The following is an article I wrote for my school newspaper in November of 2009. Manny Acta, the new Cleveland Indians Manager, has just a few short weeks to establish himself in the clubhouse/organization. Can he do it? Read along as I discuss the new and upbeat manager.
The game of baseball follows three basic principles. One. If a team is playing well and winning, nothing is touched. Two. When a club begins to perform below their capabilities, a scurry is made to get the team back on track and in the right mindset. Three. When a team has their worst season since 1991, change is coming.
The Cleveland Indians entered the 2009 season with high hopes. Riding on the back of their ace who previously won a Cy Young Award a year ago, along with the bats of Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez, the Tribe looked aimed to fire in the AL Central division. Only, the Indians finished dead last in the AL Central division with a 65-97 record. Six months later, the popular question asked in the sports world “What have you done for me lately?” is asked. Poised for an answer the Indians made a move. A move that involved a clean sweep, Eric Wedge along with all of his coaching staff was fired during the last week of the regular season. Hoping to get back into contention with a core group of young, talented players, the Indians went a different route, hiring a manager who could lead with a statistically new approach. Introduced as the fortieth skipper of the Tribe on October 26, 2009, Manny Acta takes the reins with a new and welcomed attitude.
Previously the manager for the Washington Nationals, Acta begins a career in Cleveland mired in questions. He compiled a win-loss record of 158-252 while in Washington, the fourth lowest winning percentage among all active managers with at least two years of experience (Indians.com). Being fired from another manager post is not a sight any fan wants to see, as Acta was dismissed from the Nat’s in July 2009 for leading the team to a 26-61 start. Acta knows this, and stresses that his past does not dictate the type of leader he will become. Stating, “If you give people the opportunity to choose between, say, Joe Torre after his first three years with the Mets or the Joe Torre now, I believe everyone would pick the one from now…I think we have to look back and know that not everybody who is a big shot now was a big shot when they started. I think big shots are just little shots who keep shooting, and I'm not willing to quit shooting until I become a big shot." (Indians.com).
Despite not being an obvious choice, the hiring seemed to make the most sense for Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro. “It became evident to all of us throughout the process [interviewing process], as Manny's passion, presence, positive attitude and intelligence resonated with us, that he was the right man to lead us, going forward," Shapiro said. "His character, resourcefulness, desire to continue to learn and improve, ability to teach and bring the best out of people and players ... those traits and characteristics make us excited." (Indians.com).
Passing on fan favorites such as Bobby Valentine and even current Triple AAA Manager Torey Lovullo, who has coached many of the current members on the Indians roster, Shapiro took a stab in the dark and hired Acta for two simple ideas. One, Acta follows a revolutionary idea in the world of baseball, sabermetrics. Sabermetrics is a statistically based game, looking at stats beyond the basics, such as batting average, but to more telling statistics such as on base plus slugging and runs created. Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein apply this practice in their business operations, and sabermetrics is steadily becoming a front runner in gaining ground in the tough market. Another idea that Shapiro focused on with full intention, was Actas Dominican background. Bilingual in Spanish and English, a n unheard of connection could be made between himself and the Latin players, a lacking key to previous Indians ball clubs.
The Indians and Manny Acta are currently growing and developing together. Being no secret, turning a blind eye is not an option. “I'm not blind…Help me if I am. But I think we have the components of a terrific lineup. We do have some work to do in our starting rotation, but that's what we're here for. We're here to take this team to the next level.” (Indians.com). An up-and-coming asset for the team, Acta has been signed for three years with a club option for a fourth in the year 2013. The decision to come to a troubled city such as Cleveland is never easy, but only time will tell if Actas teachings and philosophies will take center stage in the clubhouse. “Every decision in life is tough…I wanted to come to a place where I can grow with the front office and the good group of young, talented players we have here, and become good for a long time. ... I consider myself a blessed human being…” (Indians.com) Blessed and Cleveland in the same sentence is never an easy feeling, but change is always a sign of something new and exciting to come, and personally, it’s about time.
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