Front Office Kudos

By Michael Reghi

The wrath of Indians fans, with loud, angry voices attached, have been directed at now President, then General Manager, Mark Shapiro, and current GM, then Shapiro assistant, Chris Antonetti, virtually daily since the dealing of Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia in July of 2008. Oh, how the anger intensified a year later, when in a forty eight hour period, near the trade deadline in late July, a second Cy Young Award Winner, Cliff Lee, and the face of the franchise, Victor Martinez were dealt in separate deals.

The deals were bold, universally unpopular, and resulted in back-to-back 90 plus loss seasons, that saw you, Indians fans staying away from Progressive Field in droves.

On the contrary, those moves, and a couple others before them, have set up this 2011 version of the Tribe in a most advantageous position now, as they approach the 50 game mark of the season with the best record in Major League Baseball, yet more importantly, going forward with a volume of young talent, all under Indians control for the next four to five seasons. Yes, Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti took the blasts and hits, criticized loudly at every turn. The duo deserves every bit as much of the credit for the Tribe’s on field success as do manager Manny Acta, and the players themselves. It hasn’t been lost on me, and it shouldn’t on you.

I’m sure many of you have forgotten the the two deals in a months time beginning in late June of 2006 with Seattle. Shapiro fleeced the Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, obtaining first Asdrubal Cabrera, then Shin Soo Choo, minor leaguers at the time, now Indians core mainstays, for, you ready for this? Eduardo Perez, and Ben Broussard! Point is this. Shapiro and Antonetti, carefully crafted this rebuild, and that’s exactly what it had to be going back five seasons ago. Sabathia and Lee were NOT going to stay. Martinez would have. When presented with the opportunity to acquire both Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone for Martinez, they pulled the trigger. You could argue that the deal for Lee could have waited until 2010, his free agent year. While true, the dye was cast with Lee. He wasn’t going to take the Indians offer to stay and was becoming more of a distraction, then a driving force, on a team that was in the midst of a 90 loss season. Difficult, unpopular decisions. Bold strokes needed. Shapiro and Antonetti didn’t waiver in their beliefs. They felt strongly many of the young minor leaguers obtained in the deals could be developed and form the nucleus of successful Indians teams. More ‘hits’ then misses, to be sure.

In addition to Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo, Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta are everyday fixtures in the lineup. Brantley a future All Star, LaPorta beginning to be the run producing bat needed at first base. Carlos Santana, acquired in the Casey Blake deal, while experiencing some 2011 growing pains, also carries All Star potential both defensively and with the bat. Justin Masterson seems to be fast tracking to staff ace and Carlos Carrasco has become a starter in the rotation. While Chris Perez, obtained in 2009 for Mark DeRosa, is a most effective closer. Lou Marson, tremendous defensively, is one of baseball’s valuable backup catchers, while the veteran additions of Orlando Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, and Adam Everett have stabilized an infield defense, greatly helping the pitching staffs effectiveness.

Shapiro and Antonetti know how fragile deals can be. They certainly aren’t the types to beat their chests and bark out, ‘ How do you like us now’? Not their styles, nor should it be. Stay understated gentlemen! You might be looking to do business with a few more unsuspecting GM’s in the next six to eight weeks as the Tribe pursue their first postseason since 2007. Still work to be done, sure. The Tribe are by no means a finished product, yet even most of you naysayers should be in recognition of a front office that carefully crafted the restructuring of their organization in a most efficient, very effective manner. Gotta’ like what’s going on between the lines everyday! With all of professional sports problems off the fields and courts, isn’t that a breath of fresh air in watching Indians baseball flourish far sooner than most skeptics and pundits projected? Well played, front office, well played!

My thoughts and prayers are extended to friend and colleague Jim Donovan, who continues his battle to beat leukemia. The longtime WKYC-TV3 sports director, who was diagnosed eleven years ago with the disease, will undergo a bone marrow transplant in the weeks to come. I’ve been aware of Jim’s condition for some time, yet he made it public last night during his sportscast. Jim and I both began our Cleveland careers as weekend TV sports anchors in the early 1980’s, he at Channel 3, me at Channel 5, and through our love for, and longstanding play-by-play endeavors, developed a strong friendship and bond that has endured the test of time in our industry.

Jim is a battler, a fighter, and a devoted husband and father. Now that a donor has been located, Donovan will beat the leukemia that has strapped him in recent years. He mentioned to me that during one of my many visits to the the Indians booth to chat with him and Rick Manning in 2008, was a period where he realized that he might require more than just the medications that seemed to be colliding. Thus the beginning of the search that has now provided a donor.

 With God’s good graces, and a corp of tremendous specialists at his side, Donovan will be back in the Browns booth, calling the action with passion and energy, as he has since 1999, when the 2011 season begins. Keep Jimmy D. in your thoughts and prayers, please. A consummate professional, and even better man! Fight the strong fight, Jim! Cleveland is with you each step of the way!


1 Comment

  1. Would like to have had more out of the Lee trade. Knapp better
    amount to something significant. The Martinez trade was fine with
    me at the time and looks good for the future.

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