Acta Not Where Finger Should Be Pointed For Tribe Demise
By Craig Gifford
With the Indians mired in one of their worst stretches of baseball in recent memory, a lot of fingers are being pointed. That is to be expected when a team loses 21 of 25 games, including two losing streaks of eight or more in the span of a month.
The reality is, everyone involved with the club deserves to have at least one finger pointed in their direction. The pitchers are not getting outs. The hitters are not scoring runs. You can continue up the food chain with coaching, front office and ownership all being able to take some blame in Cleveland’s swoon.
The easiest place to lay blame, however, is with coaching. People look at the team and its funk and come right to the conclusion that manager Manny Acta is at fault for this mess. There are certainly situations where even he would probably admit things could have been done differently, something more could have been said or an in-game move could have been made. However, he does not really deserve to be the fall guy.
Upper management saddled Acta with a team with major flaws. Flaws that were glossed over when the team was having early success, but critical flaws nonetheless. They are flaws that the greatest of managers would have a hard time overcoming. First, there is the nearly all-left-handed lineup. When the team was winning, struggling against left-handed pitching was not so bad. However, expecting any team to win enough games against righties to overcome a poor record against lefties is asking a lot. Besides that, other teams got smart and called a lefty up from the minors when they saw the Tribe on the schedule.
Continue with ownership putting financial limitations on the team and the Indians were able to only supplement the lineup through bargain-basement free-agent finds. Large paydays for top guys on the market just do not happen under the Dolan regime. You can only do so much with a team full of mostly young guys and journeymen.
Finally, the team expected Acta to win with a rotation that had a question mark everywhere except for Justin Masterson. Could Ubaldo Jimenez get back his All-Star stuff? Could Derek Lowe defeat Father Time? Could Josh Tomlin be what he was in the first half of 2011? The answers to all of these became, no. The Indians will need to find more of a sure thing in the rotation if they are to continue with their hope of winning with strong pitching.
So you have Acta trying to manage a flawed team above its capabilities. Up to July 26, it worked. The Indians were in contention for the AL Central and AL Wild Card. Then, the 11-game losing streak hit. It became apparent Cleveland needed help. Help did not come at the trade deadline and all hope is now lost. A team that many thought could be .500 or better before the season, is now staggering to the finish line and could lose 90 or more games.
When a team finishes the season that badly, changes happen. It is safe to say most fans would love to see change in the form of ownership spending. That is doubtful to happen. Change will more likely come in personnel moves. When that happens, the easiest fall guy is the manager.
Again, Acta does not deserve all the blame, but could get have the pink slip handed any day at this point. If Acta is let go, the Tribe will be looking for a replacement. There is an easy answer to that. Long-time Cleveland player and coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. is currently the Indians bench coach. He is a step away from being the manager and had several managerial interviews last season with other clubs. He is going to be the manager of a major league squad one day.
Many fans in Cleveland are clamoring for Alomar to be the head man for the Tribe. He played with the team for 12 seasons, winning the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year. He was key part of the team’s revival in the 1990s and the club’s two World Series trips that decade. He was the MVP of the 1997 All-Star Game, played at Jacobs Field. Alomar is one of Cleveland’s favorite sons.
Alomar has a lot going for him when it comes to being the Indians next manager, if Acta is let go. The question is, would it do any good?
Acta and Alomar are very similar in demeanor. Both are laid back. Neither one would ever rip a player in the media or get in a player’s face in public. As a player among a number of fiery Indians in the 90s, Alomar was one of the team’s calmer members. Acta and Alomar are both long-time baseball men who know the game inside and out. The reality is, Alomar replacing Acta would essentially be keeping the same guy in charge. It is why the two get along so well on the bench in their current positions.
If the Indians are to cut Acta loose, they would be better served to see what a more aggressive guy could do. Perhaps a coach with more spunk could light more of a fire under the team and get more out of the players. When getting rid of a manger it is usually best to go in the opposite direction on the next hire to truly make a change. Acta to Alomar is not the way to go for trying to elicit a different clubhouse attitude. It would only serve to appease the fan base.
Of course, instead of letting go of Acta, the team could just keep him. That may be the best route. Acta has gotten strong first halves in 2011 and 2012 that really were not as good as their record. However, through whatever means, Acta had the club in contention through the All-Star break both years. He has done an above-average job. It is hard to say he is the reason the Indians have not been able to be a contender for the entirety of either campaign.
Instead of pointing the fingers at Acta, maybe the fingers should be pointed at the guys who have built the roster and gave Acta the nearly impossible flaws to overcome.