Justice Is Served

March 4, 2010 3:35 PM

As a GM, Shapiro rates low marks, SI says


It's always a tough task to rate the performances of general managers, but just as sportswriters rate a player, they can't let the performance of the men who build these teams go ungraded.

Somebody has to be held accountable for these failures, particularly in the case of the Indians organization. Sportswriters can't give high marks to what Mark Shapiro has done with the franchise.

That's not my opinion alone; poor marks are the judgment of a media with a lot more national credibility than I have.

On its website, Sports Illustrated ran an article that rated general managers, and out of 30 GMs in Major League Baseball, Shapiro ranked No. 22.

"He has to be the most overrated executive of the last few years," SI writer Tim Marchman said. "His Indians were widely praised as one of the best-run clubs in baseball for years, but despite immense reservoirs of talent they've had two winning seasons in his eight years at the helm."

I'm not sure about the reservoirs of talent that Marchman referred to. Having covered the Indians as a beat writer for about five years, I didn't see that deep pool of talent. Sure, good ballplayers came through the organization, but few came here in the draft, an abject failure of the Shapiro regime.

Shapiro's greatest failure, however, was his unwillingness to cut loose a manager who was unqualified to handle big leaguers. For all the sloganeering that marked Eric Wedge's managerial style, Wedge couldn't squeeze the best out of his ballplayers.

While Wedge might not have been the worst manager in Indians history, he'd make anyone's list of the Worse 5 in the past 50 years. No manager ever did less with more.

That's the frustrating part of Shapiro era. Sticking with Wedge slowed the development of key prospects, and his Dark Ages approach to leadership cost the Indians a starting second baseman -- or, actually, a shortstop -- in Brandon Phillips, a solid outfielder in Franklin Gutierrez and a serviceable starter in right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. 

Who's to blame for Wedge?

That blame must fall on Shapiro's broad shoulders. For it was the button-down Shapiro, along with his highbrow sabermetrics, who created the mess that will be the 2010 Indians. It was Shapiro who approved the drafting and trading of every player now in the organization. His hands are on everything.

That might not have been a bad thing if Shapiro's hands were steadier and if he knew how to steer the ship "Wahoo" in the right direction. But Shapiro has taken the Indians back to the 1970s, a time when fans could count on one thing: plenty of empty seats from the Fourth of July on.

There will be no joy this summer at Progressive Field. There will be few packed houses at the ballpark. But there will be plenty of "Dollar Dog Nights" and promotional discounts, because at some price, baseball fans will put their fannies in the cushy seats at a nice ballpark.

To see winning baseball in Cleveland, fans will have to wait until 2011 or 2012 or 2013. They will have to ignore the rhetoric that has guided the Shapiro regime and look at what it has wrought, which ain't much.

"No matter how admirable the team's process and structure are, the results just haven't been there," Marchman said.

The thing speaks for itself here, and if what Shapiro has done deserves anything, it's not the promotion to team president he'll be getting a season's end but a slot in the jobless lines.

With that as a backdrop, the SI rating might be overly generous for a GM who had promised much and delivered little.  

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