When Manny Acta was named the new manager of the Cleveland Indians following the 2009 season, there were critics citing Acta’s record as a big league skipper.
He had piloted the Washington Nationals for 2-1/2 years, compiling a .385 winning percentage, with his best record being his first season at the helm, a 73-89 mark in 2007.
Add in his 69 win season in his first year with the Tribe last season, and it’s not a pretty picture.
This is not to say Acta is a poor manager, in fact, he’s done a tremendous job keeping the Indians in the divisional hunt in 2011, considering all of the injuries, and poor production from players counted on to have good seasons.
Right now, he has a lineup that includes an outfield that is offensively challenged. Michael Brantley is the only consistent fixture in that area, and even he has been slumping as of late. Grady Sizemore is hitting under .200 since coming off the disabled list and is striking out at an alarming rate, and right field is a choice between the oft-injured Travis Buck and the oft-out making Austin Kearns.
Many national baseball writers have said Acta deserves to be the AL Manager of the Year for his work with the Indians this season.
However, Acta’ s past records should remind you that this is his first time as the manager of a baseball team in a pennant race.
Fans shouldn’t be worried strategy wise, because the skipper is going to stay true to the ideals and game plan he has gone with all season long in terms of the use of his pitching staff, the bunt, etc.
It will be interesting to see how Acta handles players who are not producing, because although patience is a virtue, it can kill you in a pennant race.
When your team is languishing in fourth or fifth place, it’s seems it would be easy to keep good people, guys who matter in the clubhouse, on the roster because they have a professional attitude, they play hard every day, they set a good example for younger players with their work ethic.
When you have to win every night, sometimes you need guys who will come up and get a big hit when needed, who can make a contribution with a big hit when called upon.
Going into the all-star break, Acta and GM Chris Antonetti have some tough decisions to make. The three game losing streak to end the first half of the year was a reminder that the Indians need help, and that the roster needs to be upgraded.
They will have difficult decisions regarding a spot in the starting rotation and the bench, which right now is filled with players who are struggling offensively. Some of those guys may be great clubhouse guys, but if they can’t produce at the plate or in the field, they have to be replaced.
It’s cruel, yes, but professional sports is a cruel entity.
It may be tough in the locker room as well, but players know who is helping them and who isn’t. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
In 2007, GM Mark Shapiro made a tough decision in late summer and brought up young infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to replace Josh Barfield at second base. That worked out quite nicely, didn’t it.
This isn’t to say Manny Acta isn’t capable of making decisions like that, it is to point out that he’s never had to do it before. His willingness to do so could play a large role in whether or not the Cleveland Indians can stay in AL Central Division race.