Grading Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro’s Tenure With the Tribe: Weekly Wroundtable


Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro’s tenure in Cleveland is coming to an end, after the executive accepted a position with the Toronto Blue Jays that will begin at the end of this season. In his 24 years in Cleveland, he worked in player development, became the General Manager, and finally became President. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but what legacy does he leave with?

With that question in mind, Wahoo’s on First tackled the following debate in our Weekly Wroundtable discussion:

What grade would you give Mark Shapiro for his work with the Indians organization, and why?

Andrew Schmid: Assessing Mark Shapiro’s tenure with the Cleveland Indians is a fairly difficult decision to make, especially since he has seen the team in so many different conditions. After inheriting the team of the glory days and a fairly high payroll, the team quickly collapsed into a rough and mediocre team. Aside from two excellent but unsustainable seasons in 2005 and 2007, the first ten years of Shapiro’s work with the Indians provided middling results. Once the team promoted him to team President in 2010, the team began to experience more success under Chris Antonetti despite nearly a decade of botched drafts and undeveloped prospects.

Perhaps Shapiro’s biggest success was in winning trades, and his 2002 trade of Bartolo Colon may go down as one of the most lopsided trades in Indians history. Landing players like Corey Kluber, Shin-Soo Choo, Cliff Lee, Michael Brantley and Grady Sizemore in deals that have looked better and better for the Tribe as time has passed only improve his stature. While it is clear that Shapiro has had more success with players who possess a larger sample size, I am unsure how much of this is due to his own talent as opposed to the mysterious DiamondView system. Even further complicating the matter is that many of the top prospects acquired in these deals flamed out in spectacular fashion.

All in all, it’s hard to give a clear and unequivocal grade on Mark Shapiro’s time with the Indians. Since the team was stuck in the rebuilding phase for quite a while but still managed to produce several star players, I would have to give him a C+ or a B- for inconsistency, failed drafts, hit-or-miss player development, and flawed roster construction.

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Cody Norman: Much like Andrew mentioned, it’s difficult to give Mark Shapiro a hard and fast grade for his 24 years in Cleveland. His association with Larry and Paul Dolan, who purchased the team from beloved Tribe owners Richard and David Jacobs back in 2000, will doom him forever with the fan base. And the team’s inconsistency during his tenure certainly doesn’t help matters.

There is no denying his brilliance on the trade market. His acquisitions for guys like Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Cliff Lee and Corey Kluber have set this team up with enormous potential over the next few seasons. As strong as these trades were, however, Shapiro was atrocious in the draft, and also missed badly on top prospects like Andy Marte and Matt LaPorta. He has been the public braintrust behind the beautiful renovations at Progressive Field, but his alienation of the fan base is also a big reason for the floundering attendance and necessary renovations (which included ripping out a chunk of seats). He isn’t a two-time Executive of the Year for nothing. You take the good with the bad.

Shapiro is a well-respected leader in the baseball world. His move to Toronto will provide him with a much higher budget and an opportunity to showcase his baseball acumen while building a perennial contender. He is in a perfect position with the Blue Jays. Cleveland, on the other hand, will be left reportedly looking in-house for a new president. Shapiro is certainly not the type of high profile executive whose departure will set this team back, but it’s not addition by subtraction either.

Given the team’s inconsistency during his tenure and Shapiro’s overall disregard for the Indians’ fan base, I would give him a C+. He wasn’t nearly as bad as some like to believe, but he was only slightly above average — hence, the lack of a true contender since the turn of the century.

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Ryan Rosko: Mark Shapiro did what he could do with the resources that were available to him. Yes, he made some terrific trades. Comparing Shapiro’s success with others in terms of success through trades, I would imagine him being about league average.

However, he also made some that he completely missed on and/or just gave the fans an “ehh” feeling, especially when a trade seemed to have been made coming from left field as far as what the Indians received in return. Of course no one in his position is going to get it right all the time. Given the job, responsibilities, and the team he works for, that made it much tougher because of the lack of free agent draw due to very little money being spent by the team.

If Shapiro was given more resources to build this team into a yearly contender, the possibility of grading him could have been an A or a B, but that is not the case. The lack of success in building the team does not give someone a great grade when they leave, and that is the case here.

