As the Indians stumble towards the end of what’s been an incredibly disappointing season, one of the biggest questions facing the team is the status of Tribe manager Manny Acta. Though the organization hasn’t given any public indication that his job in jeopardy, Cleveland’s second midsummer collapse in as many seasons (among other reasons) has fueled rampant speculation that Acta will be dismissed at the end of the season.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Should the Indians fire Manny Acta? Joining us this week are guest contributors TD from WaitingForNextYear and Andrew Zajac from Indians Prospect Insider.
TD: Lets see. He was told Grady Sizemore would be his big free agent option for the outfield. He was told Travis Hafner would be his DH. He was told that Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman would be his corner infielders, knowing that neither of them are hitters. His rotation completely failed him. He was given a bullpen with exactly three guys he could count on. The one prospect he hoped to have as a mid-season reinforcement, Lonnie Chisenhall, broke his forearm before he had a chance to get going. He has nothing but 4A guys in Columbus and Akron.
So how in the heck can all of this mess possibly be Manny Acta’s fault?
The fact that he had this team over .500 and in it until the end of July collapse is truly amazing. This team does not have a lot of talent and the starting pitching is a mess. So does Acta deserve to be fired for that?
I am a fan of his. I think he gets it. His players all love him and I think he is a great guy. Then again, this team has looked awful for the last two months. I don’t think he deserves to be fired, but I think he will be. But if you fire Acta, then Antonetti needs to go as well. He picked the groceries.
Andrew Zajac: Coming into the 2012 season, the Cleveland Indians had somewhat high expectations as the next few years were our window to contend. In the early going, things went according to plan and the Indians were in first place. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under us and we find ourselves in the basement.
On one hand, the injuries played a substantial role in this team’s struggles. Also, the talent level probably wasn’t as good as we hoped. After we failed to make any moves at the deadline, we got to see what this team was really made out of. Obviously, it hasn’t been pretty. So I do blame the current roster, as well as the front office for the disappointing season.
On the other hand, it’s clear that players have quit on this team and I believe it’s also somewhat clear that Manny Acta has as well. Acta by no means is a bad manager. However, I don’t find him to be an elite manager who can carry this team to the promise land. That being said, if we can persuade a guy like Terry Francona to manage this team and the front office feels confident they can do so, then fire Manny Acta. Just don’t fire him to fire him and replace him with another unproven manager.
Lewie Pollis: Considering a five-at-bat sample size sufficient for judging whether Mitch Moreland can hit Joe Smith. Letting the just-recalled Matt LaPorta sit on the bench for a week without giving him a single at-bat. Considering Jose Lopez to be one of his best hitters. Just last night, putting Vinny Rottino in the leadoff spot. This is just a small sampling from the season-long story of why Manny Acta should be relieved of his duties.
Let me be clear: None of those things made have made that big of a difference in the scheme of things, nor is making a few bad decisions sufficient grounds for dismissal. The problem is that a number of the choices Acta has made this season have no legitimate explanation. At the risk of sounding strident, there is no reasonable argument to be made that, say, Jose Lopez is a better hitter than Shelley Duncan, or that a five-at-bat sample has any predictive power for anything. It’s not that he’s made some questionable decisions, it’s that he’s made a number of straight-up irrational decisions.
I don’t expect a manager to be perfect, I don’t expect him to be infallible, and I don’t expect to like all the decisions he makes. But a commitment to rational decision-making should be a basic prerequisite for any MLB manager, and based on what we’ve seen from him this year Acta doesn’t meet that standard. (You can read my full argument here.)
Evan Vogel: Manny Acta needs to be fired. It isn’t about his win-loss record or his roster. It has everything to do with the fact that he was unable to motivate the players he had to play for more than their paycheck, he was unable to motivate them when fans weren’t showing up, and he wasn’t providing the leadership to the team that the roster was lacking.
Acta can’t help that he was left with very little to work with due to ownership and management putting together an awful roster for him. He can get the most out of who he has and he hasn’t done enough to make sure that he is getting that. Where was Carlos Santana in the first half? Why would you sit on Johnny Damon for so long? Why are you still giving any at-bats to Brent Lillibridge and Jack Hannahan? He has some power to control these issues and he didn’t.
If ownership doesn’t open their wallets this offseason, the Indians need a new manager. Acta doesn’t have control of his team and he is unable to motivate them. He gets along with the players, that is nice, but when he can show that he can manage them, that is when he deserves a longer look. He hasn’t done that to this point.
Steve Kinsella: There comes a time when an organization needs a new voice and for the Cleveland Indians the time has come to replace Manny Acta. There are several components to managing a baseball team including daily preparation, game strategy, extracting and extending talent, and working with the front office. In my opinion a manager has to be able to be on the plus side of each of these categories in order to be the type of manager that an organization will stick by during the lean times with confidence that the end result will be a team molded to the manager’s image and Acta is not that guy.
The Washington Nationals already tried Acta through the lean times and he finished with a woeful record of 158-252 during his 2+ seasons as manager. He was fired after the Nationals played uninspired baseball in compiling a dismal 26-61 to begin the 2009 season. Many will argue that Acta wasn’t given sufficient talent in Washington or Cleveland to win but I believe the Indians underperformed by a large margin since July 26 going 11-37 as the 2012 season.
Would a different manager have done better? Without hesitation I say yes and returning to the 2009 Nationals as a quick example. That Nationals team which struggled to a 26-61 record under Acta improved to 33-42 after Riggleman took over. When players lay down for Acta, as evidenced by the records of the 2009 Nationals (26-61) and the 2012 Indians (11-37) a strong message is sent to the front office. A message I believe has been received loud and clear.
Merritt Rohlfing: Firing a manager is such a cosmetic move, but fans always want it to happen if things go south. Look at Boston or Colorado a couple years back or Chicago last year. I guess it’s a change of pace in the clubhouse. For that reason, I say Manny’s got to go.
I like him and all, but this is two years in a row the team has tanked in the second half. Something’s got to get the attitude better, and most of these players aren’t going anywhere. I don’t have a replacement in mind (Terry Francona probably wouldn’t work, but who knows) but even if I love his daring suicide squeezes and other trickery, Manny did use Jose Lopez a little much for my liking.
So yeah, it’s about that time, Mr. Acta. Though seeing as how they exercised his option last year, it’s not likely to happen.
Brian Heise: At this point, I don’t see how the Indians don’t fire Manny Acta. You can say what you want about how well he did in his first two seasons with the Tribe, but the complete disaster this season has transformed into cannot be ignored.
While there were issues with this team to start the season, they still managed to play fundamentally sound baseball for the majority of the first half of the season. However, something went wrong and the second half has been another story. The entire team looks like it has quit on him and if that’s the case then he has to go. No amount of adjustments or tinkering are going to rectify the situation if the players don’t care enough to respond to Acta’s tactics, whatever they may actually be.
To top it all off, it’s easy to list example after example of mistakes Acta has made that were not only wrong, but confusing as to why anyone would make them in the first place. His management of personnel, his favoritism of certain players, and his attitude that seems to lack passion needs to go. The Indians need to bring in someone that the players will respect and ultimately listen to because he is not afraid or too apathetic to hold them accountable throughout the season.