Yesterday, the Indians made their big announcement – the new manager of your baseball team is Manny Acta. I know I know, this hire is far from sexy. All I’ve heard since the news came down is the following:
“Who is Manny Acta?”
“This is the best we can come come up with?”
“How is this guy going to sell any tickets?”
“Another boring hire from a boring team.”
I feel your pain. But there are some stark realities here that need to be addressed. First and foremost, Acta was actually in serious demand. On Saturday, it had been reported that the former Nationals skipper was offered the Houston Astros job. So the Indians had to act faster than they probably wanted to. Mark Shapiro has acknowledged that Acta was at the top of his list, so a decision had to be made.
With negotiations on-going in Houston, Shapiro either had to make his offer to Acta, or watch him potentially walk and move on to the next name on his list. Therein laid the problem; the next guy was Bobby Valentine.
Nobody knew whether or not Valentine was serious about taking the job, considering the fact that he told the media flat out he did no research on the Indians prior to his interview and hadn’t really watched much of the American League during his Japanese League stint. Not only that, but there was going to be a money issue with Bobby V; as in he was probably going to cost more than the Dolan’s would want to spend on a manager.
Valentine essentially was telling Shapiro and Chris Antonetti “hey, this is who I am, like or or hate it, this is me. If you want me, great, if not, that’s fine too.” His true interest in the job may never be known.
Meanwhile, Acta came into his interview well versed on the roster and the inner workings of the Tribe. “It’s a good core of players,” Acta said last week. “They already have an offense in place. If Grady [Sizemore] had been healthy the whole season and Travis [Hafner] had been healthy and Jhonny [Peralta] would have had his typical year, it’s as good as it gets in the Central.”
So if they let him walk and Valentine wasn’t interested in the job the way the Indians brass wanted him to be, you were looking at the yet to be interviewed Don Mattingly and Ron Roenicke (two guys with no managerial experience) or AAA manager Torey Lovullo.
With that said, I’d say the Indians made the correct decision. Acta truly wants to be here. Don’t believe me? He chose the Indians over Houston.
Houston Chronicle’s baseball expert Richard Justice said this morning that yesterday was a bad, bad day for the Astros, allowing the Indians to steal Acta from them.
In a prepared statement, Acta said yesterday: “I am very excited to become part of the Cleveland Indians family … I believe we will grow together as a team with the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland and its fans.”
I’ve long been a proponent of hiring a Latino manager to replace Eric Wedge and the grind. Acta is one of the most respected Latin voices in the game. One of his first jobs should be to straighten out three key core players, all of who are Latino – Jhonny Peralta, Fausto Carmona, and Rafael Perez. Peralta, more than anyone else, should thrive under Acta, considering his well known back and forth feud with Grindmaster Flash. Perhaps the most important guy for Acta to turn around is Carmona.
Acta’s first managerial job was to take over the moribund Washington Nationals. Their GM, Jim Bowden, put together a hodge podge roster of mis-cast veterans collecting big paychecks and not ready for the big league youngsters. Bowden was fired in midstream and Acta’s team floundered. The losses mounted and a change had to be made. This corner is hoping that he learned from his mistakes.
Acta’s supporters all say the same thing – he is the ultimate communicator. He isn’t a “by the book” buy, the way the Grinder was. He says he manages “by feel.” In reality, at this point, the job really is to get the most out of young talents like Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Luis Valbuena, Justin Masterson, and Chris Perez. The development of young core of players is going to be the judge and jury on Acta here in Cleveland.
So while you all are predicting doom and gloom, calling this another “cheap” Dolan move and a boring hire, lets give it some time. Lets see if the Indians can change course under a new field boss. They still are in the most winnable division in baseball. There is no doubt they will probably be a doormat again next year, but lets see if Acta can put something together to build towards a 2011 contender in the AL Central.
Oh, and I promise, I won’t mention Cliff vs CC Wednesday night in Game One of the World Series. Did I just say that out loud?