For about the last month, any time someone asked Manny Acta how he was doing, he offered the same reply.
“I’m stayin’ alive, like the Bee Gees,” the Indians manager quipped.
Acta knew his days as Tribe skipper were numbered. No manager survives a 5-24 month of August. No manager retains his job after a first-place team morphed into a division bottom-feeder almost overnight. No manager avoids the role of scapegoat when the turnstiles are standing still as a near-empty stadium hosts a club 25 games under .500.
That’s not to say Acta deserved this fate. He did, however, know it was coming.
You could sense it in his demeanor. Acta has always been an upbeat guy, his positive manner being a reason why he was hired before the 2010 campaign and a reason why media enjoy his presence. But as the losses piled up during a summer to forget, Acta’s words became stale, his optimism falling upon deaf ears.
No one could have expected this roster to win 100 games, but few anticipated it would lose more than 90. When Acta’s squad got off to a fast start for the second consecutive season, that set the standard. The front office and ownership assumed the club would maintain that first or second-place standing within the AL Central, barring another onslaught of injuries, the plague that hindered the Tribe from competing in the dog days of last summer.
When the club took a nosedive in July and August, Indians CEO Paul Dolan even admitted he had no idea how Acta’s bunch had fallen so far, so fast.
“I don’t really know what’s happened to this team,” Dolan said. “It’s going to take more time to assess what we have and what we need and what we’re capable of doing.”
Acta was left in a predicament. He could explain away the Indians’ struggles by saying players weren’t living up to expectations, which would incriminate himself as a manager, or he could relay the truth, that the team needed a boost in talent. He had a few moments in which he vented about the lack of additions to the roster, but for the most part he took the high road.
He’s no longer stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I’m not necessarily saying Acta should have kept his gig. The frequency of losing became toxic and the clubhouse evolved into a poor-spirited setting. Something had to change — and this move might not be enough.
The numbers would suggest that Acta won’t land another managerial job anytime soon. His record in Washington was even worse than the two losing seasons he logged in Cleveland. That being said, Acta would be a benefit to any big league coaching staff.
You won’t find a snappier dresser as manager. You won’t find a nicer, more cordial and fun guy in a Major League clubhouse. When paired with a woman named Eileen at the Indians’ annual golf outing in 2011, he spent the entire round performing his own rendition of the ’80s pop song “Come On Eileen.” Acta also does a great job at giving back to the community with his ImpACTA Foundation, with which he hosts an annual charity bowling function.
No longer can Acta retort that he’s merely “Stayin’ Alive.” Ahead, there will be “Lonely Days” for one of the nicest guys in the game.