Newly acquired Indians skipper Manny Acta took to the stage last night for a crowd of season ticket holders for what was deemed a town hall meeting. Acta gave a few of his thoughts, steered by Sports Time Ohio’s Matt Underwood, but then proceeded to take questions from the audience for a special that will be aired at a later date. But then once the lights and cameras were turned off, Acta entertained roughly an hour of more questions from the crowd that ranged from lineup and rotation issues all the way down to the health of specific players and what fans can expect going forward.
Similar to the Browns’ Mike Holmgren, Acta owned the room for the full hour and a half, earning the praise of those in attendance. The manager of only a few months received an ovation early on and was deemed a “breath of fresh air” by a specific fan later in the meeting. At one point in the evening, Acta reflected on his “idol,” Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. And for the duration of the night, fans were treated to an outspoken, gregarious and optimistic head coach that told jokes, gave insight and even went as far as to return the favor by asking fans questions.
Acta discussed his philosophies as a coach and that he refuses to make a team of players conform to his way of doing things.
“You have to manage to what you have,” said Acta. “Ideally you want to have balance between speed and power and this team has a lot of things that I like.”
The question Acta was answering focused on his predecessor’s unwillingness to steal bases, or at least the perception was that he was not as aggressive as some would have preferred.
“The New York Mets are among the league leaders in stolen bases – mostly due to Jose Reyes,” Acta said. “Obviously, this doesn’t translate into winning.”
Instead, Acta prefers to focus on players that can get from first base to third base or from second base to the plate on hits. The outward coach claimed that the Indians have “the luxury” of not being a typical American League team in that they can mix in some small ball. Whether this is a testament to the lack of power at certain positions remains to be seen, but what did become evident is the appreciation that Acta has for right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo, as tweeted late last night, is reportedly in the final stages of becoming an American citizen. Currently a citizen of South Korea, Choo has a military obligation to fulfill if he remains within said status. This was an issue that was very important to Acta upon taking the job as the manager claimed that it was one of the first questions he had for Mark Shapiro. Upon completion, the 27-year old Choo will be a mainstay within the Cleveland outfield as the team looks to compete within the AL Central.
Another topic of interest was Acta’s feelings towards new media. Having the chance to take advantage of the open forum, we were greeted with understandably mixed emotions. Acta first referenced the changing technology when it comes to statistical analysis as well as medical devices, but also referenced Facebook and Twitter as well as blogs. Having daughters, Acta understands the allure of the various social mediums, but feels that the impact on sports is not a positive one.
“Players are afraid to leave their homes,” Acta stated. “We had a player on our team this offseason who was impacted by [new media]. I mean get a life, read a book or something.”
Acta referenced the “old days” when players could have a beer with fans or media members. Now, players fear doing such for these reasons.
“Now, you have fans that are just waiting with their camera phones, waiting to put pictures on the Internet,” Acta said. “And once it’s out there, it’s out there – there’s nothing the player can do.”
Other points worth mentioning:
– Do not count out Rafael Perez starting at some point later in the season.
“From a health standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to have him start out of spring training,” said Acta. “But he is going to go into spring training as a reliever.”
– On the lead-off spot and Grady Sizemore…
“It’s a process,” Acta said. “I know how you all feel about certain kids, but we have to wait it out. I’m not opposed to certain things – we are not blind to it. We will let the players make the decisions for us.”
– On five catchers being on the 40-man roster, Acta repeatedly referred to newly-signed Mike Redmond as a leadership role, almost as if he was going to be a player-coach to help Sandy Alomar work with the younger catchers – the “Marsons and the Toregas'”. Lou Marson continues to be pegged as the opening day starter and Carlos Santana will head to Triple-A regardless of performance in spring training.
– The team tried “very hard” to sign Jamey Carrol, but he felt his opportunities would be better in Los Angeles.
– He is as concerned about the rotation as the fans, but is extremely high on the bullpen due to the “power arms that miss bats.” The Indians were among the league leaders in average innings per start in 2009, but the bullpen imploded. Acta is optimistic that a reversal of fortune will come from the ‘pen.
– Those concerned about the start to the season will be relieved to know that there is a plan in place to make sure that the team does not stall out of the gate. Plan on starters playing more often and more innings in spring training, and there will be a focus on winning. Will Acta play Grady Sizemore for nine innings during a preseason game? No. But he will make sure that the team is able to hit the ground running in 2010.