What had been speculated over the past couple of weeks and became a hot topic as recent as Sunday night became official on Monday morning. Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro will leave the organization to join the Toronto Blue Jays as their team president and chief executive officer. The move takes place at the end of the season when current Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston plans to retire.
Shapiro has been with the Indians organization for over two decades. He was part of the rebirth of the Indians organization that went from a last place franchise year in and year out to one that made two World Series appearances and numerous american League Central Division Championships from the mid 1990’s through the 2001 season.
Shapiro first joined the Indians in January of 1992. During his 24 season with the Cleveland Indians front office, Shapiro has moved up in the organization. The 48-year old started as an assistant to baseball operations and also held the titles of farm director and vice president of player operations before getting his big break. In 1999 Shapiro was promoted to assistant general manager under then general manager John Hart with the plan of being Hart’s successor later on.
In 2002, that plan became a reality as Shapiro took over as the Indians general manager and held the position through 2010. During his time as general manager, Shapiro built a organization that won a division championship in 2007, Shapiro was named the Sporting News’ Executive of the Year twice during his tenure as general manager. First in 2005 and then again in 2007.
Shapiro took over as team president following the 2010 season and passed the general manager role to current general manager Chris Antonetti. This isn’t the first time, the Blue Jays have pursued Shapiro. Toronto tried to lure Shapiro as a replacement for Beeston in 2014 before deciding to hold off for a year.
Shapiro and owner Paul Dolan released statements about the move and conducted a press conference with members of the local and national media about the decision. Monday morning Dolan released the following through the Indians public relations department.
“Given the person that Mark is, the significant leadership and values that he has brought to the organization and with everything he has helped us accomplish, it will be extremely difficult to see him leave. However, I hope that this new challenge brings happiness and fulfillment for Mark and his family. As we move forward, I will not be seeking an external replacement for Mark and will continue to rely on the existing strong leadership group to guide us forward. Mark and I are confident that moving forward through this transition, we have a very strong foundation in place to build championship level success on and off the field.”
Shapiro was very thankful for the entire Indians organization for everything that he was a part of over 24 years with the franchise.
“Through my twenty four years as part of the Cleveland Indians, I have developed a deep emotional and civic attachment to the Indians organization and the Cleveland community. The root of those ties is in the personal relationships that my family and I have built. While weighing those bonds carefully and seriously, I feel the unique and compelling nature of the Blue Jays President/CEO position warranted my consideration. This position represents a unique opportunity for me and one that I felt was the right new challenge to undertake. With mixed emotions, I will assume the Toronto Blue Jays CEO position upon the conclusion of the 2015 season. As the Indians organization moves forward, I am confident the current leadership represents a strong foundation to field a championship caliber team moving forward. The relationships we have enjoyed here will be lifelong bonds and will ensure that I will always be a fan of the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Indians organization.”
There is no word on a possible replacement for Shapiro and how this move could impact the relationship between Shapiro, Antonetti and manager Terry Francona. The move doesn’t appear to impact either Antonetti or Francona, but the tribe manager took the job in Cleveland following the 2012 season because of the special relationship he had with Shapiro and Antonetti. At Monday’s press conference Shapiro expressed his confidence in the management in place in Cleveland which made the decision for him to leave a bit easier.
“I feel good about the leadership in place — extremely good about it,” Shapiro said. “It is a strong group of people who are mature, who understand the challenges in place and have committed both to the values that bond them together and to the strategies that are going to help them overcome those challenges.”
The timing of Shapiro’s announcement is interesting as the Indians open up a three game series against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Monday night.