Is there really a better option than Manny Acta?
“I've had three great years here. From the top to the bottom, these are unbelievable people. It's part of the business. I understand it. I was hired to win as many games as I could. I gave it my best.”
Even hours after being fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Manny Acta remains the class act that he has been since the day he was hired.
It’s likely that this firing has stirred a number of different emotions among Tribe faithful. For myself personally, I’ve gone through a mix of them since hearing the news, but it started with something different — surprise.
The surprise does not come from the team’s decision to fire Acta, but instead it comes from the circumstances surrounding the firing. Six games? Really? Did they really have to fire the man with six games left in the season? Why not let him at least manage the final games and close the season out at home? There seems to be no harm in that. Given these circumstances, it seems it would have been better to fire him more than a month ago. At least then, Acta might have seen it coming. This firing just comes across as a direct slap in the face.
Given the Indians’ month of August (5-24 record, which was the worst in franchise history), the writing did appear to be on the wall for Acta. There was no way that they could possibly give him the reigns for another season, not after the debacle that occurred following the trade deadline.
But if Acta was not going to return as manager, one would have to believe it was probable that the same fate would lie ahead for President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Chris Antonetti, right? Yet, reports have come out that Shapiro and Antonetti are both expected to return next season. And that is where my emotion changes — anger.
In any sport, it’s been said that a coach is only as good as the talent around him. Take a look at the Indians roster. It is impossible to argue that Acta had sufficient talent to compete at the Major League level. Sure, there are some bright spots here and there, but there is also so much dead weight, which just does not fly in the Major Leagues.
If anything, Acta seems to be the scapegoat for Antonetti’s numerous mistakes. Acta did not pull the trigger to trade for Ubaldo Jimenez in July 2011. Antonetti did. Thus, Antonetti should be taking or at least sharing the fall with Acta.
Within any organization, there has to be accountability. Each and every person must be held responsible for his or her role in what goes right or wrong. Otherwise the organization is doomed to fail, which is ironic because all we’ve seen is failure from the Indians in the past few years.
Antonetti spoke about accountability on Thursday during his news conference and said, “We all share in the responsibility of how things turned out this year — myself, the players, Manny and the coaches. It's also my responsibility to make sure we're better moving forward.”
So, essentially, Antonetti admits that he’s not necessarily done a good job in role as general manager, yet why is he able to return unscathed while Acta takes the fall? Antonetti also takes responsibility for helping the team get better in the future. Hmmm, there’s a confidence booster. Might as well go renew your season tickets Tribe fans. Antonetti is going to be steering this ship into the future, and we all know what a great job he’s done of that in the past.
Plus, if Antonetti is going to be the captain of the ship, who is going to be his first mate? Who will he hire to replace Acta?
Would anyone even want the job?
Plain and simple, Terry Francona is not coming to Cleveland. The Dolans will not be able to afford him, and he will certainly receive better offers in far greener pastures. And what if Sandy Alomar does the same? Other Major League teams are certainly going to pursue him, and it’d be hard to blame him for exploring those other options.
This then brings us back to Acta. What if he really was the best, viable option for the Indians moving forward?
On the surface, Acta leaves much to be desired. For his career, he has a 372-518 record, and he posted a 214-266 record in three years as the Indians skipper. But numbers do not tell the whole story. He never had sufficient talent as manager of the Washington Nationals, and we all know the talent he’s had these past three years in Cleveland.
With Acta, it never seemed as if he was losing despite the talent. In fact, in some instances, like the 30-15 start through May 2011, it seemed as if he was winning despite the lack of talent.
In comparison, I always believed the exact opposite with former Tribe manager Eric Wedge. Just take a look at the roster of 2008. How did that team ever finish 81-81? That was a team that seemed destined to win at least 90 games, yet we know that was not the case. Can you imagine if Acta had the luxury of managing some of those Wedge teams? I’d garner to guess that the results might be a tad more favorable.
Take a look at the starting rotation that Acta has been armed with this year. Listed below is every Indians pitcher who has started a game this year, his number of starts and season ERA.
- Justin Masterson: 33 GS, 5.03 ERA
- Ubaldo Jimenez: 31 GS, 5.55 ERA
- Derek Lowe: 21 GS, 5.52 ERA
- Josh Tomlin: 16 GS, 6.36 ERA
- Jeanmar Gomez: 16 GS, 5.54 ERA
- Zack McAllister: 21 GS, 4.25 ERA
- Corey Kluber: 11 GS, 5.02 ERA
- Chris Seddon: 2 GS, 4.34 ERA
- David Huff: 2 GS, 2.25 ERA
- Roberto Hernandez: 7.53 ERA
Is any more evidence needed? Just in case, consider this: the Indians likely will not have any player reach 20 home runs this season. How is it possible for any manager to win with these circumstances? If anything, Acta should receive credit for somehow being able to avoid losing 100 games.
But beyond any managerial prowess that Acta may or may not possess, there are some things that cannot be denied. Without question, Acta is one of the true good guys in baseball. His honesty is a welcome change, and it’s evident whenever he speaks.
Many have criticized him for his lack of emotion during games, but I never bought into it as his quotes were always riddled with true emotion and carried a great amount of weight. Though at the end of day, nice guy or not, this business will tell you that Acta is only as good as his record shows.
Sure, Francona would look nice in an Indians uniform, but he seems to be a long shot at best. And who knows what really is ahead for Alomar. It’s far from a guarantee that he would take the job.
So, ask yourself, is there really a better option than Manny Acta? At this point, I think not.
Steve can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(By the way, those of you who think Tito has any real interest in coming here, you are going to be disappointed. He's not coming here. Is using it to tell other teams he's back in the game and he will leverage it for another opportunity. About a week after the season, the Tribe will announce Sandy and say he was their guy all along.)
As far as Shaprio and Antoinetti still being employed - i'm still wondering if the behind the scenes stuff with the Dolan's is really what lead to Acta being fired with 6 games to go in the season. It's not that unusual - seems to me i remember other managers being fired in a similar time frame - but i have to wonder if somewhere along the line Antoinetti was told that he would need to replace Acta.