Guardians' top general managers: Bell's take

November 23rd, 2021

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

Now we shift to general managers. Here is Mandy Bell’s ranking of the top five GMs in Guardians history.

Guardians' all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RH SP | LH SP | RP | MGR

1) Chris Antonetti, 2011-15
It's hard to rank Antonetti’s contributions to the Guardians solely as a general manager, as he’s continued to play a large role in the club’s daily decisions in his current position as the president of baseball operations. Antonetti shifted into the GM role after Mark Shapiro moved up to president of baseball operations in 2010, and he’s entering his 22nd year as a member of Cleveland’s franchise. His connection with Terry Francona helped the club land a manager who would lead it to the best record in the American League (638-494) in the seven years since Francona's arrival. But not only did Antonetti help get his club one of the best skippers in its history, but he’s also been responsible for some trades and signings that have changed the franchise.

In 2013, Antonetti swung a three-team deal that sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the D-backs and Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Reds for Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw. In '14, he shipped Vinnie Pestano to the Angels for Minor Leaguer Mike Clevinger. Antonetti has proven his knack for finding diamonds in the rough through trades, but he also was at the helm for a handful of big-name Draft picks, including Francisco Lindor in '11. And even though he had already moved out of the GM role at this time, it’s important to note that Antonetti also received The Sporting News Executive of the Year Award in '17.

“Chris is one of those guys that he was smarter than me the day he was my assistant,” Shapiro told Fox Sports Ohio in 2016. “And I always told him he made me better both as an executive and as a person. I feel fortunate to have worked with him for as long as I did.”

2) Mike Chernoff, 2016-present
While it’s challenging to view Antonetti’s career solely in the lens of the five-year stint as the GM, it’s also hard to evaluate him without including Chernoff’s name. The dynamic duo of Antonetti and Chernoff as president and GM, respectively, has been extremely successful. From the time Chernoff took his current position, the Guardians have posted a 380-267 record, won an AL pennant and placed first in the AL Central three out of four times.

“There's always so much patience and trying to see the good in people,” Francona said last March. “I don't think the guys above where I am get the credit that they deserve, because I know it starts with them and it trickles down and we take our lead from them.”

Even though he’s only held the position for four seasons, Chernoff’s achievements, paired with Antonetti’s leadership, have been evident. It started with the trade on July 31, 2016, that gave Cleveland its AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award winner that season -- Andrew Miller, from the Yankees -- and led all the way to the Bauer three-team deal that brought in Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. It also included the stellar '16 Draft by Cleveland, where the club selected three right-handers currently in the rotation mix: Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac.

3) Mark Shapiro, 2002-10
There were ups. There were downs. But without a doubt, Shapiro earned his way to the No. 3 spot in these rankings.

During Shapiro’s tenure as GM -- before jumping to president of baseball operations --Cleveland posted at least a .500 record just three times in nine years. But in two of those winning seasons, Shapiro was granted The Sporting News Executive of the Year Award (2005, '07). In '05, Cleveland won 93 games, but fell just short of making the postseason. In '07, the team won 96 games to capture the AL Central before losing to Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Shapiro’s work as a GM didn’t end in 2010. The groundwork he laid in trades for guys like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Carlos Santana continued to impact the club all the way through '19. Shapiro traded AL Cy Young Award winners in CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee to get Michael Brantley and Carrasco, respectively. And at the beginning of his GM stint, Shapiro also flipped Bartolo Colon to land Lee and Grady Sizemore.

4) John Hart, 1991-2001
The magical run Cleveland made in the 1990s will forever be remembered by its fans. While Hart had the club’s GM duties, Cleveland won six AL Central titles and won AL pennants in 1995 and ‘97. When he took over the reins, Cleveland had not been to the postseason since '54. And even though the club fell short twice of winning the World Series, he was able to build a stretch of dominance, posting a 652-462 record from 1995-2001.

Hart proved he was never afraid to make a trade, even if the risk ended up being higher than the reward. But he also showed that it was important for him to sign young players to multiyear contracts before they were eligible for arbitration, as he told in 2016.

"We were building with youngsters from our own system, and at some point we wanted to stop the revolving door," Hart said. "We tied up players such as Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar, Paul Sorrento, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, Kenny Lofton, Bartolo Colon. These were really good players."

5) Hank Peters, 1988-91
And the incredible 1990s can’t happen without a great setup heading into the decade. One of the biggest trades in club history happened on Peters’ watch on Dec. 6, 1989, when he sent Joe Carter to the Padres in exchange for Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga. Baerga made three All-Star teams with Cleveland, while Alomar became a force behind the plate in what would become a 20-year career. Peters put a strong focus on Cleveland’s farm system, producing players like Nagy, Ramirez and Thome.

Without Peters, Cleveland wouldn’t have had Hart throughout the 1990s. After 12 years as the Orioles' GM, Peters was hired by Cleveland in November 1987, and he brought Hart and Dan O’Dowd -- which became one of the most successful front-office pairings in franchise history -- along with him.

Honorable mention
Bill Veeck was not only the general manager during Cleveland second and most recent World Series victory in 1948, but he was also one of the first GMs to sign Black players. Just after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in '47, Veeck signed Larry Doby to a deal, making him the first Black player in the AL. The following season, Veeck also signed Satchel Paige from the Negro Leagues, who ended up playing a vital role on the ’48 championship team.