When I think back to Manny Acta’s tenure as manager of the Indians, there are a few specific faux pas that come to mind. While his lineups and in-game decisions weren’t terrible, I heard whispers of poor communication skills when it came to dealing with the players. By 2012 he seemed almost apathetic when it came to dealing with players (and the games), to the point that I joked there was a “Weekend at Bernie’s” scenario taking place in the dugout. Acta had actually passed away, and everyone was just pretending he was still alive and managing the team. There were two specific cases where I thought to myself, “Is Acta even there? Is he going to do something?”
As you may have guessed from the title, one of those two cases involved Nick Hagadone. A bit about the other incident first – one that involved Jack Hannahan, DeWayne Wise, and the New York Yankees. You may remember that toward the end of June 2012, Jack Hannahan hit a ball into fall territory down the third base line at Yankee Stadium. Wise reached into the stands to catch the ball, but never came up with it. The umpire, Mike DiMuro, never asked Wise to show the ball in his glove, and just called it an out. At that point, Hannahan became livid and ran to the umpire to argue the terrible call; ultimately he was tossed from the game. What I couldn’t believe at the time, was that Acta never came out to defend his player. Typically in a situation like that, with a blatantly terrible call, the manager will get the player out of the way in order to spare him from an ejection. Then he completes the argument with the umpire, and probably ends up getting tossed himself. Acta never came to Hannahan’s defense, and left him arguing a dreadful call by himself. To me, it made it seemed like Acta would abandon his players, that he didn’t have their backs.
The second instance, involving Hagadone, took place a bit earlier – June 16 against the Pirates. I was at the game with my family, and remember Hagadone struggling during the ninth inning of a game that was already sliding out of control (it was 5-2 Pirates heading to the ninth). He eventually walked four, gave up three hits and four earned runs. As the inning went down, I remember feeling terrible for Hagadone. He just didn’t have it, and they were just leaving him out there to flap in the wind. Nobody came to talk to him, nobody got him out of there. My dad said that the experience could be good for him, that it would teach him to work his way out of trouble. I disagreed; I understand that managers do that with players, but this seemed really demoralizing to me. Almost like he left him out there to make a fool of himself. When Hagadone walked to the mound at the beginning of the ninth inning, he had a 3.48 ERA. By the end of that game on June 16, it had ballooned to 4.98. When Hagadone pitched his last game of 2012 against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 6, it had climbed to 6.39. He never seemed the same after that game against the Pirates in June. Like he had lost his nerve, or lost something that the coaching staff never was able to correct.
After that game on July 6, Hagadone walked into the clubhouse, punched a wall and broke his hand, ending his season. I certainly don’t blame Acta for that – Hagadone is the one that had a temper tantrum and smashed his pitching hand against something solid. I blame Acta for letting it get to that point, the point where Hagadone was so frustrated and demoralized that he punched a wall upon learning he would be sent to Triple-A. After the injury, the Indians placed him on the disqualified list. This meant that those missed games did not count against his service time, and that he would not be paid during that missed time.
The Major League Baseball Player’s Association filed a grievance on Hagadone’s behalf. The Indians just came to an agreement with Hagadone, where he’ll get to add the 94 missed games to his service time, while the Indians get an additional option on him. This is a big deal for the Indians, since Hagadone was supposed to be out of options heading into the 2014 season – this means he can still be sent to the minors if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training. Significant for Hagadone, is that with the missed service time added back in, he’ll come close to qualifying for “Super Two” status. (If he makes the opening day squad and sticks with the team most of the season). That means that Hagadone could be eligible for arbitration already after the 2014 season. This definitely isn’t certain, since Hagadone would need to play a majority of the season with the team. I’m sure it makes him happy to know that it’s a possibility though. With several lefties on the 40-man roster, and several others invited to spring training, the extra option gives the Indians some flexibility as they assemble the bullpen this spring.