I don’t know who the Indians could have hired this off-season that would have excited the Tribe faithful. Many thought Bobby Valentine was the right hire. Some of the nostalgic types were in favor of getting Mike Hargrove back in here. It isn’t like hiring Hargrove would have brought back a young Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, and Albert Belle though. After the Indians ultimately hired Manny Acta, I think the fans would have been more livid if they hadn’t all been so passive about this team after watching it gutted the season prior.
When TD discussed the story back in October, he was trying to be realistic about it. Yes, Acta had some miserable times in Washington, but he didn’t do that in a vacuum. There was (is?) a terrible franchise culture in Washington that contributed to the steady decline of the Nationals. This included a “skimming” scandal involving bonus money for Latin American players. Then again, as Tribe fans do we really care about excuses for poor performances in other places? We would rather have been able to talk about a manager with some kind of track record of success. Even still, the hiring of Manny Acta seemed to many Tribe fans like another cheap, smug move by a failing front office that seemed to think it is smarter than the rest of the world.
The day after TD’s story, I was trying to see the bright side in my own post. At the time, I was hoping that at least a change in voice or culture would benefit the Tribe. I hoped that having a Spanish-speaking manager might somehow work better with the host of Latino players on the roster. Ultimately, even with those two bullet points, I didn’t feel all that excited about the hiring of Manny Acta.
Then Scott attended a town hall meeting for season ticket holders with Manny Acta. With the way he owned the audience he drew comparisons to Mike Holmgren.
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.
Also, Acta started to address some of the concerns that had arisen directly with previous manager Eric Wedge. Acta addressed concerns about starting slowly. He seemed interested in trying to create some stability in the lineup. He finally made the decision that many Indians’ fans had been screaming about for the last few years when he decided to push Grady Sizemore to the second spot in the order. Then Sandy Alomar Jr. was added to the coaching staff as first base coach.
So how do you all feel about Acta now? The Indians have still yet to play a meaningful inning of baseball, but doesn’t the Manny Acta hiring already feel significantly more optimistic than it did back in October? Getting off to a good start in Spring training is better than getting off to a bad start, right? Fausto Carmona and the young guns appear to be attacking the strike zone. Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Shin Soo Choo, and even Travis Hafner are hitting the baseball pretty well. Peter Gammons thinks that the Indians are worth keeping an eye on if nothing else. Isn’t it interesting how the tide can move in and out over time?
Obviously if none of this carries over into the season, it will be meaningless. Still, it is interesting to note that maybe, just maybe, we are starting to see some of the same things that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti saw when they interviewed Manny Acta of the horrendous Washington Nationals.
Slowly, but surely I think the perception has changed a bit already, even without the Indians playing a real live meaningful baseball game yet.