Transcript: Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro and Owner Paul Dolan discuss Shapiro taking Blue Jays president job
Shapiro Opening Statement:
So I did get a live notification from MLB.com before I walked up here to listen in live and hear Mark Shapiro talk about the Blue Jays CEO/President job, but that’s not what I am here to do. I’m here to talk about Cleveland, to talk about 24 years and a decision I had to make and what is meaningful to me in that decision, which certainly is the opportunity going forward. But the majority of my remarks today and the answers to my questions will be more about the time I have had here.
I am going to initially acknowledge my wife Lissa. I have had opportunities before but it’s only because of her support and her belief that I can even consider this one. I’m not going to look at her, but thanks to her and my kids for being so open to something so big, exciting and new. Without them and their support, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have even had to consider it.
It’s hard for me to believe, but about 24 years ago or a little less than that, my little brother and I loaded up a U-Haul truck and drove down Ontario Street and I pointed out to David, ‘Hey, that’s where Jacobs Field is going to be.’ There was one more building that was getting demo’d the week I was in my plush, temporary, downtown housing – executive housing is how they sold it to me. So began the construction of Jacobs Field, but more for me, began an incredible juncture in my life marked by unbelievable relationships, marked by championships, marked by rings and marked by celebrations, but really more by friendships made and bonds that were created, both in this community and certainly within the organization and beyond. Those relationships, those bonds, are what made this decision so incredibly difficult and painful at times for me over the past weeks. The team, the community, the culture of this organization that I believe so incredibly deeply in, the values that brought this group together — that our team demonstrates on the field day-to-day – those are the things that kept me here through so many other junctures and alternatives in a lifetime in professional baseball.
The opportunity to steward this organization and go forward doing that was not one that was unattractive to me. It was one that I enjoyed every single day that I was here. The decision really came down to two things: one, just how compelling and unique the opportunity in Toronto is. I feel like through all professional sports, this is one that fits my skill set and fits what provides fulfillment to me on a daily basis. When I think about who I am as a person – and for those of you that know me – I’m a lot about wanting to become better, wanting to grow, wanting to develop. To do that, you have to be challenged. To do that, you have to take on new challenges and sometimes be a little uncomfortable. This opportunity for me would be the right challenge at the right time of our lives and of my life. It’s with mixed emotions because of that history here and how I feel about Cleveland that I am also excited to take on this challenge and this opportunity.
I feel good about the leadership in place – extremely good about it. 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, and most importantly the challenge they are going to overcome to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. I think that foundation is in place and when that championship happens, regardless of where I am, I will celebrate with you. There will be a piece of me that celebrates with this organization and with the city.
The city, our friendships that we shared, this organization, wherever I am and wherever I go it will always be a part of me. Twenty-four years does not get set aside, it becomes what you carry with you every day. I met my wife here, we raised our kids here. I’ll leave with this being part of my personal foundation and my professional foundation moving forward.
Just a couple minutes to indulge me on a few thank yous. First, to Larry Dolan who is not here and to Paul Dolan, who put tremendous confidence in me and an opportunity to lead this organization at two of the highest levels, at two different junctures. I can’t repay that and I can’t thank them enough for that. Secondly, to two gentlemen that are not here. John Hart and Dan O’Dowd. Lissa said when we walked in that it doesn’t seem like that long ago we sat in this exact spot with the announcement that you’d be taking over the Indians from John the following season. Those two guys showed unbelievable confidence in me and empowered me to a level frankly beyond expectation and belief for a kid at that age. From the time I was 24 years old and joined the organization, I owe a lot of my professional development but certainly owe my start in this game and in this organization to both John and Dan. Too many people in this organization to think about and when I do, I will clearly not be able to answer questions or finish to Johnny Goryl to the hundreds of people who have come through the building and left a lasting imprint on who I am both as a person and a professional. Finally, to Chris Antonetti because I am both a better executive and a better man for having worked with him.
Opening Statement from Paul Dolan
Mark sits here by my side today as he has both literally and figuratively for the last 16 years. He has done so as a leader, as a mentor, as an adviser and mostly as a friend. Today, first and foremost is a sad day for me, as it is for my family and our whole organization. It should be understood that Mark leaves us with our blessing and our complete support. We wish him well and the best of luck except when we are playing Toronto.
We are able to do this in part because Mark leaves us with an organization that is widely regarded throughout Major League Baseball as one of its strongest, which is probably why Toronto wanted Mark. Any strong organization is more than just the person at the top. Mark has assembled and built a very strong leadership team that is very capable of taking this organization forward, which is why I will look to this team to lead the organization going forward. I will not look for external replacements for Mark. Rather, we will take our time and settle on the best internal structure to run this team going forward with complete confidence that the foundation that was laid by Mark will be the foundation upon which we can build a successful organization on and off the field.
What are you most proud of?
