End Of Season Grades: Management
Mike B. | On 11, Oct 2011
By Mike Brandyberry
September 29 began a positional, end of season grade and breakdown. Certainly after the wild ride the 2011 Cleveland Indians took fans on, grades, projections and areas of improvement are all sought for 2012, with the goal being a playoff team next season. Today, concludes our breakdown by examining Manny Acta and Chris Antonetti. Be sure to check out our previous features.
Second season as Manager
If Eric Wedge were still here fans would have heard a summer of excuses about injuries to go along with their “grinding and battling Indians.” However, with Manny Acta at the helm he never makes excuses for his team and seems to have high standards for his club.
When most fans and media felt this would be a rebuilding season, Acta never made mention of it. Only that this was a much improved team and they would continue to improve. That, they did do. Considering all the injuries the offense endured, it would have been easy for Acta to use that for the team’s summer struggles and eventual fade out of contention.
I give Acta a lot of credit for keeping the Tribe in the race as long as he did, however, I couldn’t give him an A for a couple reasons. First, for as much change as the Indians endured this season, Acta seems set in his ways at times. The team knew all summer that Grady Sizemore was playing with a sports hernia and was slowed because of it, but he continued to hit him leadoff. Whatever role Sizemore has in the future, or wherever, I think it is a safe assumption his days as a leadoff hitter are over.
Acta’s insistence to continue to use Chris Perez is another sore subject. Several times the All-Star closer struggled in a tie game. Acta stuck to his guns stating that was part of the closer’s role, to pitch in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game since the save situation is lost. The frustration for me is that Acta has to know his players and their strengths and weaknesses. He didn’t hit Lonnie Chisenhall against lefites because he knows he struggles in that role. Perez struggles in a tie game situation. Why force him into that role, especially if Vinnie Pestano was available? Roles are often ideal, players are not. You have to manage your players.
Finally, there were times in July and August, when the Indians were beginning to really lose control of the division and they were struggling on the field, Acta seemed brash with the media and fans. Often making a snide remark in his postgame interview or a nasty tweet to fans after a loss. Acta always tries to carry himself as mild mannered and never panicked. With a young team, that will have high expectations, that mild mannered attitude is necessary. He doesn’t always practice what he preaches.
Regardless, Acta did a fantastic job managing an ever-changing roster that really never had its best nine players in the lineup all season long. He has areas to improve upon to become a playoff level team, just like every other member of the roster. Without his decisions to play small ball at times, give Pestano the eighth inning or bench Matt LaPorta, the Indians would have been out of the Central Division race long before the second week of September.
First Year as General Manager
You don’t have to agree with all of Chris Antonetti’s moves, but you have to respect them. In his first year as the team’s general manager, he made his presence felt all year long.
With the Indians in contention in July, Antonetti made deals for Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jimenez to try and strengthen the roster immediately. In the Fukudome deal, he traded two minor leaguers of little value and convinced the Cubs to pick up the rest of the outfielder’s contract for the year.
Only a couple days later, Antonetti made a deal no Indians general manager has made in decades, trading its top two prospects for a front line starting pitcher. In only his first season, Antonetti took a gamble to win now and for the next couple years, versus having a solid foundation for several years to come. It’s a move Mark Shapiro never would have made. It’s also a move that will be tied to Antonetti’s career, for better or worse. Not a move a lot of first year general managers would make.
Weeks later, with the season slipping away, Antonetti made one last attempt, acquiring Jim Thome. Granted, it may have been a business and public relations move as much as a baseball move, trailing 6.5 games in the standings, it might have been a move that Shapiro would have elected to just punt and call it a season.
Antonetti may forever be linked to the Jimenez deal, but the message behind the deal was clear, he’s in it to win it, and that isn’t a message that has always been so clear from an Indians GM.