid it was to sign Swisher or Bourn right after it happened or shut up about those contracts setting our team back years. They made sense at the time and, more importantly for my sanity, temporarily shut up the Dolans R Cheap crowd. You can’t complain about the team not spending and then continue complaining when the EXACT REASON why we can’t afford to operate like that, happens. Free agency is no sure thing. How many big money free agents have flopped in Los Angeles, New York and Boston recently? It happens. But they can afford to go out and do the exact same thing the next winter. No shit they hit on some guys. We made two big signings that made sense, they didn’t work out, and now we’re quite literally paying for it. But hey, they finally spent some money, eh?

“…people who don’t readily fall back and rely on that as a reason why we can’t win championships and be successful.” I didn’t hear how he delivered this particular line but it had to feel good to get a little potshot at the Donals R Cheap gang. And for everyone saying he’s using it as an excuse, he’s not. It’s simply a fact.

For a guy who hasn’t been in the press nearly as much as some front office members of the Browns or Cavs lately, his exit has sure been polarizing among fans. I’m completely okay with rational criticism of not only Shapiro, but the Indians as a whole. Tell me why you disagree with some signing or trade or what you’d do tactically different from Tito. Back that up with some actual facts and statistics and I may even agree with you. But don’t be one of those “Indians front office sucks. Spend some money!!!” people. The Dolans R Cheap crowd are undoubtedly some of the laziest fans of all time. There are very basic arguments and countless examples that illustrate the difficulties running a franchise in a city like ours with close to the worst attendance in baseball. Like these…

I’m gonna wrap this up before I start talking in circles but the bottom line is this: Shapiro deserved criticism. That’s fair. But he also deserved a whole lot of credit. And if you don’t agree, there’s a whole bunch of baseball minds a hell of a lot smarter than you that think otherwise. So I’m going to enjoy the rest of this season, look back on the Shapiro years fondly and thank him for giving me as a fan, the following things.

  • 24 years
  • Five consecutive playoff appearances from 95-99
  • Eight overall playoff appearances
  • Two World Series appearances
  • A new ballpark
  • Great renovations to that ballpark
  • 455 consecutive sellouts
  • Two Cy Young winners
  • Two Managers of the Year
  • 19 Gold Glove winners
  • Five consecutive AL Home Run leaders, eight overall
  • Four AL RBI leaders
  • Five consecutive AL Stolen Bases leaders
  • Two AL ERA leaders
  • One AL Wins leader
  • Three AL Saves leaders

And currently…

  • Cy Young award winner
  • MVP caliber left fielder
  • Two-time all star second baseman
  • One of the best rotations in baseball
  • One of the best shortstops in baseball
  • Silver Slugging catcher
  • #7 OF and #29 overall MLB.com prospect Bradley Zimmer
  • #39 overall MLB.com prospect OF Clint Frazier
  • Trading for the #9 LHP prospect according to MLB.com in Rob Kaminsky
  • Drafting LHP Brady Aiken who has been compared to that lefty for the Dodgers
  • Drafting 1B Bobby Bradley who is leading the Midwest League in home runs by 11 (27) and RBI by 6 (90), also MLB.com’s #9 1B prospect
  • Mickey Callaway

And most importantly…

Terry Francona

tito12

 

Thanks for the memories, Mark.

 

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