Mark Shapiro and Manny Acta won't win many popularity contests together in the city of Cleveland, but that doesn't mean they can't be a match made in heaven.
With the announcement of Acta being hired as the new manager of the Cleveland Indians, the entire fan base shook the ground they gathered on, by jumping up and causing a seismic shock of unrest.
The ones who wanted Eric Wedge gone didn't get their guy.
The ones who didn't want Eric Wedge gone think Acta will do no better.
The ones who did want Eric Wedge gone also think keeping Wedge would have been better.
In other words, Mark Shapiro was in a no-win situation hiring Acta to manage his team. I believe he could have even hired the Easter Bunny and someone would get upset.
It should be clear to everyone that has paid attention to this situation, even remotely. The group that the Indians got to choose from was far from mind blowing. Anyone they picked, even Bobby Valentine, would have been met with disdain from the fans.
But even if he had a chance to make a popular hire, why would Mark Shapiro do that? Just to fill in some seats in what will be a season with lackluster expectations?
That doesn't benefit the Indians in anyway, but in the very, very short term. Shapiro had to, once again, make an unpopular move, with hopes that it would eventually pay off and earn him praise despite the initial backlash.
Mark Shapiro's job is not to please the fans and listen to their every desire. His job is to give them a championship by following a plan that he believes will do just that. If that means hiring the man he thinks is right for the job, then that's what he is going to do. He isn't sitting in his office thinking up ways to annoy his fans, or anger them, he's thinking of ways to improve the team.
With all of this in mind, can it still be justified that Acta is the right man for the job?
The simple answer is we don't know, but that doesn't mean the Indians made the wrong choice.
Acta was the right pick for Cleveland in the current situation they are in, and what they had to choose from. He makes sense on too many levels for the Indians to have passed up on.
Let's start by him being the only candidate the Indians had among their finalist that met some of their more important criteria.
He has major league and managerial experience. Only two candidates that the Indians had fit both of these qualifications, and the one they didn't hire had a very poor grasp on the Indians situation.
Acta worked as an analyst for FOX on the Spanish side of things during the 2007 playoffs. He got a good look at the Tribe then, and after he was fired from Washington, he admits he spent a lot of time watching baseball, and a lot of time watching Cleveland.
The details he went into about the team's players and prospects made him sound like someone who's been in the dugout for the past year. He specifically mentioned the final two start of Fausto Carmona as something the struggling pitcher can use to build off of.
This is someone who not only did his homework, but paid attention to places he thought might have an opening, just out of hope that he could contend for that job right away. A bit of a genius move with a little hard work and dedication mixed in.
The next thing you need to look at with the hiring of Acta is how much of a commodity he was despite the failures in Washington. Cleveland wasn't the only team after his services, with Houston even offering him a contract.
Not just that, but everywhere you turn there was some "baseball guy" talking very highly about him. Not just the usual "Hey, yeah he's a good guy, knows his baseball," type of comments that you expect. He received comparison's to the next Terry Francona, comments that what happened in Washington was not to be directly related to Acta, and high praise about what an excellent communicator he is.
Manny backed it all up too during his press conference, and initial media session after his interview.
What the Indians got in Manny Acta was someone who was not only committed to them the minute he walked in the door, but someone who could back up that commitment.
When asked if he was going to start making an effort to reach out to current players when winter started to roll around, Acta quickly interrupted and said the process begins now. His job started Monday and as soon as Tuesday he would be reaching out to his new group.
Bobby Valentine did not display that to the Cleveland media, and if he did to the Tribe brass, they certainly were not as in with it as much as they were with Acta. You are looking at someone who was willing to pass up his dream job to handle a team he believed was a better fit for him.
The Indians are also hoping their Latin-group of players feel like they better fit in the club with the presence of Acta. The Tribe's new skipper is bi-lingual, and he got that way by teaching himself the language with a little help from his wife along the way. The overall idea is that Acta will better relate to the likes of Jhonny Peralta and Fausto Carmona, by giving them a little bit of comfort.
It would also be a benefit to the young prospects that are bound for Cleveland at some point to see a good role model in someone like Acta who was willing to learn the language himself to better his career.
I dare say Acta had a better grasp on the English language better than some people who grew up learning it do. He was a wizard with words and phrases, and even managed to be naturally funny to the group of reporters that were grilling him.
One of his funnier moments brought one of his basic reasons for giving him another chance to manage a baseball team in the major leagues.
Right now, Manny Acta is just a little shot in terms of managers. He isn't Joe Torre, or Tony LaRussa, and no one should expect him to be that. But every Torre and LaRussa got their shot, and even their second shot. This is Acta's second shot, and it's with a club that is going to support him far better than the one in the nation's capital did.
They said he didn't have much discipline on his team, but that is kind of hard to do with knuckleheads like Elijah Dukes roaming the outfield.
They said he didn't manage the bullpen well, but that is kind of hard to do when you are shuffling three or four players into it on a regular basis.
They said his teams regressed in Washington year after year, but progressing is hard to do when the management doesn't have a defined goal in mind.
Cleveland has a commitment to high-character people, a plan in place, and the desire to build a strong team all around. While Washington is probably a set up for most people to fail, Cleveland may just be a set up for Manny Acta to succeed, and he at least deserves a chance to do so.
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