As a season ticket holder, I end up getting some of those generic, canned e-mails/letters when something big happens with the team. You never can get much information from something that’s basically a PR move…they’re not going to reveal any trade secrets in a mass e-mail to fans. After reading many of these letters over the years, as well as attending season ticket holder events and Q&As, I’ve started to realize that there are things you can get from them. Often, it’s what is unspoken, as much as what is stated with the letter. For example, when I attended the “Meet Manny Acta” event for season ticket holders (kind of ironic now), people kept trying to ask questions about Kelly Shoppach. (What were their plans for him, how would he be utilized, etc.) Every time, they would say one or two brief things, and immediately change the subject. (Shapiro was at the event as well) A month or two later, he was traded to Tampa Bay for Mitch Talbot. He wasn’t in their plans, so they wanted to avoid mentioning his name as much as possible.
Here is the text of the letter, with my analysis and thoughts below it:
Earlier today, we informed Manny Acta he would not be returning as our manager for the 2013 season. Sandy Alomar will serve as interim manager for the balance of the season.
Sandy will manage the team for the balance of the season and will be a candidate for the position moving forward, but we intend to start the search process immediately. The rest of the coaching staff will remain intact through the end of the season.
Over the past three years, Manny has given a tremendous amount to our organization and community. He has brought a passion and energy to make us better every single day and has demonstrated an unparalleled work ethic. Unfortunately, our results on the field this season have fallen short of our expectations. We are disappointed that we were not able to win more consistently under his management, but at this point, we believe a new approach will offer us the best chance for success. A decision like the one we made today is never easy, and it is made all the more challenging when it involves a person as good as Manny. We wish Manny and his family well and are confident he will have success in the future.
Even with this disappointing season, I still believe we have a strong organization with a solid core. Shin-soo Choo, Lonnie Chisenhall, and our up-the-middle talent – Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley – give us a strong nucleus of position players. When combined with a deep bullpen, several veteran starters led by Justin Masterson, the projected return of Carlos Carrasco, and the emergence of Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber, we have many positives on which to build as we head into the offseason.
Still, we are not satisfied with how this season has unfolded and our disappointing record. Today’s decision reflects that disappointment and our determination to get better as an organization. Accountability ultimately rests on me and our baseball operations department to improve our ball club, and we will work tirelessly in our efforts to do so.
I think that by saying “the coaching staff will remain intact through the end of the season,” it’s pretty clear that most of them will likely be let go. There’s no talk of them being in the running for positions moving forward, and they’ll probably want to let the new manager choose his own staff. This isn’t necessarily heartbreaking for me, but I like Steve Smith and it seems like he hasn’t made any egregious errors.
Now let’s get to the players that were discussed (or more telling, the players not discussed). At first, I noticed that Chris Perez’s name was missing (not a huge surprise). To be fair, Vinnie Pestano’s name isn’t mentioned either, and I highly doubt he’s going anywhere. The bullpen was oddly left out of this e-mail altogether (except to say it’s deep), which seemed kind of strange. I can only think that it may be undergoing a face lift in the offseason.
When they mentioned the “core” position players, I was a bit surprised they listed Shin-Soo Choo. Even if they don’t trade him this offseason, he’s a free agent after 2013. With Scott Boras as his agent, and his stated desire to “test the market,” it doesn’t bode well for his time in Cleveland. With no mention of Matt LaPorta, I can only imagine that they’ve probably completely given up on him at this point. I’m not sure if they’ll trade or release him this winter; I think they may wait until after spring training to give him one final chance. Still no potential left-field or first base candidates listed, and it remains to be seen if they’ll pursue any this offseason. They may take last year’s “scrap heap” style approach of bringing tons of guys on minor league contracts with invites to spring training. To reiterate something everyone has said ad nauseum this year – this “core” group is almost completely left-handed (with the exception of a couple of switch hitters).
I think the pitching portion of this letter was the most telling of all. The most conspicuous absences in that list are Ubaldo Jimenez and Roberto Hernandez. I thought for sure they would pick up options on both of them (I’m not saying they should, just that I thought they would). I have to wonder if they’re going to decline both and move on without them. They obviously feel that Carrasco will be back to full strength, and he did see some action in the minor league playoffs. I was a little surprised that Josh Tomlin wasn’t mentioned. I know he’ll miss the entire 2013 season, but if you’re talking about a “core” moving forward, doesn’t that likely include Tomlin? I know there are no guarantees when recovering from Tommy John, but they’re already factoring Carrasco into their plans.
As far as the last paragraph goes, I think this confirms that nobody from the front office will be fired. Unless someone is going to get blindsided by the Dolans overruling the current decision making process, this group is here to stay.
Also absent from the letter – Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. Again, I’m not saying that I think they should be back, or that I’d want them back. I was completely convinced that if the front office stayed intact, both of these guys would find their way back. Sure, they’re going to decline Hafner’s option…that doesn’t mean they can’t offer him a smaller contract after they pay his buyout. I figured that Sizemore would be back on a low-base, incentive-laden contract. If neither are mentioned, maybe they are finally going to cut ties with both of them for good. Or they just figured fans were so sick of hearing “we hope to have Sizemore and Hafner back healthy” that they wanted to spare us.
I’ve discussed my thoughts on this whole situation several times already, in this general piece after Chris Perez made his most recent comments, and in a more recent post looking at the connections between the Indians and the Pirates front offices. I hate to beat the dead horse on this one, but if you’re only firing Acta it’s basically a symbolic move that won’t get to the root of the problems. We won’t know if Acta lost the clubhouse, or if he wasn’t inspiring the players (we can hope that maybe Chris Perez will tell us soon enough). As far as lineup decisions and in-game decisions, there’s not much he could’ve done different to save this season. Connie Mack could have risen from the grave and probably not done much with this group. I’m not even sure that just firing Antonetti would do much good either. Sure, he made that bad trade for Jimenez…but that’s just two pitchers. Why is the Indians’ farm system so devoid of high-tier talent? They’re not ranking toward the bottom of major league systems just because they lost Alex White and Drew Pomeranz – there is more going on here. If they’re not going to address those issues, and work on improving them, then they’ll need to find another manager to scapegoat in two or three years. Fans will probably be out with pitchforks and torches if the next scapegoat ends up being Sandy Alomar.