By: Eric Grinnell
If you haven’t caught the first three posts of the series, the gist of it is that I’m analyzing the Indians current organization to determine who deserves the blame for the disappointing ’12 season and the disappointment of the past decade. Today I’m looking at former GM and current team President Mark Shapiro, and current GM Chris Antonetti.
Mark Shapiro – General Manager from 2001-2010, Team President Since 2010
Blame Score – 6/10
This was arguably the toughest score to assess. A lot of people will probably say that Shapiro deserves a lot more blame, but I think you can make a case that Shapiro is far from the problem. First, Shapiro does not run the draft, so all of the Indians drafting and developing woes really are not a product of Shapiro. Second, Shapiro did make some incredible trades in his first five or so years. I don’t think anyone can deny that Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips is one of the greatest heists in recent baseball history. Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard, Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, Carlos Santana for Casey Blake, Chris Perez for Mark DeRosa were also pretty amazing deals that Shapiro pulled off. Hell, even the Justin Masterson/Nick Hagadone for Victor Martinez has worked out pretty well. I think Shapiro deserves a lot of credit for pulling off these trades. Third, Shapiro has been undoubtedly hamstrung financially (more on that tomorrow). The Indians are a small market team with an extremely limited budget, and they’ve shown to be extremely conservative in giving out any kind of large contracts (especially since the relatively large deals given to Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and Fausto Carmona’s blew up in their face). When you consider these three things, I think it’s clear that Shapiro isn’t entirely to blame for the disappointing decade.
But I don’t want to make Shapiro out to be in a class with Theo Epstein, Billy Beane, or Andrew Friedman. Shapiro has his warts. First, the majority of the aforementioned trades were made in the mid-2000s. The only recent trades that undoubtedly favored the tribe were the Chris Perez-Mark DeRosa and Carlos Santana-Casey Blake trades.
Second, the C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee trades have yielded next to nothing. We are now 3-4 years removed from trading the two Cy Young pitchers, and we have a solid center fielder and a backup catcher to show for it. Matt Laporta turned out to be a complete bust, Rob Bryson (throw-in on the C.C. trade) has never seen the bigs, Jason Donald looks like an average utility infielder at best, Carlos Carrassco has really never put it all together and his future is iffy coming off of Tommy John surgery, and Jason Knapp allegedly retired from baseball altogether. Overall, this is the type of haul you expect for the Casey Blakes and Jake Westbrooks of the world, not for two of the best pitchers in baseball.
Third, Shapiro has really failed with all of his free agent signings. Again, Shapiro didn’t exactly have an open pocket book to play around with, but he’s still missed on a lot of his signings. Guys like Trot Nixon, David Delucci, Carl Pavano, Aaron Boone, Kerry Wood all gave the Indians next to nothing.
But lastly, it just comes down to the fact that Shapiro is the guy in charge of putting together a winning baseball team, and in the 10 years that he’s been GM or President, he’s fielded only one playoff team. You can point to the great trades that Shapiro made in the early part of his career, but ultimately, his job is to build a winning team. And he just hasn’t really done this.
Chris Antonetti – Indians GM Since 2010
Blame Score – 7.5/10
In yesterday’s piece, I talked about how changing draft czar’s from John Mirabelli to Brad Grant really marked a change in philosophy. On the other hand, the Indians change in GMs from Mark Shapiro to Chris Antonetti was not at a change in philosophy at all—Shapiro was promoted to Team President and Antonetti was promoted from within to fill the GM role. Shapiro still maintains a lot of decision making authority, and Antonetti really shared the same school of thought as Shapiro anyway.
Antonetti has only been the Indians GM for 1.5 years, so he can’t really be blamed for the years prior to 2011. But I think a good amount of blame can be placed on his shoulders for the 2012 season.
Antonetti’s defining moment so far as GM has been the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, which has been a disaster. The Jimenez trade was kind of a head scratcher when it happened, as it really was a different approach from what the Indians had been practicing for the past 10 years. The Indians had preached drafting and developing, and it really seemed out of character for the Indians to trade their two best pitching prospects (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White) for a shaky starting pitcher. The timing of the trade was also a bit odd, as the Indians had fallen out of first place and it really looked like the Tigers were close to putting a stranglehold on the division. But the company line was that the Indians had an opportunity to get an “ace” with 2+ years left of control, and that they had to jump at the opportunity. Of course we all know that the Indians haven’t gotten an “ace,” but a guy that’s put up a 5+ ERA over the last calendar year and has looked more like a guy that should be DFA’d. You could argue that the trade is a bit of a wash because Drew Pomeranz and Alex White have been pretty disappointing in their own right, but I don’t think that’s a fair argument. Pomeranz and White were still big trade chips, and if the Indians wouldn’t have traded them for Jimenez, they could have traded them for another player (maybe a bat, or a more stable pitcher). So I don’t think it matters that Pomeranz and White have underperformed thus far and overall, I think its a pretty unanimous thought that the trade has been a disaster for the Indians.
Other than the Jimenez trade, Antonetti really hasn’t done a whole lot else. The Johnny Damon signing and Derek Lowe trade were small risk, small losses for the Tribe. So were the trades of Cody Burns for Aaron Cunnigham and Zach Putnam for Kevin Slowey. In short, none of Antonetti’s smaller moves have really panned out.
But I think the bigger thing to take away from the above is that Antonetti hasn’t really done a whole lot else. You can say that this is because the Dolan’s haven’t opened up the purse strings, but again, the bottom line for me is that Antonetti’s job is to build a winning team. With such a small window of contention, it is borderline inexcusable to me that the Indians haven’t acquired a right-handed bat that could play left field, first base, or just be a DH. The White Sox traded for Kevin Youkilis, the Tigers traded for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez, we traded for Brent Lillibridge. Also, “trying” to get guys is not good enough for me. Saying “we tried” to sign guys like Carlos Beltran or Josh Willingham, or that “we tried” to make a big move at the deadline is not an excuse — if the Indians were serious about 2012-2013 being their window of contention, they needed to find a way to get moves done, not just try to get moves done.
Overall, Antonetti’s one big move has been a bomb and he’s really failed to address the Indians biggest needs. Antonetti can’t take the blame for the decade of disappointment, but I think he shoulders a large chunk of the blame for the disappointing ’12 season.