A little over a month ago, Big League Stew‘s Kevin Kaduk wrote of Manny Acta, “Not only is he willing to play sacrificial lamb in front of his players but he’s starting to publicly question the flawed makeup of this Indians team. It’s hard to think that any member of Cleveland’s front office wants to have a spotlight shined on their failures by a member of their own organization.” Apparently, they didn’t and don’t. Acta has been pinked with a mere six games left to the Indians’ regular season.
“He’s right about the Indians needing to relax,” I wrote of Acta at the same time, “even if these Indians aren’t exactly a team about whom anyone can relax . . . Acta’s also right, though he shouldn’t be, about him being the one to go rather than the team. He has a contract taking him through the end of 2013, and there are few more intelligent or player-empathetic managers in the business. Except that he isn’t likely to be going anytime soon, barring an unforeseen calamity enough to make the Indians past the All-Star break resemble the Comeback Kids.”
Unfortunately, I was wrong about Acta unlikely to be going anytime soon. At least he went out on something of a high note. Well, a high note in terms of what became of the Indians after they came out of the All-Star break a mere three games out of first in the American League Central. In Acta’s final two games managing the Indians, they won both, playing spoiler against the Chicago White Sox, who have been clawing for the AL Central title with the Detroit Tigers ever since the Indians collapsed into losing 21 out of 25, including 5-24 August.
Acta may have been foolish to question his team’s makeup in August, but he wasn’t wrong to do it. And it becomes to wonder whether owner Paul Dolan—whose reputation for frugality caused Kaduk and others to wonder whether he’d really can Acta and pay out his contract (it runs through 2013) regardless—really will look deeper into the flaws, few if any of which were Acta’s fault.
It wasn’t Acta who dealt for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 and watched the purported ace rack up a 5.55 earned run average this season. It wasn’t Acta who signed Grady Sizemore to a one-year deal, after the former All-Star/matinee idol spent most of the previous three seasons on sick call, only to see Sizemore still unable to stay healthy enough to play. It wasn’t Acta who took a flyer on aging Johnny Damon only to be forced to release Damon after the All-Star break. And it wasn’t Acta who put Travis Hafner on the DL with a bad back, causing the DH and former All-Star to miss several months.
But it was Acta who more or less predicted his fate back in August, while musing that his beleaguered players needed to relax and enjoy playing the game a lot more. “They do need to relax,” Acta told reporters then. “There have never been 25 guys released [at once] in the history of the game. They should relax. If one guy is going to go, it’s going to be me, not them. So relax and play the game.”
I countered in due course that I knew of at least one occasion on which 25 guys might have gotten released at once: Pete Reiser went to his grave swearing then-president Larry MacPhail was so furious at the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1941 World Series loss he was preparing a deal to send the entire club to the St. Louis Browns in exchange for the entire Browns roster plus cash. Not that that helped Acta.
In the end, he did prove right. He went first. Bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. will have the bridge for the Indians’ season-ending homestand, against the Kansas City Royals and, in yet another potential chance to play spoiler, the White Sox. It’s not impossible that Alomar, a Cleveland fan favourite from his playing days, could be in the running to become Acta’s permanent successor.
But the question becomes whether general manager Chris Antonetti might not have some splainin’ to do over this year’s Tribal collapse. “Ultimately, the responsibility rests with me,” he told reporters after announcing Acta’s execution. ”Manny is not the only one to blame. We need to take a hard look organizationally to see how we can do better. We all have higher expectations.”
Whether those expectations might cost Antonetti his job remains to be seen.