Originally written September 27, 2012 on Fox Sports Ohio:
Mlb-indians-tigers-jun
Holding Manny Acta accountable for what the Cleveland Indians season became would be sort of like saying a leak in the aqueduct led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Indians have issues. Lots of issues. The manager was not among the most prominent. Manny Acta actually had his positive attributes. He was patient and honest. And he knows baseball. For three-quarters of one season and about half of another, he kept a team that had absolutely no business being in contention in contention. If the definition of managing is getting the most from players, then that might have been getting a lot from the players. But in baseball if the ownership is not willing to change the front office or its approach, it's always the manager who suffers. Always. Even the last time the Indians fired a manager -- Eric Wedge -- Paul Dolan referred to the tried-and-true baseball way of changing managers. How'd that work out? The negatives about Acta are seen in two numbers: 15 and 42. That's the record since the Indians had that oh-so-uplifting win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers that put them in first place. Since then the Indians watched the trade deadline go and added only a minor league first baseman and saw not just the bottom, but the magma in the core of the earth drop out. It left everyone in the Indians wondering well wondering "what the heck." Was the team that frail that one passed trading deadline without a trade sucked the life out of it? Are the core players really not that dependable? Did the team give up on its manager? Did the team believe the front office gave up on the players by not providing more help, a theory otherwise known as the "Chris Perez Theorem." Did Asdrubal Cabrera take his contract and run? Is Carlos Santana overrated? What about Ubaldo Jimenez? How does a team give up two first-round pitchers for a guy who goes 9-17? Why the heck didn't the Indians sign Josh Willingham? All these questions, of course, are wrapped up in an ownership style that, shall we say, is not free-wheeling. Yet while the Indians say they are a small market team limited by budget, Forbes says their revenues are among the league's highest. Go figure. And wrapped up in this money management style is the approach of the front office, which relies heavily on numbers and stats. It can work -- as some teams have shown. But the Indians might be at a point where a change in approach in picking players is needed. Because the present system isn't working. The finances might not change, but the way players are selected can. If it means a new GM, it means a new GM. Something's got to give -- and the Dolans can't pretend otherwise. Bring in a power hitter. Enough of soft-throwing lefties. Stop drafting guys who don't hit home runs (like Tyler Naquin). Put some shoes on the ground. The numbers approach is intriguing, and makes for interesting discussion and Start-O-Matic games (Tris Speaker is nearly unstoppable, by the way). But it reminds me of the time a scout sat in the stands of an Indians game and wound up next to a fan who had brought reams of computer printout about stat stuff, with all the newfangled categories (Wins Over Replacement On a Tuesday Night). The scout found them interesting, but then he looked and asked where the "CHP" category was. "What's that," asked the fan? Can he play? The Indians face a critical offseason in which they either do something productive or they lose fans. The situation is approaching critical mass. And changing managers barely approaches the issue. Because if the method of selecting players fails, no manager can succeed. Acta is just the latest example of that reality. About 6:30 p.m., Indians president Mark Shapiro tweeted and said: "Very difficult day due to our respect for Manny. Decisions like these r indicative of poor performance across org and players." He got that one right.
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