The torch was officially passed yesterday, as Mark Shapiro took over as club president, handing the reigns of baseball operations over to his longtime assistant and "co-GM," Chris Antonetti. The Indians haven't looked outside the organization for a new GM in over 20 years. Hank Peters hired and groomed his replacement, John Hart, almost from the moment he arrived. Hart groomed Shapiro and transferred the job to him in a smooth, year-long transition over the course of 2001, and this past year, Shapiro gradually turned the job over to Antonetti.
Shapiro believes philosophically that having consistent leadership correlates to success over the long haul, although it is fair to ask if who in the organization, if anybody, ranks as a strong future GM candidate, now that Antonetti is no longer a "prospect." At this juncture, it's also fair to ask if too much consistency in leadership, for too long a period, isn't ultimately too much of a good thing. (It had also been nearly 20 years since the Indians last hired a manager from the outside, until Acta broke that string at the end of 2009.)
The bulk of my sessions with Antonetti has already been published, but here is one more interesting segment that hasn't been seen before, covering Antonetti's role in the organization and relationships with other baseball men around the game.
I know you don't have much time left today, so I'd like to ask you some questions about yourself, because based on what you told me the other day, I know that will be the fast part.
That will be the fast part.
What is your specific job, what are your particular areas of responsibility?
In some ways this is gonna sound somewhat obvious. It's really to assist Mark in whatever issues we're dealing with at that particular point in the year, whether it's major league free agency or trades or negotiations, whatever may be relevant there, in addition to managing staff, whether it's the office staff or our auxiliary staff, strength and conditioning staff, clubhouse, trainers, video, to helping manage Eric and our coaches as well. So it's really to contribute [in] any area where Mark needs.
So there aren't particular areas or tasks, whether it's contract negotiations or trades, there aren't particular areas where you tend to be the go-to guy who generally handle the details on those things?
It's evolved, and I think again, it's somewhat situation-specific. Even in terms of negotiations, some of it is dependent on agent relationships and Mark's history with a particular agent or my history with a particular agent, or even if it's on a team level, contacts within individual teams. So we really in many ways split up some of those responsibilities — ultimately, obviously, all of the calls and the final decisions rest with Mark, but some of the legwork in terms of getting to those decisions or the process of getting to that point, we share.
Mark has more than once in the past referred to you as his co-GM. What do you think of that?
It's very flattering, and I'm privileged to have such a great working relationship with Mark and our ownership. I think that one of the things that makes it exceptionally fulfilling in working for Mark, for not only me but for our entire office, is that he believes in empowering people, at whether it's the intern level, or through the major-league manager to assistant GM, is that he searches to try to find the best people, and then once he identifies those people empower them to do their jobs and contribute to the organization, regardless of the hierarchy. So, we focus on getting the best ideas and the best proces, and irrespective of where those ideas are generated, if the intern that we just hired has the best idea, and that's the best way to solve a problem, that's what we'll go with. We don't care about where the idea comes from as long as we get the best idea.
Do you ever harvest any useful ideas from fans?
That's great — we're open to, we care about the best ideas. If there's something that we had not thought of, or had not considered as an option or an alternative or the best route, then we'll examine it and give it consideration, and if that's the best alternative, that's the way we'll go. I will say, for all of those things, just because we can't comment on it or talk about it, for all of those things that are speculated or suggested, it's very, very likely that we've at least contemplated it and have vetted that idea. But, obviously, that's not always the case, there certainly will always be exceptions. We have a lot of people here that spend a lot of time — people that are far smarter than me and far more creative than me — that obsess about trying to think about all the different solutions and ways to attack problems. We try to be as thorough as we possibly can at looking and investigating those alternatives.
Is it the plan right now that you will be the next general manager of the Indians?
I think it's best for me to answer that I couldn't be more fulfilled in the role that I have here, working with the people I work with, in the environment in which we work. So from a professional standpoint and personal standpoint, I am very fulfilled and hope to keep that going forward.
Okay, I know I'm not going to get a better answer out of you.
You will not.
You come from not the old-school traditional baseball background, but from more of a business background. Do you see yourself as being any different from other guys who've come up through the ranks eventually to be major league GMs? Like DePodesta or Daniels, do you think you view the game differently from those guys?
I think we all have our own individual way that we view the game and, more importantly in these roles, [that we] make decisions, and some of it's the environment in which I 've grown in an organization is that my style and the way we look at things is to be able to focus on all of the information. We crave information, and we crave the best information, and going back to the point we talked about earlier, we try to be the best in each individual domain, and then synthesize the information gathered from those areas to arrive at the best decisions we can, given the circumstances in which we're at.
You must interact with guys outside the organization, who are from that more traditional baseball background.
All the time.
Do you ever get a strange vibe from certain guys, like they haven't necessarily decided that you're okay?
Not really, I think a lot of that is probably overblown. Actually, a lot of my closest friends and colleagues are people that have far more experience on the field or around the game than I do. I actually look at it as an opportunity to try to learn from them, that's how I try to approach it.
But how do they look at it?
That's for them to judge. I'm fortunate, at least, that I feel I have good relationships with a lot of people, regardless of their particular bent.
How would you describe your interaction with the players — are there particular challenges there, again, in consideration that you don't have as much on-field experience?
They're fine, they're friendly and cordial. I'm not sure they really think about that, especially when you're around everybody as much as we are, we'll spend a fraction of the time talking about baseball, and then maybe even more time talking about life issues of family and kids and activities and schools and other sports. Those are a lot of the conversations that we have — we're still people, we just happen to work in the same industry that has some shared interest.
Are there specific things that you try to do or keep in mind, with an eye toward earning the respect of those people in the industry?
What I think I and we try to be is to be open-minded and to learn from whomever we can. I think if you approach it that way and understand that each person can contribute and has value to add in some way, and it's incumbent on you to draw that out, then I think that makes for a more positive relationship and a positive dynamic. And there will be some people who, because of their background, regardless, just like in any other walk of life, whether it's something about you, some individual attribute, whether that's education or background or playing experience, or ... If someone's looking for a reason to dislike you, they'll find some way, regardless of what it is. But I for the most part have been fortunate that, at least the people that I interact with, I really haven't experienced that.
Why do you think David Cameron has such a big crush on you?
You would have to ask David Cameron.
But you are aware of the site, "Hire Chris Antonetti."
Yes, safe to say there have been enough people that have pointed that out to me, that I am sufficiently aware of that site.
How is the experience of having someone make a website devoted to the idea that you would be a great person to hire?
Again, it's flattering anytime anyone has nice things to say about you, but I think what we try to do is, at least for me, gain fulfillment from the people that we work with and what the results are, because ultimately, that's what matters. That's what matters. Because, fortunately or not, some of those same people who write the glowing things about you now, when things aren't going quite as well — and this is not to David specifically — but those will be the same people who are saying, you know ... you go from the smartest guy on earth to the dumbest guy on earth really quickly in this game.
Yeah, I'm probably guilty of that myself.
That wasn't pointed at anyone in particular! It's just that, if we derive any sort of fulfillment from that, and when people write negative stuff about me, it would affect us the other way. I certainly don't define my self-worth from what other people write about me, fair or not.
Do you feel that it's raised your profile in a way that could actually help your career?
You know, that's not really something I give any consideration to. I think my focus has always been to try to do the job that I have as well as I possibly can, and that if I do that, then hopefully good things will come. And if they don't, I'll be able to sleep at the end of the day knowing that I've done everything I can to do the job that I have as well as I possibly can.