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"Manny's not the only one to blame..."

"Manny's not the only one to blame..."
September 28, 2012
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I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank laptop screen for the better part of two hours, taking in the news that the Cleveland Indians have fired Manny Acta. Truth be told, it was Chris Antonetti, the Cleveland Indians current general manager, that made the decision to fire Manny Acta.

Oh, Chris Antonetti said all the right things, and took share of the blame.

"Manny's not the only one to blame," Antonetti said. "We need to really look hard organizationally at how we can get better, especially at the major league level because our performance was not what we expected and not what we hoped. We have higher expectations and we need to do a better job of identifying some of those solutions."

Boy is that the understatement of the century.

The Indians front office has become a joke of massive proportions. Think about it. It wasn't long ago that John Hart had produced a front office that was literally the cream of the crop in major league baseball. Over the years, the Indians FO has been gutted by several organizations looking to upgrade their own front offices. While that has taken its toll, what's been left in it's place is Mark Shapiro and Antonetti, and while the Dolans appear perfectly content with that status quo, nobody else is.

Now that it’s circulating that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are going to be retained for more Cleveland Indians fun, I couldn't be more disgusted.

That status quo just not good enough anymore.

What’s the definition of insanity? Ah yes, it’s doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results

Well, here we go again.

Manny Acta has become the patsy for a Cleveland Indians team that was in first place in the A.L. Central in late June, and finds itself in a battle for the worst record in the American League at the end of September.

Don’t get me wrong. When your team takes a nose-dive as the Indians did in 2012, the manager should be squarely in the crosshairs. The problem in this scenario is that the fundamental flaws with this team go far beyond anything that Manny Acta did or didn’t do. It’s hard to win baseball games when your lineup doesn’t have any right-handed hitters, or many good left-handed hitters for that matter. It’s hard to win baseball games when the starting rotation, and pitching in general, has an ERA pushing 6.00 over the past couple of months.

I’ve never really been a Manny Acta fan, but in the same respect, I’ve never really been a detractor either. Perhaps that was his biggest issue, as it often seemed like he was a rather non-committal manager. He was definitely affable, and he was always a good interview, but at the same time, you were often left scratching your head at what type of manager he really was. He never seemed to get very up, or very down, and his stoic demeanor since the end of July was hard to take.

But who was Manny Acta anyways? Was he a good manager? Was he a bad manager?

Who knows? At this point, who cares?

I sure don’t buy the opinion that the guy is a flat-out loser. Sure, in six seasons with the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals, his record is a less than stellar 372-518, for a .418 winning percentage.

Does that make him a loser?

In Joe Torre’s first five seasons as a manager with the New York Mets, his record was 286-420, for a .405 winning percentage. In 11 of his first 14 managerial seasons, Torre went 637-774, which is only a .450 winning percentage. In other words, he lost a lot before becoming one of baseball’s all-time great managers with the Yankees.

A guy that’s rumored to be in the running to become the next manager of the Cleveland Indians is the former Boston Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona. In his first four seasons as manager with the Philadelphia Phillies, he went 285-363, for a .440 winning percentage. Like Torre, during that initial stretch, he didn’t have a winning season.

No, I’m not saying Acta is Torre or Francona, but what I am saying is that there is likely more than meets the eye with regards to Acta.

Unfortunately, with the Indians, he never had a lineup worthy of showcasing his ability as a manager.

A case could be made that his ability to get this lineup into first place is literally manager of the year stuff. Think about how long the Tribe was in first place in 2011 and 2012. Looking back now, you have to be somewhat amazed. I know the schedule was easy and that the division is weak overall, but regardless, that's still impressive.

With that said, Manny Acta needed to be fired, because this team needs to go in a different direction.

But if the Indians aren’t firing the general manager and president that constructed both the personnel and the philosophy of this team since 2001, what are they really doing?

Is Chris Antonetti suddenly going to figure things out?

Is Mark Shapiro going to force Antonetti to do something that doesn’t fit into the context of their “stable environment?”

Are the Indians going to start taking the risks that are needed to take the next steps into contention?

No freakin' way.

The Dolans are still going to be the frugal, mind-numbing owners that have the PR sense of BP after their gulf oil disaster a couple years back.

Mark Shapiro is still going to talk about having the money to make moves, then follow with a cautionary tale about something with regards to making those moves...then never make them.

Chris Antonetti is going to continue to sign hundreds of former major leaguers that are about 31, who have about 40 games of major league experience, used to be #4 prospects for their teams about seven years ago, and can't hit major league pitching.

