They did it. They finally did it. Close to two long, excruciating weeks of blowouts, blown saves, and all around bad baseball had driven us all mad. But the 11-game losing streak mercifully came to an end yesterday as Justin Masterson and Shin-Soo Choo led the Tribe to a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.
I tried something different on this day. Disgusted by what I saw a night before, I needed a mental health day off from the Tribe. I was all set to go to the game, but I decided maybe I was part of the jinx. Maybe I need to completely divorce myself from the game for a day and see what happens.
Naturally, they won. Masterson went seven strong innings, allowing two runs (both coming on Alexi Casilla’s two-run homer) on three hits, striking out seven and walking four. Choo led an 11-hit attack with a 4-4 day, driving in two.
The win was long overdue.
“I’m sure there is relief in all of Cleveland and every Cleveland fan in the country,” said Masterson. “It’s like ‘ahhhhhhh, we can win.’”
Said Shelley Duncan one of the team’s elder statesmen: ”I knew we were going to win another game. We weren’t going to go like 0-73.”
Then there was the reaction of manager Manny Acta. The skipper has tried everything to get the streak stopped. Nothing he did seemed to work.
“We did have our big-time yelling and screaming,” Acta said, “with a few words that can’t be said here or printed in your newspapers. But you know what happened after that? We dropped five more in a row.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “And I hope I never see it again. I lost 11 in a row before in a rebuilding process in D.C., but I’d just never seen it the way it went here.”
Throughout this losing streak, where the Indians have been blown out several times, there have been whispers in this town that Acta should be the guy who ultimately bears the responsibility and the blame. Some people in Cleveland think that replacing Acta at the end of the season with bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. is the answer. The knock on Acta from his detractors is that he is too laid back and mild mannered.
“I know my story,” Acta said. “When things are going well, I’m being labeled as cool, calm and collected. When my team starts to lose, he doesn’t argue enough, he doesn’t show enough fire or passion. Passion doesn’t mean throwing stuff and yelling profanities and disrespecting people.”
He is exactly right.
GM Chris Antonetti said last week that Acta was not the problem and should be part of the solution, while saying he will be the manager in 2013. That is 100% the correct decision. How can any blame be at the feet of Acta during what has become a debacle season where his team was supposed to be all in? If anyone should have the dirty finger pointed at them, its the guy who as Bill Parcells once said “shops for the groceries,” Antonetti.
Think about it. How is it Acta’s fault that 60% of the guys he counted on to be in his rotation were either suspended (Roberto Hernandez), finished (Derek Lowe), or demoted to the bullpen (Josh Tomlin)? How is it Acta’s fault that the other 40% that were supposed to anchor the rotation (Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez) have been major disappointments?
How is it Acta’s fault that Grady Sizemore never played a game or that Travis Hafner continued to be the Travis Hafner of the last four years? How is it Acta’s fault that Carlos Santana waited until July to get his act together? How is it Acta’s fault that he was handed a left field platoon of Duncan and a washed up Johnny Damon in and was told to make it work? How is it Acta’s fault that Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan were his all field, no hit, corner infielders? How is it Acta’s fault that Lonnie Chisenhall finally got his chance and then was hit by a pitch which broke his forearm and ended his season?
Noticing a trend here?
Up until two weeks ago, Acta had this group above .500 for the majority of the season and at times in first place. He should be commended for remaining in the race as long as he did. I get that everyone in Cleveland loves Sandy Alomar Jr. He is a Tribe legend and another reminder of the good old days. Sandy is a brilliant baseball man and a future manager, but Acta is a hidden gem that is under appreciated. To a man, the players in that clubhouse all love playing for Manny. He is smart and straight-forward. The players all know where they stand with him. He is the complete antithesis of his predecessor Eric Wedge.
Do you honestly think that Sandy could do any better next year with a team that will have these same holes next season?
So before you start calling for Acta’s head when this disappointing season ends, take a long look at what he was given to work with.