A vote of confidence for Manny Acta

“I talked to them just to reassure them,” said Acta following a 3-1 defeat to Seattle. “They do need to relax. There have never been 25 guys released (at once) in the history of the game. They should relax. If one guy is going to go, it’s going to be me, not them. So relax and play the game.”

That quote came Wednesday from Indians Manager Manny Acta after the team had lost its eighth straight game and its 21st out of the last 25. The quote from Acta is telling.

In the field of sports journalism, reporters always search for that one, striking quote. In a business that is riddled with sports jargon and coachspeak, it’s often difficult to find a quote that stands out. We’ve all heard the numerous, boring words that coaches speak on a daily basis. “Well, we gave it 110 percent, and I’m satisfied with the effort,” or “Tomorrow’s another day, we just have to stay consistent in our approach.”

But while coaches’ comments are typically riddled with generalizations and terribly overused clichés, Acta’s words were riddled with something else — honesty.

The coach obviously sees the writing on the wall. Someone is going to have to take the fall for the team’s atrocious stretch, and Acta would appear to be the easiest scapegoat.

When I first heard Acta’s comments yesterday, I must admit that I was dumbfounded, but I then also felt quite sad. I certainly would not want to be in Acta’s situation. Though it’s also hard not to respect the coach even more after hearing his words.

The clock seems to be ticking on Acta. It could be days, weeks or months, but it does appear as if this may be his last season in Cleveland. Can you imagine working in such an environment? Can you imagine walking into your office each day, unsure as to how long you’ll be employed there? Can you imagine not knowing how long you’ll be able to provide for your family?

It’s a scary thought, indeed. Even thinking about it gives me the chills, but this is the working environment that Acta has had to endure for the last month. How can he be expected to succeed and flourish in such an environment? Could you?

It would be easy to forgive Acta for losing focus, yet his focus seems to be somewhere else. If anyone ever thinks about questioning the character of Manny Acta, look no further than his comments from Wednesday.

With the season imploding and his job in severe jeopardy, Acta has instead focused his attention on his players to remind them that everything will be okay. The selflessness of Acta is touching. Selflessness obviously does not equal wins on the field, but that is certainly the type of guy and personality that any of us would love to play for.

At numerous times this season, Acta has been criticized for his lack of emotion, but look deeper into his words. Those comments hold more raw emotion than any simple, back-and-forth argument with an umpire could ever contain.

At the same time, however, the argument against Acta and the team’s performance this season is a big one. At 54-70, the Indians are second in all of baseball to only the Houston Astros in team run differential with a -131. A lot of that can probably be chalked up to the team’s pitching, which ranks last in the American League with an ERA of 4.82.

Beyond that, the team has failed to ignite a fan base despite showing positive signs in each of the last two seasons. We all watched the team show a spark in the second half of 2010, and we also fell in love with the team’s early performance in 2011. Instead, this year, the only thing we’ve loved is watching each game mercifully come to an end.

Clearly, Acta has not been perfect, but he has not been horrible either. He does not deserve all the blame from this season, and it would be unfair to fire him, especially considering the talent that he has had to work with. How could anyone be expected to win with the worst pitching staff in the American League?

I’m not one for excuses, but if anyone deserves blame for the mess, it must be Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti. I gave Antonetti credit for pulling the trigger last season on the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, but it’s evident that Jimenez is not the pitcher that he was once thought to be.

Acta has been armed this year with an enigmatic Jimenez, an inconsistent Justin Masterson, an injured Josh Tomlin, a washed-up Derek Lowe, an overwhelmed Jeanmar Gomez, a pitcher in the midst of an identity crisis and two rookies. Is it any wonder why the team has failed on so many levels? Who could win with this rotation?

One of the rookies, Zach McAllister, has been the rotation’s brightest spot this year. But, even he could be pitching over his head as the New York Yankees thought so much of him that they had no qualms with dealing him to the Tribe for Austin Kearns.

So, all things considered, I tip my hat to Acta and give him a pass. Someone does deserve to take the fall here, but that someone is not Manny Acta.

At the very least, a man as honest and selfless as Acta deserves better. Traits like honesty and selflessness may not necessarily immediately translate into wins, but Acta also cannot be identified as the scapegoat for all the losses. For that, my vote of confidence goes to Acta.

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