Weekly Wroundtable: Should Manny Acta Have Won Manager of the Year?


Manny Acta had been considered a leading candidate to win the American League Manager of the Year award for his work helping the young Cleveland Indians become a surprise contender. But when the BBWAA released the results of its Manager of the Year voting Wednesday, Acta ended up finishing fourth, behind the Rays’ Joe Maddon, the Tigers’ Jim Leyland, and the Rangers’ Ron Washington.

In the wake of the potentially surprising news, in this week’s Wroundtable, we asked: Was Manny Acta your AL Manager of the Year? In addition to the usual suspects from Wahoo’s on First, we had the honor of hearing from Cleveland Sports Torture‘s Tom as well as former Indians blogger Andy Cooper.

We had some that you may benefit from our collective wisdom. Huge thanks to Tom and Andy for their contributions!

Andy Cooper: No, but I want to be clear about the fact that just because Acta wouldn’t have been my choice for AL Manager of the Year means that he did a poor job. To the contrary, to even have this as a Wroundtable question (along with his 4th place finish in the voting) affirms the solid job he did in 2011.

If the award was going to the manager who accomplished the most with the weakest team, Acta would probably be the choice. As it was, the Indians’ roster—full of mediocre talent to begin with—was devastated by injuries and hampered by significant holes in the lineup, and I certainly can’t hold this against Acta. For the hand he was dealt, he did an admirable job, and his team finished much higher in the standings than anyone predicted, so it’s clear that he got maximum results out of the players he was given.

Still, other managers had to deal with injuries, free agency departures, and low payrolls too, and some were far more successful. Sure, these managers also had more All-Stars to work with, but I can’t call a guy “Manager of the Year” when he loses more games than he wins.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of Indians fans, I will say this—compared to Eric Wedge, Manny Acta looks like Casey Stengel, and his future is bright.

Tom (Cleveland Sports Torture): If the Manager of the Year was based on a three-month season, Acta would have been a shoo-in. The Indians came roaring out of the gate and were one of baseballs best teams for the first few months of the season. However, you really see how well a manager can manage once tired arms and sore bodies start showing up on the DL. Once that happened the Indians were done. A subpar July turned into a mediocre August which led to a bad September when the Indians were absolutely depressing to watch except for the small winning streak the last week of the season.

Was there anything that Manny Acta could have done differently given the shortage of talent, and the limited flexibility in payroll that straps the Indians? Probably not. Is this something he could possibly win in the future? Probably. The Manager of the Year award usually goes to the team that overachieves and comes out of nowhere to be in contention. Since the Indians won’t be on anyone’s preseason favorites list in 2012, if they can make a strong run for the whole season, I predict Acta will be in the top two should the Indians make the playoffs.

Manager of the Year in 2011, no way. Manager of the Year in 2012, hopefully. If that happens, we are in for a fun summer.

Lewie Pollis: For player awards, we have objective statistics that describe exactly what players did and how much they helped their teams—people disagree over which to use, but no matter what there’s a body of easily accessible evidence. Not so for managers. We can quibble over their in-game strategies, but that’s all we really have to go on. That’s what makes this award so hard to judge.

It really comes down to intangibles. These are inherently subjective, but I’m not sure how anyone could give Acta bad marks there. He’s great with young players. The clubhouse seemed happy, and there weren’t any major tensions or atmosphere problems. The Indians suffered a pretty bad second-half collapse, but it’s not Acta’s fault that the team got hosed by injuries, and if you blame him for Cleveland’s late struggles you also have to credit him for the Tribe’s scorching start.

As for his in-game decisions: I’d say he rates favorably there too. He doesn’t always make the right moves—hitting Orlando Cabrera too high in the order, calling for bunts at inopportune times, giving basestealers the green light too often—but he’s definitely one of the most progressive-thinking managers in the game.

I can respect the opinion that Maddon was better—like I said, there’s a ton of subjectivity here—but Acta’s leadership, success, and in-game smarts made him the clear choice for the top of my ballot.

Geordy Boveroux: It’s hard to believe Acta didn’t get Manager of the Year. Sure, if someone besides him was to get it, I’m glad it was Maddon. But a fourth place finish? That just doesn’t make any sense.

Acta took a team that was expected to be the bottom-feeder of the AL Central if not the entire American League and made them contenders. Despite multiple injuries to Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner and the continued struggles of Fausto Carmona, Acta took one of the youngest teams in baseball to within a game of going .500. That’s huge in terms of what Cleveland was expected to do.

Not to mention that the Indians had the best record in baseball up until July and were in first place for a large part of the season. How the mentality was completely turned around in Cleveland cannot be understated.

None of this is to take away what Maddon accomplished, I just find it perplexing that so many people thought he did such a grand job keeping Tampa Bay in contention. Many wrote them off because of the losses to the bullpen and Carl Crawford fleeing for Boston, but Maddon’s Rays made the playoffs because of quality replacements to their losses and a miraculous fall by Boston—not his managerial skills. Acta has much more to do with Cleveland’s success than Maddon did with Tampa Bay’s.

Edward Carroll: I’m definitely an Indians homer, but I have a hard time putting Acta at the top of my Manager of the Year ballot. He’s certainly had a positive impact on the Tribe and deserves credit for the 11-win increase over 2010, especially given the insane amount of injuries he had to juggle. However, I feel I have to hold Acta accountable for a few decisions, namely his handling of Cord Phelps and Orlando Cabrera (Cabrera shouldn’t have started a game after Phelps and Jason Kipnis were called up), and some questionable pitching decisions (mostly in August and September).

I like his fire, but the BBWAA got this one right by picking Maddon. Acta doesn’t fall far on my ballot, though, as I’d say he earned my second-place vote.

Jon Rudder: Is Acta my Manager of the Year? No. Do I think he did a great job in leading his team to a much better season than many anticipated? Yes.

Maddon was a deserving candidate. After losing Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Jason Barlett, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Rafael Soriano in the offseason, his team was full of question marks, but his club fought all year and the Rays were rewarded with a playoff berth on the final day of the season.

Acta’s club got off to a scorching start, and the Indians were the talk of the baseball world heading into June. Unfortunately, injuries would take their toll on the club, and youth would be thrust into the spotlight. The Tribe’s resiliency was admirable, but the team’s struggles would ultimately be a key reason why Acta would finish fourth in the voting.

None of this is Acta’s fault—his team floundering in the final months of the season would do him in. It’s tough for a small-market team to overcome such key injuries. Meanwhile, the Rays continue to get it done, and the credit goes to the guy in charge. When the Indians do, that credit will go to Acta.

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