Why Now For Acta’s Dismissal?
By Craig Gifford
Instead of, “what if?,” perhaps the question around the Cleveland Indians organization today should be, why now? Why did the Indians pick Thursday to dismiss manager Manny Acta of his managerial duties? The timing of the move seems odd. The move, itself, was expected.
The Indians, at 65-91, have fallen well short of preseason expectations that had them as possible playoff contender or a .500 team, at worst. For the second straight season, the Tribe has suffered through a second-half swoon undoing a promising first half to a season.
“Unfortunately our results on the field fell short of our expectations,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said in a press conference Thursday. “We believe a new approach at this point will give us a chance to have success, going forward.”
Antonetti’s words ring true. A change was certainly needed. Acta was unable to guide his team out of record-setting tailspin that began at the end of July. On July 26, the Indians were just 3.5 games out first place in the AL Central Division. They had just completed a big comeback against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers and appeared poised to make a late-season charge.
What followed was a lot of losses. The Tribe went on to lose its next 11 games, one short of a club record. Cleveland went 5-24 in August, the worst month in team history, to drop well off the division pace. The team found itself a lot closer to last – at one point the Indians were last – than to first.
All through that miserable month, however, the Indians organization seemed to have Acta’s back. Instead of what would have been a justified firing at that point, the team gave Acta a vote of confidence. Despite a better 10-14 September showing, that confidence has apparently disappeared.
Again, it is no shock that Acta is gone, but October 4, the day after the season’s final game, would have appeared to be a better time to make the move. It seems strange to let a manager go with a mere six games remaining, especially after knocking off division-leading Chicago two consecutive games. Why not just let Acta finish out the year and then clean house when the season is over?
There are two possible explanations for this, actually.
Sandy Alomar, Jr., who has spent the year as Cleveland’s bench coach, will take over as the interim manager for the last week of this season. A six-time All-Star catcher with the Tribe and cornerstone to the great teams of the 1990s, Alomar is a hot managerial candidate. He is certainly at the top of the Indians’ list of replacements. Perhaps these six games are a way for getting Alomar’s feet wet as a manager.
Through the rest of the season, Alomar will make the manager’s decisions and conduct the manager’s press conferences. This could be a sort of initiation or even a trial run to see how the prospective candidate does. Alomar certainly is taking over in adverse times. What better way to show your managerial mettle than entering into a rough situation?
If this is a way to give Alomar an early jump on learning the position, then the timing makes a little more sense.
The timing of Acta’s dismissal could also make sense if the Indians were looking to get a lead on other teams in talking to managerial free agents. With Acta in tow, it would have been bad business practice to start speaking to others about a job that was already filled.
One big name is out there and has already surfaced in the Cleveland rumor mill. That is former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, winner of two World Series championships. Anyone with a coaching vacancy would be crazy to not talk to one of the best managers of the past couple decades. The Indians are now free to talk to him with no worries about stepping on any toes.
You would have to hope that Acta’s removal is correlated with Cleveland planning either a major hiring or getting Alomar prepared for the big time. Otherwise, the timing makes absolutely no sense. The move certainly will not sell tickets over the final six home dates. Attendance will likely not improve because Alomar is in charge. He’s been on the team’s bench all season and attendance has been poor.
The Indians organization has done some head-scratching things over the past couple years. This could well turn out to be just another odd move. I am willing to give benefit of the doubt that there was purpose behind the timing and it is just a matter of time before we know what that is.
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