Alomar trade taught Indians valuable lesson

Deal in 2001 led to Cleveland reshaping its front-office system

Alomar trade taught Indians valuable lesson

CLEVELAND -- Groundhog Day, an unofficial holiday normally associated with a large rodent and its long-range weather forecast, has taken on a second life as a holiday for do-overs ever since Bill Murray lived the same day over and over in the 1993 movie.

In the spirit of the holiday, MLB.com asked front-office leaders around baseball to discuss trades that they wish they could do over, if given the chance. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti pointed to a blockbuster deal in 2001 that served as a learning experience and created drastic changes to Cleveland's methods.

The Indians were deep into trade talks with the Mets, and new general manager Mark Shapiro was surrounded by his team of front-office leaders. Also in the Boston Marriott hotel room were boxes filled with files, stacks of medical reports and handwritten notes on a variety of players.

Shapiro had been on the job for roughly a month during the 2001 Winter Meetings, and he was charged with rebuilding the Indians' roster. As the group considered a trade that would send future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar to New York, it became increasingly clear that Cleveland's decision-making process was dangerously disorganized.

Antonetti, who's currently the Indians' president of baseball operations, was the team's director of Major League operations at that time. He now allows himself to find a little humor in the scene that unfolded in Boston, knowing how far Cleveland has come since those early days of taking over the front office.

"We've got the Bill James Handbook to get statistical profiles in one place," Antonetti said. "We've got the Baseball Register to get backgrounds. ... We didn't have a great way of organizing, processing, analyzing and synthesizing all the information that was available to us. Because of that, I'm sure we probably missed some of the information that would've been helpful to have."

When the trade was completed, Alomar wound up in a Mets uniform, along with Danny Peoples and Mike Bacsik. The Indians acquired Alex Escobar, Matt Lawton, Jerrod Riggan, Earl Snyder and Billy Traber when the entire deal was finished.

In his three seasons with the Tribe before the trade, Alomar had made three All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, picked up two Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award twice.

"I know this trade won't be immediately embraced," Shapiro told The Associated Press after the trade in 2001. "I think I'll need a flak jacket when I get off the plane, probably."

As Antonetti reflected on the deal, what stood out to him was not just the players involved and their production after the deal, but how that trade reshaped how the Indians operated behind the scenes. In the immediate wake of the transaction, Antonetti said he and Shapiro had many conversations about how the team could improve its decision-making protocol.

"We had all these sources of informtation," Antonetti said, "but we were spending so much time trying to find all that information and flipping through pages. We were spending all our time trying to organize it. We couldn't really synthesize it. We needed to develop an integrated system for managing our information. And that trade really expedited our efforts to do that."

The Alomar trade helped speed up the development of the Indians' innovative DiamondView computer program, which put all of the available information on players in one place. The system was also designed to decipher huge amounts of data quickly, while also identifying tends and constantly updating its data. The program has since aided the Indians in making decisions for trades, free agents and extensions.

These days, that kind of system is common throughout baseball.

"Now, it's almost silly, because every team has a way of integrating information," Antonetti said. "At that time, though, there was no team that had an integrated system. I'm sure there were teams that did it better than us at that point, when we were just doing the handbook, scouting reports and Baseball Register. But there wasn't a team that had an integrated way of taking all of those information streams and getting them all into one place."

If Antonetti could go back and change something about the Alomar deal, it would be the way Cleveland went about identifying players who could have been included in the trade.

"It was a great learning opportunity for us as an organization," Antonetti said. "Regardless of the players involved, it was more the process leading up to and executing of the trade that we really learned from."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.