Ask yourself this question: if you were a name manager looking for a job in 2013, would you sign a deal with the Indians knowing that there may be some big-time jobs opening up with teams with much more capital than the Tigers. Would you sign a deal with Chris Antonetti, knowing that he won’t be signing any free agent players of significance? Would you sign a deal with the Indians knowing that there just aren’t any significant pieces in both Columbus and Akron that will be helpful to the big league Tribe in 2013?

The answer is an easy no.

I honestly wonder if Alomar Jr. would even WANT this job, if it were officially offered to him.

He might say no.

Then what?

There is absolutely no trust in this front office.

None.

There isn’t any trust from a fan base that is legitimately ready to call it a day on the Tribe. There isn’t any trust from the current roster, who got absolutely no help at any point from the time they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez, until now…unless you figure Lars Anderson is the answer. There isn’t any trust from the free agent pool, who now know the Indians won’t offer up either an extra year or an extra million or two, if push comes to shove.

A relationship without trust is like a car without gas, you can sit in it all day long, but you sure as hell aren’t going to get anywhere.

That’s where this Cleveland Indians team is right now.

This team is on the road to nowhere, and quickly.

They need to make a change in philosophy, and the only way to do it is to absolutely gut the front office. Manny Acta getting the axe with six games left was inevitable, but it should have been the first move, not the only move. Chris Antonetti should be fired, and so should Mark Shapiro. Make no bones about it, while Antonetti has been making the baseball decisions for the Tribe for the better part of three seasons, the philosophy that he abides by is one created by his mentor and friend, Mark Shapiro. I don’t really care if he isn’t making on-the-field decisions anymore, it’s his regime that is failing, and it’s time for a new one.

Unfortunately, the Dolans just won’t make that move.

It’s utter insanity.

So here comes another manager.

So what.

Sandy Alomar Jr. could bring some of that 90’s excitement to the ballclub if he’s the next hire, but what is he going to do differently than Acta. Even if he does, will he have any tools to do it with?

Terry Francona could bring some of that “end the World Series draught” excitement if he’s the next hire, but does he have the skills to bring out a miracle with essentially the same team and philosophy of this current 2012 Tribe?

A new manager can’t go out and sign a right fielder or a first baseman. A new manager can’t trade Shin-Soo Choo or Chris Perez. A new manager can’t create something out of nothing. Who wants that job?

The fact of the matter is that stupid is, as stupid does…and as long as the Dolans keep their “stability” at the top with Shapiro and Antonetti…well, that’s just pure stupidity…

…and downright insane.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Joe
September 28, 2012 - 9:33 PM EDT
Shy- your name is an oxy-moron (pardon the pun)
shy
September 28, 2012 - 4:42 PM EDT
I have never liked Mark Shapiro. He took steroids. For all I know he supplied them to the Hafners, and Sizemore's whose bodies are now ready for the undertaker. You would think he would know better than to "depend" on these guys for 3 years to be core players- when they had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. You would think he would have asked for a drug test before he drafted Drew Pomeranz. Funny how he suddenly lost 4-5 MPH in Colorado. Ironic that he traded him for Ubaldo who also had lost 4-5MPH but unlike Pomeranz, still can't control his pttches, even at Triple A speed. Shapiro and Antonetti hung Manny out to dry with zero left-handed starters at the beginning of the season and Ubaldo and Masterson as your number one and two. They have the highest number of wild pitchs of any top 2 starters in both leagues in modern baseball history. That's not Manny's fault. Then they pick up Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon from the scrap heap and count on them to be core players even though anybody who watched them last year could see they were no longer physically capable of being productive. Bottom line they opened the season without a legitimate major league right handed outfielder and left handed starting pitcher. I said right here when the Indians broke camp they would lose finish last- because they had the most deficient line-up in the division. I said they would lose 100 games and that Manny would be blamed for it. The only reason they didn't lose 100 is Manny got them to play over their heads in the first half while the other teams were slow out of the gate. Now, no decent experienced manager is going to want to stand and fight in the cesspool that Shapiro, Antonetti and Paul Dolan have created in Cleveland. They may get a rent-a-manager or a first -time manager who wants a paycheck and a title on the road to somewhere else. Dolan's comment about having confidence in Antonetti to find the right manager to " realize our dream of winning the World Series" is absurd. It made me wonder if the man is mentally fit to be a CEO in the MLB. I predict this thing is going to get worse. In a year or two, I think the league may have to step in and take control of the sale or other disposition of the Indians.
Joe
September 28, 2012 - 3:39 PM EDT
Good article by Tom Verducci in SI about the Indians plight. He has spelled out all the same points as you did Jim, but he tends to feel Francona still could be an option. Also, he didn't deal at all with the comedy act of Shapiro/Antonetti which surprised me. You certainly hit on the points of concern better than he did, but the whole sad situation is out there for all to see.
jetercp
September 28, 2012 - 3:09 PM EDT
wasnt a super acta fan, but i think he did very well with what he was given... what i cant handle as an indians fan is how bad this makes the organization look... the very day they can acta, they announce shapiro and antonetti are safe. as professionals, how could they not have seen how bad this will make the already bleeding organization look, or are they beyond that and simply just not care about image anymore...
Tony
September 28, 2012 - 2:21 PM EDT
Rich, I disagree. The market issues are what they are, but have nothing to do with their philosophy. I think it is clear that even though the Indians, Rays, Athletics, and Pirates are all in the same market so to speak that the "philosophy" of those other organizations varies greatly. Just a different way of doing business. So, yeah, while the Indians are limited financially with what they can do, they can change the way they go about their procurement of players and be much more aggressive than they have in the past.

