By: Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro likes to use an analogy of a famous British politician to depict the kind of values his attorney father Ron tried to instill in him as he grew up in Baltimore.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,'' Winston Churchill said.
"There were two things that stand out predominately from what my dad talked about,'' Mark Shapiro said in an interview. "Number one was your responsibility to give back and appreciate what you have. He said you should always be focused on giving back, small gestures or grand efforts.
"The everyday lesson is that you don't qualify a person. You treat everyone the same, whether it's the mayor of Baltimore or a custodian in a building. You treat people with respect, dignity, and value.''
In other words, "The Power of Nice" comes in handy and that so happens to be the title of the best-selling book written by Ron Shapiro, long-time agent of Expos' greats Ken Singleton and Dennis Martinez and Canadian Paul Quantrill.
The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins - Especially You deals with the game of attempting to obtain desired results, but as Shapiro relates in his book, how you get those results is just as important.
Tact, kindness and as Ron Shapiro says, being "soft on a person'', is key to obtaining maximum results in negotiating deals, whether it be baseball-player contracts or company-related matters.
In his heyday, Shapiro, 74, was one of baseball's most respected and popular agents. If you can believe this, he represented about two-thirds of the Orioles' roster of players from their 1983 World Series-winning team.
Besides Singleton and Martinez, there was a Who's Who heeding Shapiro's advice: Mike Boddicker, Cal Ripken Jr., Rick Dempsey, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Rich Dauer, Storm Davis, Dan Ford, Scott McGregor, Mike Young, John Shelby, Lenn Sakata, Bill Swaggerty, Gary Roenicke, Benny Ayala, Dan Morogiello, Sammy Stewart and Bobby Bonner.
More often than not, Shapiro's approach with management from various major-league teams was Prepare, Probe and Propose. His philosophy was to not make the first proposal but rather wait for the other side to make an offer. Getting the other side to go first was Shapiro's motto and it still is. Then he would negotiate a deal that was a winner for both sides.
"Over the years, I've seen every kind of dealmaker there is,'' Ripken wrote in a Foreword for Shapiro's book. "I'll take Ron's kind every time. You can get what you want and you can live with yourself. Instead of making one-time deals, you make deals that lead to more deals. You build relationships. And make no mistake, you'll out-negotiate the other side.''
Shapiro doesn't represent players as much anymore but instead, he keeps busy running the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, a premier provider of sales, negotiation, influence training, deal coaching and consulting. With more than 50 years of lessons learned in real-life situations, Shapiro is an expert in his field.
Shapiro helped settle a major Baltimore Symphony Orchestra strike, diffused racial tension in the city of Baltimore police department and assisted in ending baseball's historic labour deadlock in 1994-95, a stalemate that doomed a wonderful Expos' season.
"You can be a nice person and still get what you're after,'' Shapiro said. "In fact, you often get better results, achieve more of your goals and build longer-term relationships with even greater returns.''
As Mark Shapiro looks to what his father has done, he has a greater appreciation of players in the various roles he has handled over the years. He was the general manager and then president of the Cleveland Indians before he became president of the Blue Jays in 2015.
"The great thing for me is that I am most appreciative and cognizant on the other side of the equation,'' Mark Shapiro said. "I have an incredible appreciation of players. I grew up around great players. I was a kid hanging over the railing getting the autographs.''
Then on occasion, he would go on the field or go into the clubhouse to see his heroes. Later in life, he said the idea of being nice was important in learning how to prepare to "understand the other person.''
I can relate to Ron Shapiro. I've known him since 1988 when I became an Expos' beat writer for the Montreal Daily News. One day when many of us writers were hanging around the batting cage, I noticed Dennis Martinez sitting by himself in the Expos' dugout.
I strolled over and almost immediately, I asked him if he was close to a contract extension. He gave me the scoop and the next day long before the internet and social media, the story was out that he had inked a two-year extension. Martinez also told me for the first time who his agent was and it was the first time I had ever heard of Ron Shapiro.
Many years and many conversations later, both in person and on the phone, I still have the world of respect for the classy Shapiro. In a world of heavy-handed agents, he is a pleasure to deal with.
The Power of Nice is published by Wiley and is available for $30 in Canada and $25 in the U.S.