CLEVELAND — Someone had to be blamed for the Indians’ collapse. Manager Manny Acta took the fall.
Acta, hired by Cleveland in 2009 after two losing seasons as Washington’s manager, was fired Thursday by the Indians, who dropped from contention in July to last place in the AL Central.
Cleveland was within three games of first place on July 21 before losing 21 of 25, going 5-24 in August, and eventually sliding all the way to the bottom of its division. It certainly wasn’t all Acta’s fault, but there were times when the Indians seemed to be going through the motions and a lack of effort isn’t a positive reflection on any manager.
Acta went 214-266 in nearly three seasons with the Indians, who are just 21-50 in the second half this season. Acta had one season left on his contract.
The Indians announced Acta will not return in 2013 on an off day before they opened a final homestand against Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox. If there is any solace to Acta it’s that his final two games were road wins over the second-place White Sox, who are chasing Detroit for the division title.
Bench coach Sandy Alomar, a former Indians All-star catcher and fan favorite who could become Cleveland’s next full-time manager, will replace Acta for the last six games of 2012.
The Indians said the search for a new manager will begin immediately. Acta’s coaching staff will remain intact for the rest of this season.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who probably shares some responsibility for the Indians’ stunning drop this season, thanked Acta for his service.
“Manny’s passion for the game, positive attitude and tremendous knowledge of baseball helped guide us to a number of high points during his tenure,” Antonetti said in a statement. “Managerial changes are never easy or taken lightly, but as we approached the end of the season and turned our attention to assessing the year, we determined a change was necessary.”
Earlier this month, owner Paul Dolan said he was not considering a managerial change, but the Indians continued to stumble and left the club with little choice. Dolan indicated the decision was made by Antonetti, who is in his second season.
“I have great respect for Manny and appreciate the effort he exhibited not only leading our team, but also the contributions he made in our community over the past three years,” Dolan said in a statement. “I fully support Chris’ decision to make this change and am confident that he will lead a tireless search to find the right individual to lead the club to our ultimate goal of winning the World Series.”
The 43-year-old Acta maintained a stoic attitude during the Indians’ freefall and insisted he wasn’t concerned about his future but only about developing young players.
It didn’t help him that several Cleveland players underperformed this season while others couldn’t stay healthy. Former All-Star center fielder Grady Sizemore, who was signed to a one-year, $5 million free-agent contract in November despite missing most of the past three seasons with injuries, never got healthy enough to play. Designated hitter Travis Hafner missed several months with a bad back.
And Antonetti’s major acquisition in 2011 of ace Ubaldo Jimenez failed to pay dividends as the right-hander went 9-17 with a 5.55 ERA.
After winning 80 games in 2011, the Indians entered the season with high hopes. It seemed as if they were in position to compete for a playoff spot before their inexplicable collapse, and Acta paid the steepest price.