Antonetti to GM among Indians' promotions

Antonetti to GM among Indians' promotions

CLEVELAND -- The handoff is complete, but the work for Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti has really just begun.

Both men, as of Monday, officially have new titles in the Indians' organization. Antonetti, with the 2010 season complete, has assumed Shapiro's general manager duties, and Shapiro has been promoted to club president.

But with the team coming off its second straight season with more than 90 losses and attendance at Progressive Field at an all-time low, Shapiro and Antonetti will have to continue to work hand in hand to enhance the Indians' product, both on and off the field, and to discourage apathy among the fan base.

"One, we need to win," Shapiro said. "Then we also need to improve the level of entertainment we offer within the ballpark and in every facet of the experience here. The competition's tougher, because it's not just the professional sports teams. It's harder to get people to make the effort to get [away from] a very comfortable entertainment experience in their living room. So we've got to be competitive in every facet of what we do."

To be more competitive on the field, the Indians will rely largely on internal improvements, because the sagging attendance revenues won't do anything to boost the Tribe's declining payroll, which went from $81.6 million on Opening Day 2009 to $61.2 million in 2010. On Opening Day 2011, the number figures to be even lower. The Indians have just $26.6 million in salary commitments to three players under contract for 2011, with eight players entering arbitration-eligibility.

Shapiro and Antonetti said that the Indians are just beginning the process of calculating projected revenues for 2011 and making roster evaluations.

"The first priority for us is to assess what we have," Antonetti said. "That's what we'll spend the next few weeks doing -- determining what are the strengths of our team and what are the areas where we could stand to improve, and then making a plan to address those areas."

Once again, though, the Indians are not expected to make much noise in the free-agent market, which they deem to be inefficient, especially for a rebuilding ballclub on a fixed budget.

"While [payroll] is unclear right now, as we said last year, the bulk of the improvements to the team are going to have to happen internally," Shapiro said. "And then, whether or not we'll have the ability to be opportunistic in the free-agent market and at what level [is] going to be determined by a bunch of variables that are still unclear at this time."

There is a clear line of demarcation between the duties of Shapiro, who had been GM since taking over for John Hart in 2001, and Antonetti, who, while serving as Shapiro's assistant, assumed more and more of the GM responsibilities over the last few years.

But that doesn't mean Shapiro won't have a voice in the decision-making process on the baseball operations side of the organization.

"I'd be foolish not to rely on Mark to provide guidance along the way," Antonetti said. "I've got a great asset here that most general managers don't have the ability to tap into. Mark's been through nine years or 10 years as a GM and has a great feel for the player-evaluation side. It's not like I'm going to arrive at a decision and Mark will be hearing it for the first time. I would think he'll be involved in it from the beginning."

A familiar cast will be surrounding Shapiro and Antonetti in the decision-making process, albeit with revised titles.

As expected, Mike Chernoff has been promoted to Antonetti's former role as assistant GM. Chernoff has been with the Tribe for seven seasons and has served as the team's director of baseball operations since 2007. He'll continue to oversee professional scouting and baseball analytics and will assist Antonetti in player acquisition, contract negotiations and day-to-day operations.

John Mirabelli will have the new title, vice president of scouting operations. A member of the front office for 11 years, Mirabelli will continue to oversee the scouting and acquisition of amateur and international talent.

Ross Atkins, who has been the Tribe's farm director for the last four seasons, can now add "vice president" to his title. He oversaw a player-development system that was the only one in baseball with two full-season clubs winning their league championship this year.

Finally, Andrew Miller, formerly the assistant director of baseball operations, will take on a new role as assistant to the president. He'll assist Shapiro in planning in all areas related to business, brand and Progressive Field strategy and development, in addition to advising the baseball operations department on decision-making and planning.

The changing demographics of the Cleveland market -- a shrinking market hit hard by the recession -- have amplified the Indians' need to get creative in all facets of the organization. Baseball is the top priority, though other potential revenue sources, such as the "Snow Days" winter activities that will take over Progressive Field this offseason, must be explored by Shapiro in his new role.

"My plate's going to be pretty full," Shapiro said. "I'm not going to be going through any [GM] withdrawal. The unique component of this for me is, I'm not moving to another place to become team president. It's a city that I believe in and am heavily invested in, and an organization where my ties are extremely deep on the baseball operations side. So I'm looking forward to an expanded opportunity to lead and further the goals of our organization."

As far as the baseball side is concerned, Antonetti and Shapiro feel the team is farther along now than it was in 2003 or 2004. Both cited the progress made by the pitching staff as the biggest positive to come out of the 2010 season, in which the Indians finished in fourth place in the American League Central with a 69-93 record.

But the challenges ahead for both men are obvious as this small-market club tries to revitalize its performance and its fans.

"I think I'm more excited than nervous," Antonetti said. "Part of where that excitement comes from is the group we have internally, knowing we've done it before. We certainly have our challenges, but we're energized by that. The ability to overcome those challenges and win, and win in a certain type of way, is energizing."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, CastroTurf. Follow @castrovince on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.