Blue Jays introduce Mark Shapiro as president, CEO
Gibbons to return as manager, LaCava promoted to interim GM
Mark Shapiro wasted no time announcing his first moves as Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO.
Speaking at a news conference on his first day on the job, the former Cleveland Indians president said vice-president of baseball operations and assistant general manager Tony LaCava had been promoted on an interim basis to the GM position vacated last week by Alex Anthopoulos.
As well, Shapiro said John Gibbons, whom Anthopoulos brought back for a second stint as Blue Jays manager in November 2012, will return next season.
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The 54-year-old LaCava has been with Toronto since 2002, becoming the assistant GM in 2007 and two years later added director of player development to his portfolio. In 2010, LaCava reportedly turned down the GM position with the Baltimore Orioles.
He's a great evaluator, a man of incredible character and compassion and that's what I think is necessary to be an effective leader.- Blue Jays president/CEO Mark Shapiro on interim GM Tony LaCava
"Tony is a great baseball man," Shapiro, wearing a black suit jacket, blue tie and poppy, said, while adding it would be premature to consider LaCava a full-time candidate. "Tony's work contributed greatly to the team that's on the field. He's touched people through all parts of this organization and he has universal respect and admiration from those people."
In 2002, LaCava worked in Cleveland with Shapiro as a national crosschecker for the Indians, meaning he was responsible for comparing the prospects uncovered by the team's scouts in different regions of the United States and reporting to the director of scouting.
"He's a great evaluator," said Shapiro, who has known LaCava for 15 years. "He's a man of incredible character and compassion and that's what I think is necessary to be an effective leader."
There is no timetable in the search for a full-time GM, what Shapiro deemed a "critical hiring decision." He said he wants to be extremely thorough in that process, "ensuring that we arrive at the best person to lead the Toronto Blue Jays organization."
Shapiro elaborated, noting he's looking for a leader, a decision-maker, a communicator, an empowerer. "Someone who hires effectively and surrounds themselves with quality and talented people and empowers those people."
Furthermore, Shapiro stated, it's important to build a team around the GM.
The new Blue Jays president also put to rest any rumours of Gibbons' imminent departure, saying he spoke to the manager on Saturday, as had LaCava, and that Gibbons was being welcomed back.
"I think his strength, his toughness, his consistency [was what this club] needed to ensure the year they had. It takes a very special person to be able to guide an incredibly talented group of players like the Blue Jays had. John did an outstanding job and we're extremely happy to have him back."
In 2012, Gibbons succeeded John Farrell, who bolted for his "dream job" of managing the Boston Red Sox.
Gibbons's first stint as Blue Jays manager was highlighted by an 87-75 record in 2006 when the team rose beyond third place in the AL East for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.
Shapiro arrives from Cleveland, where he spent the past 24 years in various front-office capacities, including the last five as Indians president.
The 48-year-old takes the helm of a franchise that ended a 22-year post-season drought in 2015, losing the American League Championship Series to the Kansas City Royals in six games. The Royals went on to beat the New York Mets in a dramatic fifth game of the World Series on Sunday night.
Shapiro, who will also add the title of CEO in Toronto, comes to a team planning to renovate the Rogers Centre in the near future. The 26-year-old facility is expected to have an all-grass field by 2018, and could undergo other facelifts.
Shapiro was involved in the renovations to Cleveland's Progressive Field that made it a more fan-friendly ballpark.
As Blue Jays president, he takes over from Paul Beeston, 70, who leaves one year after his rumoured departure. The first employee in Blue Jays history in 1976, he left the team and returned more than a decade later in 2008 after serving as president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball.
Beeston was the person in charge during the World Series years and his name appears on the club's Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre.
Other thoughts from Shapiro:
On ex-GM Alex Anthopoulos's departure:
"Like all of you, I'm disappointed that Alex won't be back. Over the last couple of months, I've had a chance to get to know him, to learn about him. I respect his creativity, his passion, his intellect, his drive to win. It was my sincere hope that I would have the chance to learn from him, to partner with him and work with him. He's obviously earned the right to make the decision he made and I respect that decision."
On fans angered by Anthopoulos's decision:
"In the end, the true test is, are we going to win? I understand the disappointment. I share the disappointment. We're going to move forward and we're going seek to build a winning team and a winning organization."
Who will have the final call on trades?
"There's no GM in baseball that makes that call in isolation. A good GM stewards a decision by gathering information — makeup, character, personality, medical, objective analysis, subjective analysis. They arrive at a strong recommendation and ultimately, if that process is good, my job to approve the decision is easy."
On his knowledge of Toronto and Canada:
"I'm quickly learning about the politics [laughing]. I was here on [federal] election day and it was a reminder for me about how little I know. [Toronto is] an incredibly diverse, international, growing, dynamic city. As I look across the landscape of world cities ... Toronto, to me, is one of the most attractive places to live and raise my family. As far as the country, I've spent a little time in other places in Canada, whether it's been vacationing or business. I look forward to learning more … and greatly anticipating learning more going forward."
On the Blue Jays' 2016 payroll:
"You always want more [money to spend]. I think what I was 100 per cent confident of was that the resources are going to be there, resources for infrastructure. That means the best systems possible to help drive and support and get the most out of your players and put them in position to be … successful. To identify the best players, to develop the best players and ensure they reach their potential. And ultimately, when necessary, to go out and sign players in free agency or to contract extensions. Through my perspective, we'll have plenty of resources to field a championship team."
On the previous regime's 5-year policy on signing free agents:
"By and large that's probably a good stance to take, but I don't believe in absolutes. I think in the right situation, the right circumstance, I could foresee a seven-year deal. It would have to be a unique situation. The risk tolerance would have to be very clear what you were getting.