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9.28.2012

Manny Rundown: The Final Act

Nino Colla | Friday, September 28, 2012 | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
Usually the morning after a day with no game yields few notes, if anything of substance to do an entire rundown on, which is why I almost never do it. But I'd be missing valuable opportunity to strike while the iron is still hot on the Manny Acta front.

I know that I already harped on this yesterday for a good 1,000-plus words, but I'm about to do it again and a lot more in-depth with a lot more moving pieces. For one, if you didn't see what I had to say, you should probably go back and find out what I had to say. Not to stroke my ego, but to get where I'm coming from and so I can refer easily to points I've already made.
Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports

In this era of "what have you done for me lately" it is absolutely sad to see that the Cleveland Indians have fallen into this trap. This horrible trap that franchises suck themselves into of not knowing who to blame, blaming the wrong person, and never fixing what is actually wrong.

You see it in sports all the time. You see it with teams in baseball, as of late: Pittsburgh is a prime example. Cycling through the same people in charge as they find different people to blame. Oh it isn't me, it's Jim Tracy or Lloyd McClendon or Manager XYZ. 

It's Manny Acta or Jim Riggleman or whoever Washington trotted out there year after year.

It's happened in this city... It's not me, it's Romeo Crennel or Butch Davis (okay maybe it was him) or Eric Mangini (I don't think it was him) or anyone else who's coached that team in the past decade.

Was Steve Mariucci a bad coach? If you look at his time with the Detroit Lions, yeah he was pretty disappointing. But guess what, he really wasn't. He won a few division titles, had a near .600 winning percentage in San Francisco.

But he was handed perpetually bad teams talent and skill wise.

Is Manny Acta a bad manager? Look I don't think so, but I'm one person. I think he's a great leader of men, someone who I'd most definitely have no problem leading my team. The numbers in Washington and Cleveland could dictate that he shouldn't be a manager. That's fine, but that does not mean he is to blame and that he should have lost his job because the Indians had one bad month.

Yet it seems that is exactly what we have come back to and it all goes back to the timing of this decision.

This decision came down at an incredible odd time. Some say it is not surprising that the Indians canned Acta. Whether or not it was surprising to them, it was kind of shocking to me. Not that I completely bought General Manager Chris Antonetti's vote of confidence not long ago, but because he actually took the time to give one. Why bother if you are in a position to possible consider a change?

I'll ask it again and repeat myself from my previous post. What really changed in a few weeks? You knew this team was playing bad baseball. Do you mean to tell me that if the Indians won 5 or 6 more games after they put that rough August behind them that we'd be sitting here looking at a different fate for Manny Acta?

I don't buy it.

So that tells me, essentially, you are blaming Manny Acta for that slide and that you were lying when you 'envisioned' Manny Acta as being the manager in 2013.

But that's okay, I'll stop harping on that and move on to something else.

[FROM THE HORSES MOUTH]

I'll largely use this section to dissect what Chris Antonetti has to say about the firing, considering he is the one doing it here.

"Manny is a tremendous person with great baseball experience and an unparalleled work ethic," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "Every day he was here, he worked tirelessly to make the organization better. Unfortunately, our results on the field fell short of our expectations. We're disappointed that we weren't able to win more consistently under Manny's leadership, but we we felt a new approach at this point will give us the best chance to have success moving forward."

You have your obligatory window shining by saying Manny is a great person and blah blah blah. But what is the bottom line? The bottom line for Chris Antonetti was wins. He worked hard, but he didn't get us what we wanted. So we axed him and now we want "a new approach".

I'll bite my tongue for a few more quotes, I promise... Because there's a lot more than you will read in the posts, I have to comment on some things I heard in the actual press conference as Antonetti responded to questions.

My biggest issue is with the next two bits I'm about to talk about. First, he was asked about being held accountable and why does he survive when Manny Acta does not.

