The Cleveland Indians fired manager Manny Acta today after a first-to-worst season. On July 23, the Indians were in first place. Following a post-All Star collapse that included a 5-24 August record, the Indians are currently the worst team in the American League. Firing the manager is almost always the result of a losing team that had playoff expectations at the beginning of the season.
So the question remains, why now? Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti stated that Acta was fired with six games left because they didn’t want him sitting through the end-of-year meetings that were scheduled this week knowing that his fate had already been sealed. I can understand that. But after that horrendous August, was there any hope that the team would turn the season around?
Acta does not deserve the full blame for this. Antonetti did admit that they probably overrated the talent coming out of spring training. This is also true of their recent drafts. The drafts have not produced any major league talent (with the exception of pitchers Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, who were traded to the Colorado Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez). With the need for outfield help, the Indians have not been able to identify that talent in drafts. There are few players in the minor league ranks who are creating any form of excitement at the major league level.
The trades that have been made in recent years have not always produced quality talent either. Since the Bartolo Colon trade in which the Indians got Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips, the Indians have struck out more often than even singling. The Indians absolutely stole that trade, as it produced a Cy Young winner and two Golden Glove winners. But even then, they couldn’t fully identify the talent in Phillips, as they gave up on him before he turned into the player he is today.
The CC Sabathia trade basically turned into Matt LaPorta, who will most likely not be with the team next season, and Michael Brantley, who was the player-to-be-named. Brantley has been the only player of any worth in that trade, and his value has been shown in filling in for Grady Sizemore for the last two seasons. The Cliff Lee trade turned into a backup infielder in Jason Donald, a backup catcher in Lou Marson, a backend starting rotation pitcher in Carlos Carrasco, and someone who may not pitch again in Jason Knapp. Even the aforementioned trade for Jimenez has not yielded the results that the Indians were hoping for. It appears obvious now that the talent identified in the Colon trade was an anomoly.
All this is to say that the Indians have had trouble identifying talent for a while now, and that is not on the manager. That is on upper management and the scouting department. To be fair, some trades the Indians have made turned out well, as Travis Hafner, Chris Perez, and Carlos Santana (the player, not the singer) were all acquired through trades. In the end though, it was more bad trades than good ones. Antonetti and former-GM-turned-Team-President Mark Shapiro should fire themselves for forcing Acta to manage what has basically turned out to be a AAA team. I guess they overrated their own talent.