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2.27.2010

I'm more of a Juan De Madera than a Vincente Lombardo

Nino Colla | Saturday, February 27, 2010 | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
The first different thing that Manny Acta has brought to Indians camp is his insistence that Indians hitters do not swing at a single pitch.

Great, we're screwed.

Not really... But Acta's brought the practice of "pitch tracking" over in the first two days of full-squad workouts. He believes that since the pitchers are ahead of the hitters right now, that they should just simply stand there and look at he ball rather than swing at it
"I started doing it last year (in Washington)," said Acta. "Guys like it. We managers talk during the winter meetings. Some of the guys do it. I was sold on the idea.

"I think it's very counterproductive to have guys, the first day or two, batting against pitchers because the pitchers are ahead of them. They can take bad swings and get into bad habits."
I'll buy into that.

It was a bit of a joke yesterday about Vincente Lombardo and the whole fedora stuff, as it usually is here on this space. But Acta really does his philosophy away from a legendary head coach in a different sport. It isn't Vince Lombardi, but Juan De Madera doesn't sound as cool as Vincente Lombardo, nor does it tell you who it is unless you can decipher my horrid Spanish translation.
"John Wooden is all about the team," said Acta. "No individual is above the team. That is the kind of mind-set you want to set in your guys. Also, you need to be a major-league person before you become a major-league player.

"He believes good things happen to good people. It worked for him. You have to admire a guy who has lived the way he has lived. And a guy who had the patience to lose for 14 years in a row and then became the greatest [men's college basketball] coach ever in this country." 
I know another coach who had to endure some losing seasons the past few years...

We're going to learn a whole lot more about Acta during this camp based on how he runs things and we're going to compare it to how Wedge did it. The funny thing is we've already learned a whole lot about Acta. One of the biggest differences so far is Acta's active participation in instructing and coaching.

Wedge never got out into the field and threw BP to my knowledge. So far Acta hasn't done that, but it's only because he's recovering from shoulder surgery he had in September. Acta is out there though hitting ground balls, shagging fly balls and moving around. Could you imagine Wedge shagging a fly ball? Hell no... Maybe something at his old position? Catch a bullpen session? Not even that! He'd need his mustache back.
"I used to be an infield and third-base coach," Acta said. "I'm not going to stop instructing and coaching just because I'm a manager. I can still do it, so I'm going to do it." 
Picture Wedge as more of a general, sitting afar watching how things are progressing with his hands in his pockets, not giving away anything. Observing what's going, maybe having a chat with one of the lieutenants under him once and awhile.


Oh that was pretty cool.. Let's try it again..

Now picture Acta, still a leader, but an active participant in the job at hand. Sometimes he'll have those conversations, maybe with the commander in charge, but always on the go, ready to jump into the fray. He has his arms folded because if they are in his pockets, he won't be able to have his hands ready at the instant he wants to jump in. Maybe he'll have a weapon in hand, ready to go into battle at the drop of a hat for his warriors.


Now that was pretty cool.

Acta delivered his first big speech of his tenure as Cleveland Indians manager. I think we all hope he's making bigger ones and doing it for a long time. David Huff chimed in about what Acta was like.
"He was very motivating," said left-hander David Huff, who led the team in wins as a rookie last year. "You can sense his energy and his passion and his pride. He makes us believe we are a good team. We're young, but we've still got the right guys to go about our business."
That's kind of how I pictured it. Wedge's camp was workman-like. Nose to the grind-stone and do your job. Acta's is a little more upbeat and fun, but yet Acta has that way of making his players hold themselves accountable for what is going on.

That's a special human being to be able to do that. Regardless, it sounds like he has the players trust and that's the biggest thing going forward. Don't listen to the Plain Dealer commenters that say Acta is the Latino Eric Wedge, they are completely different people.

Jhonny Peralta's attitude about playing third base is much better this time around. Perhaps Acta's talk to him did something, but he's more "what's best for the team" than he was last year. Which is something I got on him for.

And as far as who's on first and what Matt LaPorta is on, not even Matt knows.And quite frankly, until he's healthy, he isn't worried about it.
"I haven't known my whole life," LaPorta said with a laugh. "Even in college, people would ask me, and I'd just say, 'I'm a hitter.'"

"Right now, the focus is on getting me back to 100 percent," LaPorta said. "We can't talk about my position until I'm 100 percent."

LaPorta will probably start talking about it though, because he isn't that far behind teammates. The first Cactus League game for the Indians is March 5th. LaPorta is expected to make his debut on the 10th, just five days later.

What's the most encouraging is the fact that Manny Acta said he'd get the opportunity to get 500 at-bats if he's healthy. This team sounds very committed to LaPorta this year and that's a good thing to hear. I can bite the bullet with Brantley starting in Triple-A, but LaPorta needs to get going and get going now.

I also could care less about defense. As LaPorta said, he's a hitter. He was acquired to hit and that's all we really want to see him do. Our strongest defensive players are in center, short, catcher and second base. There's a reason LaPorta is at first and in left, he isn't the greatest defender.

Onto tidbits to note from CastroTurf and around the world...

Right now, Luis Valbuena is the second baseman. It's his job to lose according to Manny Acta. Moral of this story Louie? Don't screw up and you get a shot.

Brian Bixler will get a look in center, a position he played with Pittsburgh last year for a grand total of one inning.

Great news if you like inflated contracts and devil-agents. Scott Boras has gained a new client and he wears the Chief Wahoo cap. Shin-Soo Choo has reportedly been added to the stable of Boras clients. He joins current Indian Matt LaPorta.

So much for that contract extension we were thinking about. If anything though, it shows Choo is serious about remaining in the US to play baseball. Little victories my friends, little victories.

You know when I was a kid and played baseball video games, Carlos Baerga was just a funny name. Then I started to realize what baseball was and what the Cleveland Indians were. Then he became the player my fourth grade teacher loved. There is nothing else there other than to tell you that Baerga was in Goodyear yesterday. He asked where Albert Belle was. Paul Hoynes gave him his phone number.

That last sentence was a lie.

Speaking of that real quick... Someone pointed out to me a while ago after I ripped Paul Hoynes that I should "learn proper grammar" if I was going to rip a journalist. Yesterday I talked about not ripping someone four grammar or spelling errors because the minute you do, that's when someone will hawk your posts for errors.

Well I just would like to point out that even journalists make mistakes. Sometimes three in one sentence.
They're still around: One-time prospects Adam Miller and Scott Lewis will come to camp with the minor leaguers in early March. Miller's career is in jeapordy because of repeates surgeries on his right middle finge. Lewis was taken off the 40-man at the end of last season after missing much of the year with left elbow problems.
And in case they fix it, I took a screen shot so you don't think I edited that paragraph.

Moral of the story: People make mistakes. Don't started hawking me posts fpr all tjhe errors I make cuz I know I make plenty.

I'm taking Sunday off to work on some stuff for both the blog and other things. We return Monday with a whole batch of links and junk.



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