SHAPIRO: I really spent exactly half my life here. That’s incredible.
I think just the people that I have had a part in playing some small part in their development and their life experiences. I don’t want to say that I played a huge role in their development but just to think about the strength of the people that we have assembled over the years that have gone on elsewhere and that remain here. To think about how they then cascaded their influence down – the strengths and the values that bound those people together, the driving sense of urgency that we are going to wake up every day with the mandate to get better, improve and grow. The understanding that we were going to do that in a culture where credit and blame were not a part of it and that no energy would be spent in those things – those were inefficiencies – the universal understanding of that throughout the people that work here now and that have worked here in the past. I think more than any superficial accomplishments, award or recognitions, those relationships and those people are what I am most proud of and will continue to be.
What has been your biggest challenge working in the Indians organization and whatyou’re your relationship with John Hart meant to his career?
SHAPIRO: The biggest challenge is probably the Major League Baseball system and how that relates to a market of Cleveland’s size. So, it’s no one’s fault, but I think the challenge is not that dynamic, the challenge is to never let that be an excuse. The challenge is to create both a structure, a process for solving those challenges and a group of people who don’t readily fall back and rely on that as a reason why we can’t win championships and be successful. I would say that would be the overarching challenge. John, there are so many different things about him. It’s taken me different junctions in my career, and I have expressed this to him personally, to recognize and be aware just how special the level of empowerment he gave me at such a young age was. From the simplest thing of bringing me in when they handed me the farm system after only having worked a few years in professional baseball. I told John my ideas for the player development system and planning process for players. To have him just go, ‘Hey, you’re our guy, I’m with you, let’s go.’ A lifelong baseball guy who played and coached and was in a big league uniform, for him to tell me that and his belief in me, I think created both a platform for me to believe in others and understand the power of that level of belief and empowerment. John and Dan (O’Dowd), the understanding of what level of preparation can be a difference maker, and his high expectations and standards, clearly he had them. Those two guys together, they complimented each other well and they both established a clear pathway for me to be a leader and did it at a level at an age that to me is remarkable. I have tried to pay that forward every step of the way with the people we have hired here and even when I am not directly involved with the hiring, I have tried to pay that forward in the understanding that every single person is important and that contributions can come from anywhere and are good if they come from everywhere.
How disappointing is it to not win a world championship?
SHAPIRO: I don’t tend to dwell on those things. The only productive place that disappointment plays is as fuel to move forward and accomplish those goals. As I depart Cleveland, regrets are not a big part of my life, they are not a big part of my vocabulary. I leave here with a group of people who are going to end that disappointment and move the organization forward. I believe that they will do that. That being said, there are plenty of times that I wake up and think about 2007 and how close we were. I think Chris (Antonetti) and I just talked about it the other day. Then you let it go, because you have to move on and move forward and dwelling on that, unless there is something to learn from that the next time you are there, dwelling on that is completely inefficient and not productive.
When did the talks with Toronto begin and what was your initial reaction?
SHAPIRO: I do not remember exact timing, sometime probably in late July, but they obviously called and asked permission.
DOLAN: Mark and I have had a dialogue since the day he started in this role and he said almost from the day he started that there would come a day when he sort of built an organization that he would no longer need to be a part of. When he first brought up the idea that Toronto was an option for him, we had not talked about it in a while so I might have been a little surprised, but overall not surprised and very supportive.
In taking over as president, how will your duties change and will you be involved in any baseball decisions?
DOLAN: I do not recall saying that I was taking over as team President. I’m not sure that we will fill that role, but de facto, Mark’s direct reports will report to me as CEO and owner and I am not sure that will affect any real change other than I will do what I can to support our leadership team so that they can do their jobs. Mark uniquely, as a President, brought a great deal of baseball experience and knowledge, so I think he is a great adviser to Chris (Antonetti). I will not be able to play that role for Chris and if he needs help because of Mark’s absence, he will go out and get it.
SHAPIRO: He doesn’t need any help.
Was this a compensation (i.e. players in return) issue with the Blue Jays?
DOLAN: My relationship with Mark was such that he had the ability to do this when the time was right for him. It was not a compensation issue.
Any conflict with the Indians playing the Blue Jays this week?
SHAPIRO: I’m not conflicted. Until I leave this building, which is not going to be until the end of September, I am a Cleveland Indian and it’s probably going to take a long to feel any differently. The day I strap on a Blue Jays uniform, all my energy and all my focus will be on the Toronto Blue Jays, but that is not happening for a month or maybe longer. When I watch the game tonight, I will certainly be a little more interested in the opponent than I have in the past, but I will be a Cleveland Indian. I think there will be a part of me that, if they are not playing the team I am working for, I will always be a Cleveland Indian.
On Terry Francona and his opt-out clause:
DOLAN: I think Terry has actually spoken directly to that, but I’m very confident that he is happy here and that he looks forward to being the Cleveland Indians manager for a long time.
