2012 was one crazy year in the wild wacky world of Cleveland Sports. Some would tell you 2012 was as bad as it has ever been here. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last four years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started the Buckeyes Final Four trip. Number nine is something that happened just a short two weeks ago. The Ohio State perfect 12-0 season was number eight while Chris Perez’ harsh and honest words clocked in at number seven. Our sixth-biggest story saw our first of two straight from the Cavaliers, the drafting of Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Up next was Kyrie Irving receiving the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Coming in at number four is a story that developed over a three-month collapse, culminating in the end of a managerial era.
I will admit it. I have admitted it on this site for close to two-plus years. I was in the tank for Manny Acta. After watching Eric Wedge Belichick his was through media sessions, it was refreshing watching Acta’s approach. He was up front, amicable, and a great quote. He was extremely witty and seemed to relish the fact that he was lucky enough to have one of the 30 managerial jobs in the majors. The Indians trotted Acta out on Mall Tours and other public appearances because, after all, he was the anti-Wedge.
Could you see The Grinder taking the microphone at Beachwood Place to talk to the fans about anything under the sun, from the lineup he wanted to put out on the field to Shelley Duncan’s beard? What about Wedge standing at home plate after Sunday afternoon home games high-fiving kids after the ran the bases? How many appearances at Landerhaven or the Wahoo Club did Wedge make? And if he made any, did he have the crowd eating out of his hands the way Acta did?
It is about wins and losses as we all know. Acta’s Indians of 2011 and 2012, were once again the antithesis of his predecessor. They started fast, hung around at the top of the division into the summer, and then completely faded. The 2012 version was even more frustrating that the year before, because despite the fact that they never seemed to put it all together (GM Chris Antonetti and team President Mark Shapiro would often say “we haven’t even played our best baseball yet”), there they were in late July, beating Justin Verlander in what we thought was a springboard comeback that would vault them towards a postseason run. Instead, it was the last great moment of the season.
Acta’s crew completely collapsed and he could do nothing to stop the bleeding. Before you knew it, an 11-game losing streak derailed the entire season. It was the start of a 5-26 run that ultimately cost Acta his job. At the time, I placed the majority of the blame at the feet of his boss, Antonetti. I felt as thought Acta should be lauded for the fact that he kept this team, so devoid of talent and depth, above .500 and in contention as long as he did for two straight seasons. But as the days wore on, word started to leak out that Acta was not the great motivator and communicator that we thought he was.
Take these comments from closer Chris Perez, who was the first one ready to expose Acta.
“They don’t know the whole story,” Perez said. “A lot of frustration from those comments, a lot of that walked out the door last week. I’ll just leave it at that.”
“The Manny you guys (reporters) saw and the Manny we saw were different guys. He’s not a very confrontational person. In this game we’re men. We can handle it. Sometimes we need a kick in the butt. He did it this year, but it was a couple of weeks too late.”
“Last year we didn’t get it at all. He only gave us two speeches, one at the start of the season and one at the end and we were playing for first place up until September.”
It sounds like a cliche, but a team does follow its manager, good or bad. If a manager has no activity on the field. If he doesn’t argue calls or get upset, why would his team?”
It wasn’t just Perez. Other veterans such as set-up man Joe Smith echoed the same sentiments, albeit in a softer tone.
“Our team for whatever reason didn’t seem motivated to play,” Smith said. “It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there. He was always a good guy to us personally. You can’t say anything bad about him in that way.”
The way the Indians completely fell off the table the last two months of the 2012 season left the Dolan Ownership group no choice but to let Acta go. They had Sandy Alomar Jr. ready to take over and an ace in their back pocket which nobody knew at the time – the Antonetti/Shapiro relationship with Terry Francona.
Something tells me you will see that coming up later on in our countdown.