10/10/07 10:15 AM ET
GMs in LCS have a lot of Hart
Three remaining playoff teams run by students of Rangers exec
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
They merged seamlessly with O'Dowd, Byrnes, Shapiro, Huntington, DePodesta and Antonetti, the young guys who could work the computers, study farm systems and opposing rosters and had a feel for the changing economics of the game. They worked with printouts while Hart still doodled on the yellow legal pads."They were able to use the baseball acumen that they were surrounded with and get creative with new ideas," Hart said. "They were passionate and energetic with a great work ethic and great organizational skills. We'd work out together at five in the morning and go for 18 hours. We'd be there in the stadium after a game until one or two in the morning, our feet propped up on the desk, talking baseball and what we could do to get better as an organization. "When I went to the Indians from the Orioles, I felt the game was changing. The economics were growing as salaries went from $500,000 to $5 million in beyond. In Cleveland we were operating on a pretty strict set of guidelines and I felt we needed to be out front on the economics. So we looked at the idea of bringing in some extremely bright young guys who could handle that." O'Dowd came to Cleveland with Hart and Hank Peters from Baltimore in 1989. He was head of the farm system when Hart was named general manager at the end of the 1991 season and was promoted to his assistant, overseeing both scouting and player development. Shapiro started out working with the secretaries, eventually moving up to farm director and Hart's assistant after O'Dowd left. Byrnes, who played baseball at Haverford College, started out as an intern and ended up as director of scouting. "We felt it was important to give them positions of leadership as the heads of departments to help them grow," Hart said. "It was all part of the process. They understood that franchise had been through some rough times and we were going to build an organization from the bottom up. There were not going to be any shortcuts. They all had a vision of where we were going." Byrnes said Hart's influence on his career was immeasurable. "That whole shop, and obviously John was the GM, was the best possible environment that I could have possibly walked in to," Byrnes said. "John had an open-door policy and I was in his office a lot -- even as an intern. I've learned a lot from observing him and interacting with him and from his encouragement and critiques. I refer back to a lot of how he did things, or sayings or his beliefs, probably more than I realize. I mean, there are things he said 12 years ago that ring true right now. He was a tremendous influence on me." The results from their collective efforts were remarkable, an unprecedented turnaround of a franchise that had easily been one of the worst in the game. The Indians won six division titles in seven years, plus two American League pennants. "What I tried to be, if anything, was an encourager," Hart said. "I tried to give them direction but I had some sharp bright guys with a great work ethic. They all had ambition, but they didn't put their ambition out front. They were very loyal. Everybody pulled for each other. That's why we've all stayed close." Now they all try to beat each other and their old mentor just sits back and watches. "I'm trying to be neutral," Hart said. "I'm just sitting back and watching the games. But it's been a lot of fun."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.