Now no guy is going to come out and say that he also should be canned, but he admitted accountability (how could he not?). But really just because you say the words "I'm accountable" doesn't really mean you are accountable until someone pins you up against the wall and says "You're ass is on the line."

I don't know if that happened at any point, but what I find interesting is that he said he "believes in this roster" and the talent that is already there and that they will perform better.

Well, then, you are saying Manny Acta is the problem and he was the reason they didn't perform better, is that the case?

Um... alright... But..

"Manny's not the only one to blame," Antonetti said. "We need to really look hard organizationally at how we can get better, especially at the major league level because our performance was not what we expected and not what we hoped. We have higher expectations and we need to do a better job of identifying some of those solutions."

Oh right, yeah, he's not the one to blame. But, you said you believe in the talent that is there. And if you think I'm making this up, Antonetti would go on to deliver this gem, my second bone of contention. Not only did he say the roster wasn't as talented as "we all thought" but he said this...

"As I've watched us play over the course of the last few weeks, I never felt at any point it was for a lack of a effort.

Our coaches and Manny did everything they could to try and get this group of players to try and perform better and in the end it didn't work as we would hope."

Could he have flip-flopped any more? Could he have not blamed and blamed him any more sheepishly? 
Photo - AP via Yahoo! Sports

To me that last line just irks me. To come out and say earlier that he believes in the talent, but that they need a new direction, but also that Manny was not to blame because he did everything he could, just irks me. It just screams as someone who DOESN'T want to take accountability for what has transpired.

So again, you can say you are accountable for what has gone on and the decisions and the roster. But are you really? Judging by the fact that Chris Antontetti is standing up there saying this as the General Manager of the Indians and Manny Acta is headed home to Florida to be a father and a husband and a brother and a son... No...

One thing you have to notice about him that is different than when he is reading a statement, especially in this setting, is his reliance on a few key words and statements that sound different, but are really the same when you boil it down to the nuts and bolts. Of course I call it Shapiroese, which Antonetti has been well-versed in for some time.

He kept harping on was "the process" or "a process" in what they do and how they operate. I'm quite sicking of hearing about a process that is not working and has not worked. So take your process and process something else.

I'm not saying Chris Antonetti deserves to be fired. I'm not saying that this certain thing has to happen. But man if you are firing Manny Acta, house should probably be cleared because what is currently going on is not working. And it goes from the top on down. 

[HE WHO LEADS DOES NOT FOLLOW]

The men that Manny Acta managed... I think they'll tell you that they are as much to blame. In fact a few came forward and owned up to it. Sort of...

The center piece of what the players had to say came from Joe Smith.

"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."


There seems to be this opinion or fact, or whatever sort of thought, floating out there that Manny Acta did not have strong support of his players. In what you see Joe Smith saying, that may be the case. But Smith said it best. You shouldn't need someone else to motivate you to play this game. 

And Smith in saying something brilliant in that, kind of kills it in saying "it's on us, butttttt when it comes time to motivate us, he needs to do it."

Um excuse me? I'm sorry but you are playing this game for money. You are out there because it is your job. You have to want to win or else you shouldn't really be playing. You shouldn't need someone to say "hey guys, we need to win this one."

That is perhaps the most frustrating part about what Joe Smith said. It's almost a battle of wills...

Player X walks into clubhouse and sits down at locker, looks forward towards Manager A preparing to talk to his team.

Player X sits, body language clearly asking "Okay, what are you going to say to me today to get me to play coach?"

REALLY? Is that how a major league player is supposed to operate? Jack Hannahan, in that aspect said it better than Smith did.

"I've respected the fact that Manny was a manager that let his veterans do the policing," Hannahan said. "That's something that I respected about him. This is the big leagues. You don't need a babysitter in the big leagues. You need veterans to lead the way."

Manny Acta shouldn't have to walk into the clubhouse after a nine game losing steak and say "come on guys, this is one we have to win!"