SHAPIRO: I can build off of that. Having sat with Chris and Terry a lot in the past week, he may have come here because of his relationship with both Chris and I, but the relationship he has forged with Chris over the past few years is one of the most unique ones I have seen in my time in the game. I would say there is zero question about Terry. He is here, he is committed here and committed to his partnership with Chris.
How has the relationship between the fans and team changed?
SHAPIRO: There is really nothing new to that story. I think what is underlying and what is consistent is the passion of the fan base and what has maybe fluctuated has been the attendance. Those things are driven by so many different variables that it is hard to concisely tie them into a short conversation and frankly, we have had that conversation so many different times that today it does not feel like it is worth having again. There was an alignment of conditions in the mid-90s that were probably unrepeatable that created an incredible era that we celebrate of Indians baseball. What was the heart of that era was the passionate fan base that is still there today and that was there before that period, even in the old stadium. We appreciate our fans, we appreciate their passion, their desire to win drives us and we always want more to be here, but we understand the dynamic.
Will you be considering anyone inside the Indians organization for Toronto?
SHAPIRO: Paul, Chris and I have talked openly about that. Right now, I’m not considering anyone. I still care deeply about (the Indians) organization. If that’s a conversation going forward, it’s one that I’ll have with the utmost respect for what’s being done here. My web in the game is pretty deep, runs deep. They’re doing well (in Toronto). My nature is to go in and meet the people there, understand their own challenges, the structure, the process, who’s there, and after that we can see if there will be any changes.
(Current Blue Jays GM) Alex Anthopolous has mentioned you in the past as someone who he’s leaned on for advice. Can you speak to your relationship with him?
SHAPIRO: I’ve had this conversation with (retiring Jays CEO) Paul Beeston. Out of respect to where they are as a team, what they’re doing, how special it is right now … and out of respect to Paul Beeston and his incredible tenure, I will not have situation specific comments about Toronto. Now’s not the time.
Terry Francona is one of the managers in the game that has a bigger say in how the team is run. Does this change his voice in the organization?
DOLAN: Absolutely not.
The perception of the fans today is one of the reasons the Toronto opportunity is attractive to you is that they don’t operate under the same financial constraints that you’ve had here. Can you address that?
SHAPIRO: While I can understand why that might be the impression from the outside, I can assure you that played very little, if at all, into my decision-making process. Every situation has its own challenges. They play in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. You can’t look at pure payroll as a driver for the change. It truly is a leadership position that I feel is a unique one for a lot of different reasons that’ll talk about in a couple months. It’s an incredibly different place that will allow me to grow and develop. There’s no contrast between Cleveland and Toronto. I love and celebrate Cleveland and there are things I’m excited to learn and celebrate in Toronto.
How come a championship has not happened yet?
SHAPIRO: If I could answer that, we’d have already won it.
You said this is just the right time for you to move. What made it that right opportunity?
SHAPIRO: Internally, organizationally and professionally, even though I’d been in one place for 24 years, if you look at my career trajectory, I’ve had different jobs. I’ve always had the opportunity to be challenged and grow. When I became GM, I matured and the opportunity to become president intrigued me because I wanted to learn about the business side and Major League Baseball. I was incredibly fortunate to have that confidence put in me here. At some point, I outgrew any role here unless Paul wants to hand the team to me from an ownership perspective. It just became, ‘how do I continue to grow and develop?’ This afforded a greater opportunity to even expand my leadership beyond what it is here. For us personally – the ages our kids are at, the dynamic of that city and what it could bring to our lives – my wife and I sat down once the kids demonstrated openness, it was the two of us saying, could we envision ourselves living here and are we open and up to the adventure? We might not create the incredible community and life that we have in Cleveland, but maybe we’ll find a new one that will help us grow in some ways as a family.
You mentioned hesitations. How much did not winning a World Series play into that hesitation?
SHAPIRO: It’s on the list of considerations. I want to be here when it’s done and I believe it’s going to happen. The biggest challenges for me in weighing it were, I’m not unhappy here. There are a lot of really great things here, most importantly people I love deeply and care about and respect. There’s a culture that we’ve collectively worked hard to put in place and there’s a life we feel good about in our community.
How much will your experience with the Progressive Field renovations help you in Toronto?
SHAPIRO: I will have a laundry list of things to get acquainted with. Their stadium is a mature stadium that is in need of redevelopment. I think process, more than particulars, will be helpful in leading that process.
Do you have a timetable on finding a replacement for Mark internally?
DOLAN: I don’t think we’ll have a replacement per se. Mark’s direct reports will report directly to me; that’s a more traditional baseball alignment anyway. There aren’t many teams that have presidents that functioned as Mark did and will. Internally we’ll look at it to see if there’s a gap we need to fill but right now our plan is to move forward as is.