For Mike Chernoff, being named the Cleveland Indians’ general manager was the fulfillment of a career-long dream.
“I think the dream as a little kid is to be in the major leagues as a player,” he said in a telephone interview. “But in terms of a profession, this is certainly a dream come true.”
Chernoff’s promotion to general manager from assistant general manager, a position he held since 2010, was part of a shift in the Indians’ front office announced Oct. 6.
With team President Mark Shapiro leaving Cleveland after 24 seasons to take a similar position with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Indians moved Chris Antonetti from general manager to president of baseball operations. Derek Falvey, who had been the team’s director of baseball operations, replaces Chernoff as assistant GM.
“In many ways, it’s a natural evolution,” said Chernoff, who has been with the Indians for 12 years. “Chris (Antonetti) has given me a lot of opportunities throughout my career, and those have grown in my role as assistant general manager over the last five years.
“This in some ways is just the next step. It allows me to continue to lead, build and develop the organization with Chris.”
Chernoff, of Beachwood, confirmed reports that he received interest from other major league teams with GM openings, but he declined to say which ones.
“I have for a long time been drawn to the culture and people within the Indians’ organization,” he said. “So the chance to stay here to continue to grow in the role, especially in a community like Cleveland, is really something special for me.”
Although Antonetti will oversee the direction of all of Cleveland’s baseball decision-making, team owner and chairman Paul Dolan will have the final say, Chernoff said. Dolan will assume Shapiro’s duties on the business side.
Chernoff, 34, said he expects to take on an increased role as the Indians’ spokesman for on-the-field matters.
“Chris and I will split a lot of the duties,” he said. “As far as trade talks, (the responsibility) has actually been shared for some time. The job of general manager has grown over the past decade, so over the past five years, Chris has given me the opportunity to handle a lot of those trade and contract discussions.”
Coincidentally, two of Chernoff’s friends with whom he previously worked in the Indians’ organization were also recently named general managers of major league teams. In late September, Mike Hazen, 39, was named general manager of the Boston Red Sox, and David Stearns, 30, was hired as the Milwaukee Brewers’ GM.
“Mike Hazen is a really close friend of mine,” Chernoff said. “He’s also a Princeton (University in Princeton, N.J.) grad – he played baseball there like I did – so it’s really fun for both of us to get those jobs in the same off-season.”
Chernoff joined the Indians for an internship in 2003 shortly after he graduated from Princeton, where he played baseball for four years. After three months, a full-time position became available, and he was named an assistant in baseball operations.
The Indians, who finished at 81-80 for their third consecutive winning season but missed the playoffs despite a strong finish, are focused on “the singular challenge of winning the World Series,” Chernoff said.
“I think the core of our team is in place,” he said. “When you look at guys like (Michael) Brantley, (Corey) Kluber, (Carlos) Carrasco, (Yan) Gomes and (Jason) Kipnis, you can see a group of players who will be here for a long time that make up the core of that leadership team.
“So I think it’s about trying to find ways to continue adding to that, whether it’s with internal players – like (Francisco) Lindor and Cody Anderson – or through trades and acquisitions that we will start trying to make this offseason.”
Chernoff still shul shopping
Mike Chernoff and his family have not yet joined a synagogue in the Cleveland area, but they have attended services with friends at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood.
He noted his mother-in-law, the late Wendy Keil, was heavily involved with Jewish National Fund in New Jersey.
While growing up in Livingston, N.J., Chernoff belonged to Temple Emanu-El of West Essex in Livingston, where he became a bar mitzvah. He said he has long admired Jewish baseball greats Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.
Chernoff lives in Beachwood with his wife, Sarah, and their sons, Brody, 5, and Owen, 2.