The Cleveland Indians started their off-season a little early by jettisoning Manny Acta with six games remaining in the season.
The timing was odd, only because the front office could have easily waited a week until the season was over to do it. In fact, doing the deed when they did seemed a little classless.
It was the first of hopefully many moves this off-season to repair an organization that has put together nine losing seasons in the last 11 years.
Unfortunately, from the baseball operations, this appears to be the only change since team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti will remain in charge going into 2013.
You can make a very good argument that Acta had a better last 12 months than his boss, but he got the gate and the GM remains on the job.
Most supporters of Acta come from the angle that the former manager is a good man, which there is no reason to doubt. However, that’s not enough to be successful at the major league skipper.
His starting pitching stunk for much of the season, and his usual line up was made up of five decent to good hitters, followed up by four guys who couldn’t hit their way out of a paper bag.
However, there are two lasting impressions of Manny Acta for most Indians fans.
One was his seeming refusal to argue calls that went against the Tribe.
The situation that galled most Indians fans was the play in Yankee Stadium when DeWayne Wise fell into the stands to catch a foul ball off the bat of Jack Hannahan, and clearly dropped the ball before he emerged from the seats.
Acta never came out, and waited for Hannahan to be ejected by the third base umpire the next inning before coming out of the dugout.
There is a sentiment out there that he may have lost his team right then and there.
His other weakness was his hesitation to use young players. In his three years in charge, the only young players he willingly put in the lineup were Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis.
It was a no brainer to use Santana over Lou Marson, but with Kipnis, he was kept in the minor leagues at least a month longer than needed while Acta kept playing Orlando Cabrera who struggled since the end of April.
Acta also didn’t use Cord Phelps instead of Cabrera when he was brought up to the bigs after a solid season at Columbus.
He preferred using veterans for the most part, using players like Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman over younger guys.
Perhaps that was an organizational decision, but he could have argued for the Lonnie Chisenhalls and Russ Canzlers of the world.
It was noticeable that in Sandy Alomar Jr.’s first game as manager, he had Phelps hitting in the two hole and Chisenhall higher in the batting order.
The successful managers in the major leagues generally aren’t afraid to give young players a shot over established mediocre guys.
Look at Davey Johnson. He knew Bryce Harper was better than the players he was using, even at 19 years old. He did the same thing with the Mets and Dwight Gooden.
Even in Cleveland, Charlie Manuel went to the wall for a 20-year-old C.C. Sabathia in 2001. The organization wanted to send him back to the minors.
Manny Acta isn’t a horrible major league manager, but he wasn’t a difference maker either.
However, that’s what the Tribe needs and Chris Antonetti has to figure out whether Alomar or Terry Francona can be exactly that.