Mark Shapiro’s tenure as Toronto Blue Jays president hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts.
Just days before the former Cleveland Indians executive is set to take over his new role with the Blue Jays, Shapiro is taking some heat following the exit of general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who rejected a five-year extension with the team because he no longer sees Toronto as the “right fit.”
But once the anger over Anthopoulos’s departure subsides, most Blue Jays fans across Canada will surely be asking what’s next for the team. Zack Meisel, a writer for Cleveland.com and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, joined Dean Blundell & Co. Friday morning to offer some insight into Shapiro’s legacy with the Indians and what he may bring to Toronto.
“(Shapiro) became the general manager in 2001, and really his first move was trading away Roberto Alomar,” Meisel said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “That pretty much signalled the end to the Indians’ great era from the mid-90s on. They won six division titles in seven years, they made the World Series twice, and then (Shapiro) took over and he said ‘Hey, we have new ownership, we have new restrictions with payroll, we’re going to have to rebuild, we have no farm system.’ And it wasn’t like this transition that was smooth, and the Indians still competed for a while, it was immediate, and the Indians, they went south pretty quickly.”
“He ended up trading Bartolo Colon, which was a great deal in getting Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee. But since then, the Indians won the division once and they made the wild card game once, and I think fans kind of roped Shapiro in with the downfall of that great era, and a long period where the Indians were really mediocre for about 15 years now.”
It’s important to note that Shapiro’s situation in Cleveland differs greatly from what he will inherit in Toronto. According to Spotrac, the Indians had the fourth-lowest payroll in MLB in 2015 and were second last in total attendance at 1,388,905 (or 17,806 per home game). The Blue Jays ranked 10th and eighth, respectively, in those categories in 2015.
Meisel also pointed out that there were some in Cleveland who understood what Shapiro was dealing with, given the financial restrictions the Indians face, but in the end the former president is seen as the face of the team’s failure since the turn of the century.
“I think there are some people in Cleveland that recognize that, given the circumstances, Shapiro did pretty well,” Meisel said. “The Indians never hit rock bottom like the Houston Astros did, they never lost 100 games under his tenure. They were still average or better every couple years, and the last three years since Terry Francona returned they’ve had a winning record each year.
“It’s tough because there’s such a vocal minority in Cleveland that, and maybe it’s not even a minority but the front office of the Indians are some of the most hated people in the city,” Meisel went on to say. “The Indians are kind of the ugly child (among Cleveland sports teams) … and Shapiro’s kind of been the face of that for 15 years now, so I think a lot of fans were happy to see him leave.”
Anthopoulos’s exit from Toronto is seen by many as the result of differences in philosophy between he and the incoming president, who is expected to have a much larger role in personnel decisions than outgoing president Paul Beeston did. The direction in which Shapiro plans to take the team won’t become clear until he takes over the role on Nov. 2, but given the Blue Jays’ success in 2015, it makes sense that fans are confused and, from the outside looking in, Meisel understands the uncertainty.
“Clearly there’s some kind of rift there, and there’s some kind of uneasiness with how things were going to go and how this was going to play out. I think that’s the most concerning thing if you’re a Blue Jays fan, is just, there’s no telling what the plan is here. If Anthopoulos is bailing, then that’s kind of discomforting.”