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Shapiro, Antonetti to step up after 2010

Shapiro, Antonetti to step up after 2010

CLEVELAND -- Mark Shapiro has come a long way from his tiny intern's cubicle next to a plastic plant at old Municipal Stadium.

Chris Antonetti has come a long way from selling ice cream at Florida State League games while doing his time as an intern in the Expos' organization.

Both men have ascended to high-ranking positions in the Indians' front office. And at the end of the 2010 season, they'll ascend even higher.

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Once the '10 season concludes, Shapiro will be out as the Tribe's general manager and in as the club's president. Shapiro's promotion will prompt another, as his assistant, Antonetti, will assume his duties as executive vice president and GM.

These upcoming front-office shakeups -- long-rumored and anticipated -- were officially announced by current team president Paul Dolan, who will take over the title of chairman and CEO, at a press conference Thursday at Progressive Field.

"When we bought the team [in 2000]," said Dolan, the son of club owner Larry Dolan, "we told people we bought not only a baseball team but also a strong leadership team. That's been affirmed for us over the years many times. Within the industry, our leadership team is known as one of the best."

And they're not going anywhere. Though Dolan did not divulge the details of the contracts signed by Antonetti and Shapiro, he implied that they have each been given a long contractual leash.

"They're all set," Dolan said with a smile.

The wheels were set in motion for these moves quite a while back. Antonetti, who joined the Tribe's baseball operations department in 1999, has seen his role in player acquisition and contract negotiations increase in recent years. He has been rumored as a candidate for multiple GM vacancies around MLB and, in fact, turned down an offer to become the GM of the Cardinals after the 2007 season.

At the time Antonetti turned down that job, ownership assured him of its intentions for him to succeed Shapiro as GM.

"It's impossible to simulate sitting in that chair," said Antonetti, who won't name his assistant until season's end. "But because of the opportunities Mark has provided to be the point person on [trade and free-agent] discussions, I do feel prepared."

In many ways, it will be business as usual at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario both in 2010 and beyond, because Shapiro figures to remain involved in player personnel discussions.

"What makes our culture special," Shapiro said, "is when we get up on that floor and we're working, titles are irrelevant. We're looking for every person to contribute and to make us better and more efficient in our operation. That's always been our underlying understanding. I've never once felt up there that anybody's ego was getting in the way of us getting better. That starts with a leadership relationship that those walls don't get built up that are so traditional in most organizations."

The difference after this season will be that Antonetti will be the one who makes the final call and the proposal to ownership on major decisions.

"I'd be foolish not to continue to use [Shapiro] as a resource," Antonetti said. "I look at that as a clear asset and clear benefit. Mark won't have to push ideas on me. I'll actively solicit those from him."

Shapiro, on the other hand, will see his interests in the organization expand considerably. The Indians announced these moves now largely so that Shapiro can spend the upcoming season learning and evaluating the ins and outs of the Indians' business operation in a transparent manner.

A member of the organization since 1992, Shapiro is entering his ninth season as the Tribe's GM. The contract extension he signed before the 2007 season actually was set to run through 2012, but Dolan said the decision to make these moves at the end of 2010 was part of a natural progression of conversations between the three men.

What's happening here is not unlike what happened in 2001, when Shapiro was the clear heir apparent to John Hart, who had announced two days into the season that he would be stepping down from his GM role. Shapiro officially took over in November of that year, but he spent that season handling a number of GM duties, from overseeing the club's Draft process to fielding questions from reporters.

When Shapiro took over for Hart, the Indians' sustained run of contention from 1994-2001 had left the farm system barren. The Major League roster was an aging one with an inflated payroll. In June 2002, Shapiro changed the course of the organization by trading Bartolo Colon to the Expos for a package that included Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.

That trade spurred a rebuilding period that reached its fruition when the Indians won the AL Central and came within a win of the World Series in 2007. But the disappointments that followed in 2008 and 2009 led Shapiro to dismiss manager Eric Wedge and pull the trigger on two more trades that will define his legacy in Cleveland, as he became the first GM in history to trade back-to-back Cy Young Award winners in CC Sabathia (to the Brewers in '08) and Lee (to the Phillies in '09).

Shapiro is a two-time Sporting News Executive of the Year, having won the honor in 2005 and '07. He is one of the longest-tenured active GMs in the game, and his respect in the industry was especially apparent when Commissioner Bud Selig appointed him to MLB's 14-man Special Committee for On-Field Matters this winter.

He said he has never seriously considered taking his talents to a bigger market.

"I've got 29 peers that have changed frequently that I talk to frequently, and I never take for granted that Paul has afforded me to run the Indians' baseball operation," Shapiro said. "There may be others with greater resources, but no other general manager that enjoys the empowerment, while being clearly accountable, to run the day-to-day operation with the support of ownership."

Dolan has held the title of president since 2004. But he said his title change is basically irrelevant.

"I am not going away," Dolan said. "I will take on the title of chairman and CEO and fulfill the same responsibilities I do today. I'm involved with our strategic vision and will continue to fulfill obligations owners have in the community and with the league itself."

And he'll give Antonetti the same power that Shapiro possesses.

Antonetti, 35, graduated from Georgetown University in 1996 with a degree in business administration. He served as a student manager for the men's basketball team, under coach John Thompson.

After earning a master's degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts, Antonetti began his career in professional baseball as an intern in the Expos' organization in 1997. He joked about his days of selling ice cream at those low-level Minor League games and getting to pocket 25 cents per cone.

"I learned about bonuses early," he said with a laugh.

Antonetti was later hired as the Expos' assistant director of player development. He joined the Tribe before the '99 season as an assistant in the baseball operations department. He was promoted to director of Major League operations in August 2001, assistant GM in January 2002 and vice president of baseball operations/assistant GM in March 2007. He oversees the club's player development and professional scouting operations, as well as the information systems, statistical analysis and video scouting.

Essentially, Antonetti has been Shapiro's right-hand man. And soon, Shapiro will officially hand over the reins.

"It's often noted how smart Chris is," Shapiro said. "But that's only because he's compared to me, and that's a low benchmark. What gets overlooked is what a good baseball man he is. He's taken the time and effort to build his skill sets as both a leader and an executive. Not only to be a general manager, but to be an impact general manager."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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