April 18, 2014

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Big name coach wasn’t in cards for Indians

Manny Acta knows what you’re thinking, Indians fans. Why him?

Why some relative unknown who was fired by the worst team in baseball 2½ years into his tenure, and not someone with a bigger name, say Bobby Valentine or even Don Mattingly?

Acta’s response: “Not everybody was a big shot when they started. I think that big shots are little shots that just keep shooting. I’m willing to keep shooting until I’m a big shot.”

Acta, who was officially announced as the Indians’ 40th manager Monday at Progressive Field, also told reporters after his formal interview last week that big names don’t take jobs in places like Cleveland and Washington (his last stop).

He’s right.

When was the last time the Indians hired a manager with some big time big league recognition? The answer is 1990, when John McNamara came aboard from Boston.

Mike Hargrove earned it after winning five division titles and a pair of American League championships in Cleveland, but he certainly didn’t arrive with it.

Fact is big name managerial candidates aren’t coming to low-budget Cleveland when there are more lucrative financial opportunities with higher odds of being successful elsewhere.

The Indians won’t spend money on players and they’re certainly not going to spend it on a manager.

Former player and front office member John Farrell turned them down to stay in Boston as the pitching coach for goodness sake. What’s that say about the attractiveness of the managerial position in Cleveland?

With that in mind, Acta might just be the right guy after all.

I’m guessing the answer will go something like this: If he wins, then yes, if he doesn’t, then no.

That’s the way it works. No one thought Eric Wedge was going anywhere after the Indians advanced to the American League Championship Series in 2007. Consecutive losing seasons followed and Wedgie was given the boot.

If it’s any consolation, general manager Mark Shapiro not surprisingly thinks he’s found the right skipper in Acta. Then again, he thought Wedge was, too.

“It became evident to all of us throughout the process that he was the right man to lead this team moving forward,” Shapiro said during Monday’s news conference. “I think when you look at the resume, combined with all of the other characteristics; he’s the right man for the organization, the right man for the city and for our team.”

Indians fans should at least take solace in the fact that the club didn’t hire another minor league manager from within the system (i.e. Torey Lovullo), though Travis Fryman and his former big league stardom was a mildly interesting option out of Class A Mahoning Valley.

How would that have been any different than Wedge? This manager at least has big league experience in the position.
And, really who was a decisively better candidate than Acta that actually wanted the job?

Valentine didn’t seem like he gave a hoot one way or the other. Mattingly never even got an interview, probably didn’t even want one.

Hargrove? Maybe with Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel in the lineup, but we’ve seen how Grover’s done with less talented teams in Baltimore and Seattle.

I’ll say this about Acta. He is energetic and confident. He was more than comfortable Monday in front of the cameras as he laid out his plans to take the Indians to the next level. I’m guessing that would be above a tie for last place in the Central Division.

And Tribe fans should know this about their new manager. He actually chose the Indians over the Astros, an organization he spent years with as a minor league player and manager and one that also offered him a manager’s job.

“This is a perfect place for me. That’s why I’m here,” Acta said. “It’s the right situation for me and I’m looking forward to it. I’m telling you, exciting times are coming to Cleveland.”

We’ll see.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 440-329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.