Which gets me to Art's point....something I agree with a ton. I even mentioned it on Smoke Signals this week. Guys like Kipnis, Santana, etc struggled this year because they were asked to do too much. To shoulder so much of the load. I really think if the Indians were able to fill the middle of the order with a veteran bat - not a start but a proven veteran bat - that you would have seen much more consistent seasons from those others. Hence where the Willingham non-signing stings again. And you can take it a step further where the starting rotation needs an anchor too. You add a guy at the top to stabilize things, then the rest of the guys maybe could settle down and not try to be more than they are. Just a thought. Now, obviously, finding those anchors is very hard, especially for a small budget team, but there are opportunities to do it and as we have seen there have been several missed opportunities.
Lisa
September 28, 2012 - 12:31 PM EDT
In the end it's a lot like an old quote from Joe McCarthy....when asked why he was such a good manager he said it was his ability to write Ruth, Gehrig, etc on the lineup card.

But nobody at this level should lose like we started to lose lately, the team quit and maybe Manny as well.

I'm wondering about the PR sense of Dolan - even if you were going to retain Antonetti why announce it so quickly?...you would think he'd know he'd be ripped.

Matt
September 28, 2012 - 12:14 PM EDT
Jim,

You are right on! No one has any confidence in these guys making the right decisions and they are constantly finding scapegoats and just overall excuses as to why things aren't going well. Could you imagine what this team's record would be in Shapiro/Antoinetti tenure if they were in the AL East? We would have lost a 100 games numerous times.

I can't wait to hear the news this off-season that we signed Dan Spillner, Reggie Jefferson, maybe a Jeff Manto and hear these guys spin that we were lucky to find them on the waiver wire....its embarassing that this is the organizations philosophy since they are so bad at drafting, yet the primary culprit of that, John Mirabelli, gets promoted to a VP position. nothing like the good ol boy network and is one of the key reasons (along with owner stupidity) why this team has no future right now
Seth
September 28, 2012 - 11:56 AM EDT
I think Acta is good at game management, but bad at motivation. As piss-poor as Antonetti has been at acquiring talent, Acta was just as piss-poor at getting the players he had to perform like they're capable.

The talent on the team is not good ... but neither is the White Sox'. Those guys who put up ERAs of 6.00 were for the most part underperforming to the extreme. The ZiPS preseason projections had the Indians as the 5th-best starting pitching staff in the majors, so it's not like there wasn't a track record of solid performance from this cast. Then you have Chris Perez mouthing off with no consequences, and two of their most talented players, Asdrubal and Choo, have gotten out of shape, can no longer play defense, and only intermittently look like they are concentrating. Acta then defends Asdrubal to the media, saying how he's struggling because he's dealing with injuries ... well, if he hadn't come into camp 20 pounds overweight, maybe he could get through a whole season without sucking in the second half. Acta's not a babysitter, but when there are no consequences for not giving your best, (or telling the media that your teammates aren't good enough, like Perez), that's the result.
art
September 28, 2012 - 11:18 AM EDT
I liked the line about signing former highly thought of minor leaguers from other organizations, I thought that was spot on.