His success as an executive was more due to other aspects of his job (improving the stadium, which Cody allude to) and not as much the success on the field. I would give him a C or C-.

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  • Matthew Bretz: Giving a grade to a man that spent nearly a quarter century with the organization is a bit of a daunting task. He held several positions, though is most noted for his work as General Manager and Team President. His work as a general manager I’ve always felt was greatly underappreciated. He had a tough act to follow, taking over after John Hart, who had the luxury of working with owner Dick Jacobs in a time before regional sports networks and payrolls took off. Also unlike his predecessor, Shapiro did not inherit a good farm system, but rather one of the worst in baseball. Sure the big league roster still had stars on it in Roberto Alomar and Jim Thome, but for the most part Shapiro had to rebuild the Indians in his own way.

    He took over in 2002 and turned one of the weakest systems in baseball into the best, leading to one of the most remarkable and unexpected runs in team history when they won 93 games in 2005. Bolstered by young stars Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, Cliff Lee, and others acquired by Shapiro in the early years of his GM tenure. The culmination of Shapiro’s work was the 2007 season when the Indians came within one game of the World Series. A disappointing finish for sure, but one that Shapiro still deserves lots of credit for. From 2004-2008 the Indians had a .528 winning percentage and won at least 80 games all but once. Sure that doesn’t compare to the 1994-1999 run but considering the Indians had some of the lowest payrolls in baseball versus some of the highest, it’s pretty remarkable what Shapiro was able to accomplish.

    As Team President, I was actually less impressed with Shapiro – though he certainly proved up to the task as the new stadium renovations have been very pleasing. Still, I was far more impressed with his work as GM. There wasn’t a General Manager out there I’d rather have making a trade than Shapiro. Did he miss on some? Of course he did, what GM doesn’t? But he hit on far more than his missed on. What keeps Shapiro from getting an “A” from me is the drafting that unfortunately didn’t improve much over where it was under Hart. Shapiro and his team missed on far too many early picks. For that and his insistence on sticking with Wedge, I can only give Shapiro a “B” grade with the Indians.

    Katrina Putnam: I would be inclined to lean towards a higher grade when it comes to Shapiro’s time with the Tribe. While the team may not have had much success, I believe he did the best he could with the budget and situation he was given. As everyone else mentioned, his ties to the Dolans will make it hard for Cleveland fans to reflect positively on him, because they associate the low payrolls with him. However, blaming Shapiro for having to pick players up off of the scrap heap is a bit like yelling at the office assistant who orders cheap pens because the manager refuses to increase the supply budget. He couldn’t do anything about it, no matter how much he probably wished he could.

    His trades were fairly above-average. He stole plenty of players, including Brantley, Lee, Sizemore, Hafner, Cabrera and Choo. Even the Ubaldo Jimenez trade worked out fairly well, considering that the Tribe got half a year of stellar pitching from Jimenez, while Pomeranz and White both flopped as major league starters. Yes, the Lee trade to Philly was terrible, and star prospect Matt LaPorta flamed out, but the Indians got Carlos Carrasco and Brantley in those same deals, so really, are we seriously going to count those as terrible trades?

    After being promoted to president, he did some considerable work on the business side of things. Yes, attendance is terrible. But he found a way to increase attendance at times during some very bad seasons, with more and better promotional giveaways, and most recently, the renovations. Adding a bar was brilliant, in terms of attracting the casual fans needed to keep a major league team afloat.

    Shapiro’s biggest downfall was his drafting ability. Looking through his top draft picks during his time as GM, it isn’t pretty. Most of them are unfamiliar names, because they never reached a level where they were even talked about as major disappointments. Jeremy Guthrie, Jeremy Sowers, Lonnie Chisenhall and Pomeranz were the only ones who spent any considerable time at the major league level, and right now, none of them look like All-Stars. Not all first rounders succeed, certainly, but that’s a pretty high level of failure. Most of them either never learned to hit major league pitching, or in the case of pitchers, were very injury prone.

    Shapiro was certainly a big part of Cleveland Indians’ history, but his inability to draft leads me to believe he’s earned a solid B in terms of an overall grade. That’s probably a bit generous, considering how important drafting is to a team with the Indians’ payroll, but his work in other areas greatly improved his overall value.

    What grade would you give Shapiro? Answer in the comments below.

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