No one can accuse the Cleveland Indians of lacking a long-term management plan.
The club announced yesterday that - effective Nov. 1 - executive vice president and general manager John Hart will move into an advisory role and that Baltimore native Mark Shapiro, 34, will take over the day-to-day operation of the franchise.
Shapiro, the son of prominent Baltimore lawyer and player representative Ron Shapiro, has worked his way up through the Indians' organization since joining the team as an assistant in baseball operations in 1992. He will be the second-youngest general manager in baseball, older than only New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman, 33.
The announcement, made yesterday at Jacobs Field, reflects Hart's desire to step into more of a consulting capacity, while maintaining continuity and stability in the Indians' front office.
"It's more of a plan of succession than a promotion right now," said Shapiro. "This was pretty much John's initiative. He will be in a senior advisory role, and there is no better guy to have as an adviser. He's put himself in a position where he's the longest-tenured general manager. Now, he's in a position to make his own call."
Hart has had a distinguished front-office career. He replaced Hank Peters as the Indians' executive vice president and GM in 1991 and presided over the resurrection of a franchise that was long the laughingstock of the American League.
It was under Hart's stewardship - and the field leadership of now-Orioles manager Mike Hargrove - that the Indians developed the strong group of young players that would lead the team to the World Series in 1995 and 1997.
"I'm not surprised by it," Hargrove said of the decision. "I had a conversation with John back in late January and he hinted about this possibly happening. I think it took everybody by surprise by announcing it this early in the season.
"John's done a great job in Cleveland. He really has. He obviously thinks that this is a good time for him to move on and do something else, or do the same thing someplace else. I don't know what John's future plans are, but I certainly wish him all the luck in the world. He's done a tremendous job for Cleveland and the Indians and the city."
Shapiro has quite a pedigree. His father, Ron, is one of the most influential figures in Major League Baseball, working as agent for high-profile players such as Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray and as a behind-the-scenes facilitator in several of the game's tough labor disputes. But the thing that made his father most proud was the way his son stepped out of his shadow to work his way up on the management side of the business.
"The ultimate pleasure for me is to see my son go from the very bottom to the top of a great organization," Ron Shapiro said. "The thing you appreciate is how he worked through every level."
When Mark Shapiro came back from Princeton, he toyed with the idea of joining the Shapiro/Robinson sports representation business, but his father discouraged the idea.
"I said, 'The best way to do it is to do it your own way,' " Ron Shapiro said yesterday. "Within a year, he was a lowly assistant in the Cleveland Indians' front office, and now he is where he is."
The younger Shapiro spent one year as a baseball operations assistant before being promoted to assistant director of minor-league operations. He became the director of minor-league operations in 1994 and held that job until he replaced assistant GM Dan O'Dowd in 1998.
Now, less than 10 years after he embarked on a front-office career, he is at the threshold of his highest baseball aspiration, something he said he never imagined when he was growing up around the game.
"Going off to Princeton, I very much put myself on a corporate track," he said. "I originally followed that track and tried to get into real-estate development. But I found that I couldn't see myself in my boss' job. I went back to what I was passionate about."
It might seem like an obvious choice because of his father's prominence in the industry, but Ron Shapiro had some reservations about his son's desire to get into baseball management.
"Initially, when I thought about entering the game, he sort of steered me away because he didn't think there were that many good jobs," Mark Shapiro said. "But the root of my passion was the players he represented and my dad's love for the game."
Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.