Honestly though, if LaPorta had turned into the .280/.350/.500 with 30 HRs first baseman practically everyone expected, would we even be having these discussions today? Don't you think that type of offensive anchor would make the other hitters better, with less pressure to be "the one" to carry the club? Isn't this, along with Chisenhall's injuries, the real shortcoming of the club this year? Don't you think Santana, Choo, Kipnis and Cabrera would be nice pieces around a dependable offensive anchor? Don't you think even the pitchers would be better if they had confidence that any mistake wouldn't be tragic?

I'm the last guy to defend this front office, I think they have been awful, but just trying to make an honest comment about our problems today.
Rich
September 28, 2012 - 11:02 AM EDT
I don't see anything wrong with the "philosophy" of the organization, which is dictated by budget and market size. It's not like they really have any choices. They have to hit on draft picks, make smart trades like the ones that brought in Hafner, Sizemore, Lee, Cabrera, Choo, Perez, Smith, and Santana, and make some decent mid-level free agent signings like Pestano and Millwood, then flip them in trades like the Kearns for McAlister deal.

Until some billionaire buys the Indians, that's the philosophy and it won't change. They just have to execute it better, and not make any more gambles that don't pay off like the Jimenez trade and the Sizemore signing. They pretty much have to bat 1.000 in the draft and free agency to have a chance.
Willie
September 28, 2012 - 8:45 AM EDT
I think Tony is right on it. The Tribe must find new or at least creative ways to add talent.
Trading away talent is nothing new in Cleveland, but the approach must bring back some recognizable returns in major league talent.
Josh Willingham and Carlos Beltran are prime examples of what is wrong. Truth be told theTribe needed both of these guys. How good would the lineup been with both and White and Pomeranz pushing for jobs in Cleveland. Remember the $10 mil the Tribe spent on Lowe / Sizemore. How about the $3 mil it spent on Kotchman rather than Doumit or Ross. At some point the club has to simply make the right moves.
Esmil Rogers and Russ Canzler seem like reasonable adds...neither is a star but at least worth the flier.
Personally, I'll wait and see what the offseason brings, but I'm not hopeful at this point I'm more afraid Dolan decides to move on from Brad Grant and his staff which seem to be doing a fairly good job.
Simply put the Tribe needs a good return in any trades, I don't think anyone should be off limits at this point. But the Tribe has to go get a cpl of guys the fans recognize in FA show a different approach or the fans won't be back.
Joe
September 28, 2012 - 8:37 AM EDT
I agree totally Tony. Alomar has had a number of feelers from other clubs over the last 2 yrs., and he would probably be a good fit with the younger players. But this is no quick fix. He should be requesting at least 3 yrs. with perhaps some options, otherwise he would probably look at a better situation if it came his way. Sarbaugh may be a reasonable option, and good things have been said about him, but, again, do they want to get in to a situation where winning could be a few years away, if ever. Philosophical changes are needed in the front office, badly, especially if they hope to attract better players and coaches in to the system.
Tony
September 28, 2012 - 8:16 AM EDT
I agree with a lot that Jim wrote. I see no way Francona comes here because first off he won't get the money from ownership that he will command. Then secondly, he won't get the players he needs from the front office. And thirdly, there is no immediate help on the horizon from the minor leagues. There will be MUCH better offers from other teams this offseason. So, it will be Alomar, and if he declines for a better opportunity elsewhere then it will be a guy like Sarbaugh. It is pretty academic.

A change in manager or GM is not necessarily what needed to be changed. What needs to change is the philosophy and the way this team is constructed. Hopefully there will be major changes with their way of thinking and acquiring talent this offseason because if it is the same old some old, then the fans may be lost for good.
Jim
September 28, 2012 - 6:36 AM EDT
Gregor...that actually would be pretty hilarious...other than the fact that the Indians would lose that series....
Jim
September 28, 2012 - 6:26 AM EDT
To be perfectly frank with you Norm, at this point, I feel pretty safe in saying I feel the same about you....and leave it at that for now.
Gregor
September 28, 2012 - 4:14 AM EDT
Right now it feels like this is the Royals, and I'm reading a Royals blog. I never thought it came down to this, but here we are: following a team that will not be competitive, and also doesn't have any interesting young players to follow or come up. The team is bad, will not pick in 1st (and anyways, no Harper or Strasburg will come around for a while), the minors feel empty. It's a struggle.

Maybe we should play a 50 game series against the Royals just to slug it out who should be in the Majors?
Norm
September 28, 2012 - 2:33 AM EDT
I think you should have spent longer with the blank screen!

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