Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Manny Acta--Some thoughts a couple of days later

The Cleveland Indians have their new manager in Manny Acta, and with it comes a slew of anger, excitement, question marks and answers. Yeah, I know, it's a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The Acta hiring has certainly brought everyone out of the woodwork to throw out their opinions. It likely speaks more to the fact that the only excitement generated by this team since 2007 has involved the manager hire, and a couple of former pitchers facing off against each other in the World Series. Don't worry, I'll get to that tomorrow.

I've taken a couple of days to let the Acta hire sink in. Was it a good hire? I'll continue to state that this team needed a vocal leader. They needed a guy who could fire this team up when needed. They needed a guy who could stand up to Shapiro when he needed players, but could work with him as well. They needed a guy with some seasoning who has been through the ropes, and had a history of success. I've always believed in the old adage that winning breeds winning. Sure, there are instances that go against that line of thinking, but few and far between.

When Mark Shapiro hired Acta, my first thoughts were that they rushed the pick because Acta was in talks with the Astros. I didn't know the particulars at the time, but found out that my thinking was likely true. Acta was offered the job with the Astros, and according to all reports, was looking for a three-year deal. Drayton McLane was only willing to go for two years, with a club option for a third. Shapiro stepped up on Saturday and made a three-year offer. Acta quickly took the Tribe offer. It made sense for Shapiro to sign the guy for three years, since he has three years left on his own deal. Shapiro and Acta are now tied together for better or worse.

Now, in one respect, you have to respect Acta for taking the deal with the Indians, and actually meaning it. It probably took a lot to not take the deal with the Astros, where he coached for 8 years, and was involved in their organization for 16. That said, you have to also give him credit for getting the best deal, after likely playing both teams against each other. Normally, the Tribe comes out in the losing end of these types of fights. This one they win, for better or worse.

I have to believe that Don Mattingly and Bobby Valentine both declined to take the job, or at least let it be known that the Indians' job was only a stepping stone. Mattingly never did sign up for an interview after rumors (likely true) circulated that he was in line to take over for Torre, and also using the interview process to lock the Dodgers into place. Valentine's job just got more important at ESPN with Steve Phillips getting fired, and he is likely waiting for a big job to open up, either back in New York with the Mets, or another locale. No doubt, Shapiro was feeling the heat, and with Acta about to sign a deal with the Astros, he stepped in.

Acta may have been the best candidate of the current crop of manager-possibilites, but that doesn't make him the best hire. I do believe that Shapiro acted too soon, and hired a guy that he perceived to be 'in his pocket.' Whether any of that turns out to be true is shrouded in the future, but the appearance looks all too familiar for my taste. It smells of Eric Wedge.

I will say this for the guy, you can tell that he lives the game of baseball. He did his homework with regards to the Indians, and it really sounds like he knows this organization. It smells a bit like there was some talk prior to the media and fans knowing about Acta, but regardless, you can't help but be impressed with this guy's vast knowledge of players from the big league club, clear down to the minors. If he's done the work prior to the job, what kind of crazy work ethic is he going to bring once he's here?
"I'm not blind, help me if I am, but I think we do have the component of a terrific lineup already in place. We do have some work to do in our starting rotation..."
Acta certainly realizes where the teams' strengths are, and what needs fixed. Any blind man can figure that out. This team obviously has some good, young offensive tools to put in place. The rotation could stand out as the weakest in the league if parts aren't added, and I have to believe that parts aren't going to be added. At least Acta knows that going in.

He also talked briefly about the division, and how it was balanced. You have to appreciate the fact that Acta found a way to call the Central balance, which is likely code for garbage. The reality is that with some luck, the Indians could contend. No, not because they are deserving, but exactly the opposite. NOBODY is deserving. Acta was likely smart to take this job over the Astros for the simple fact that there really won't be a stand out team, unless it's bad, which the Indians could contend for.
"I prepare myself very well, that's what I do."
I do believe that Acta is a preparation freak. I've seen them before. They aren't always successful, but they are organized. Acta certainly is that. I have no worries about what this guy will put in place. I think he'll have a quality coaching staff (and would love for HIM to pick it out, although that's unlikely), and quality plans in place with regards to training this team. I'm just not sure that he has the skills to motivated these young guys day in and day out. I do believe Wedge was "prepared." It's just another case of a guy being prepared, but not understanding his players. Acta seems different, more eager, more willing to get in the players heads. That said, there's nothing from his prior experience that would support that.
"Big shots are just little shots that keep shooting. I'm willing to keep shooting until I become a big shot."
This quote cracked me up on several levels. First off, this is the kind of wit that never would have come out of the mouth of Wedge. Was it a staged comment? Perhaps. Was it indicative of what could happen? Possible. Remember, Joe Torre struggled with the Mets before landing a job with some upper level teams in the Braves, the Cardinals and the Yankees. He was able to become a "Big Shot" because he played with the big fish. Cleveland will never be confused as a big fish. Torre also had pull in this league based on his playing career. Yes, Acta is respected, but many consider him "new money." He's a guy that is working his way up. He gets the nod from some baseball guys, but he's not a guy that is connected. I know, mafia talk. If Acta fails in Cleveland, he's likely never manage again. Torre likely would have, because he was a known commodity.
"We have the potential here to have a terrific outfield. We have a team that has a chance to get out of the American League norm or just sit around and wait for the homerun. We gottalot of athletic guys out there that we can do different things with them."
I do like the sound of this. I want this team to start applying pressure to other teams on the basepaths. The story on this guy is that he's not going to run. Most Saber guys don't. He sounds like a guy that will mold to the team. That's a good thing, no matter how you look at it.

Could the Indians have made a better hire. I really believe they could. Am I jumping on the Manny Acta bandwagon? I can't lie, I loved his interview. At the very least, we may have a guy here that can make things interesting with his comments. There is certainly more than a dry wit. We aren't talking about a guy who is walking out of "Teaching Communication" by Eric Wedge and Bill Belicheck. This guy can motivate the masses...

I'm still not sure he can motivate this team.

There is some hope though.

Unfortunately for Acta, directly in his way of a World Series is a young and inexperienced offense, no really starting rotation, a bullpen in disarray, a GM who is proving to be overmatched, an owner who won't spend money, and a 61-year drought.

Wow...I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy...

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