Maybe I'm naive, and maybe that is the manager's job in this day and age. That and filling out a lineup card on a daily basis. If so, then Jack Hannahan is right, essentially Manny Acta is a babysitter.

If that's the case, Acta was a horrible babysitter. Why the hell did we hire him? Why not just save the most money and get the teenage neighbor girl down the street for $10 bucks an hour?

[WHERE WE GO FROM HERE...]

I was going to go onto Facebook and Twitter and pull some fan comments. Then decided against it. As much as I love doing that, I'm not sifting through endless posts and tweets of "Bring back Mike Hargrove" and "Sell the Team."

Stop it, stop it now.

Beyond the "I tried my best" and "I understand the business" Manny Acta said a few interesting things that lead me to believe more of the thought that he tried what he could to get better talent and to say "This isn't working" but ultimately was not given what was needed.

He had to try and build steps from the top down and anyone knows anything knows you can't really do that easily.

From here though, Acta goes home and if he resurfaces with another team, it won't be as a manager. He'll have to do a lot to earn another opportunity somewhere but I have no doubt that he will. He's that type of person and his infectious attitude for the game and his personality will surely get someone to buy into what he's selling. I just hope that team has some talent for him to work with.

The Indians meanwhile will begin a search. They'll begin a search that will not include someone like Mike Hargrove, so again, give it a rest.

It also shouldn't include Terry Francona, because that is a pipe dream people and very un-realistic if you ask me. 

Sandy Alomar Jr. is going to be the interim manager or this squad for the next six games. And honestly, it should be a permanent tag.

I seem to just agree mostly with what Anthony Castrovince said. Save your time, save your money, save your phone bill and make Sandy Alomar Jr. the guy. It has nothing to do with the 90's or the nostalgia, the What If? or the 1996 All-Star Game.

It has everything to do with the fact that he's earned it and worked his way up to being int his position and that he is well regarded as someone who will one day be a major league manager.

That day is of course today, but it shouldn't end with today. You will find few better candidates outside the organization. You could look at someone like Mike Sarbaugh even. 

The guy for the job is right here. I shudder to think what will become of Alomar if he doesn't get an improve squad with improved pieces, but if we are trying to find someone who can lead a team to the World Series, you better just start with what you have.

As for Antonetti? Is someone going to take accountability for what he's doing? I sure hope so and I sure hope it is more than this statement from Mark Shapiro.

"We obviously look at a broad range of criteria when we're evaluating everybody," Shapiro said. "Chris is dealing with a set of challenges, which I understand, some of which are the creation of the organization that he and I ran together, and some of which are the result of other decisions.

"But I feel he's controlled the bulk of what he can control well. [Indians CEO Paul Dolan] and I still endorse strongly [Antonetti's] vision for how we can be competitive and, ultimately, a championship team.

"We feel that he's uniquely qualified and more capable than any other person in leading us to that outcome."


I'm just going to leave it at that.

[SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT]

These are the decisions that Chris Antonetti made in a few months of the offseason... If we are firing Manny Acta for a months-worth of losses and motivation, I'll let you be the judge if Antonetti should be fired based off these few months-worth of mistakes and decisions.

He re-signed an injured Grady Sizemore and expected that to be a suitable answer to the left field problem. He addressed a problem with another problem and didn't even get a suitable backup.

Because he didn't get a suitable backup, he scrambled and signed an aging outfielder that nobody else wanted, which is why he remained un-signed well into April.

When Fausto Carmona was found out to be a farce, he went out and traded for Kevin Slowey. This with an already depleted rotation due to the injury to Carlos Carrasco, who he did try and replace with... Derek Lowe. Although he got him at a bargain, his backup plans were... non-existent.

He signed Jose Lopez as his major depth option.

And if you want to go beyond that... His answer to the Indians being in contention and trying to upgrade them? Trading for Brent Lillibrdige... Wow, excellent.

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