October 2009

Take a little time out

CastroTurf is going into hibernation mode for the next week or so. If Manny Acta makes any moves pertaining to his big-league coaching staff, that news will be chronicled on Indians.com.

As for me, I’m fleeing the country for a little while. I’ll catch up with you soon.


Spare me of this cost, give me back what I lost


Well, what are you rooting for in Game 1 of the World Series tonight?

CC and the Yankees?

Cliff and the Phillies?

A rainout?

Sudden, irrevocable blindness?

Indians GM Mark Shapiro, the man who helped make this scintillating Cy Young showdown possible, is just as torn as you.

“It’s bittersweet,” Shapiro said of the matchup. “You don’t work in this game without building a personal attachment to guys. So I look out there and see those two guys, and, as people, I’m excited for them. I’m excited for them to show their talent on that stage, I’m excited for them to get that type of exposure.

“And yet I’m bitter that they’re not doing it in the Indians uniform.”

I have a hunch that bitterness is shared by the CastroTurf Commenters. Let’s hear your thoughts.

Indians name Manny Acta their new skipper

The Indians hoped to have their new manager in place by the end of the World Series, but Manny Acta sped up their timetable.

acta1.jpgActa was the first candidate to come to Cleveland for a formal interview, and he left a lasting impression. He has been signed by the Tribe to a three-year contract through 2012, with a club option for 2013.

Acta beat out Bobby Valentine and Torey Lovullo for the job. The Indians were expected to interview Don Mattingly this week.

The Astros were also interested in Acta, which might have forced the Indians’ hand. Acta spent 16 years in the Astros’ system, but he opted to take on the Tribe.

Some quotes from the release:

“We are very excited to have Manny Acta as our Major League manager,” general manager Mark Shapiro said. “After speaking with an impressive array of candidates, we feel that Manny is a very strong and experienced leader who possesses great energy and enthusiasm along with tremendous communication skills and a positive mindset that will command a presence in the dugout, clubhouse and with our fans.”

Said Acta: “I am very excited to become part of the Cleveland Indians family. I look forward to working with this talented group of young men who seem to possess a lot of energy and passion for their work. I believe we will grow together as a team with the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland and its fans.”

The Indians will hold a press conference with Acta at 4 p.m. ET Monday at Progressive Field.


UPDATES: The Astros had offered Acta a two-year contract with an option for a third year to be their manager. He opted for a longer guarantee with the Tribe.

Here’s the link to an interesting background piece from my MLB.com colleague Jesse Sanchez from a few years back.

"And you want to be my latex salesman."

Bobby Valentine had his formal interview with the Indians and his sitdown with the local media today.

Watching from afar here in Anaheim, I am scratching my head at the quotes he gave reporters. (The full story is here.)

valentine2.jpgOn his interest in managing a rebuilding ballclub: 
“I’m not sure that’s what I want to do. But again, I haven’t been offered a job, so I don’t have to decide whether or not I definitely want to do this.”

On his knowledge of the American League, the Central and the Tribe:

“I can tell you I don’t know about the American League, I don’t know about the (AL) Central, and I don’t know about the Indians, but I sure as hell am willing to learn and spend about 28 hours a day, if necessary, to know everything I could possibly know.”

The Indians are likely to lose as much as, if not more, than they win next season, and Valentine admitted he’s a “lousy loser.” He said he was in Cleveland because he’s a baseball manager, and that’s what the position is.

All righty then.

Look, I’m not privy to the interview process, and I only know Shapiro’s general sketch of what the Indians are looking for with this hire. There is, obviously, much more to Valentine than what is being presented here. He’s a proven winner who commands respect.

But these arranged meetings with the media are the Indians’ effort to see how their candidates present themselves in public and how the public reacts to them. If the formal interview was anything like the public one, then you’d have to imagine Manny Acta is the clubhouse leader right now, wouldn’t you? 

Torey Lovullo, you’re up.

Note: Thanks to MLB.com contributor Steve Herrick for the above quotes.

Valentine, Lovullo interviews are set

Bobby Valentine will be in Cleveland on Thursday for his formal interview for the Indians’ managerial post and subsequent meeting with the media, and Torey Lovullo’s interview/press conference will take place Friday.

As you know, Manny Acta, who interviewed Tuesday, and Don Mattingly, who is in the NLCS with the Dodgers, are the two other finalists. Mattingly’s interview won’t be set until after the Dodgers’ postseason run is completed.

Mark Shapiro said Tuesday that there are two other potential candidates that might still emerge. It’s believed that former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle could be one of the two, though that’s not confirmed.

In unrelated matters…

Here in Anaheim, CC Sabathia talked about the possibility of facing Cliff Lee in the World Series. Great catching up with CC, who, I think, might have actually gotten taller. Or maybe I’ve just become too accustomed to interviewing Aaron Laffey.

Elsewhere, Derek Shelton is named the Rays’ hitting coach. I’m happy for Shelton, who will get to be near his kids, who live in the Tampa area, full-time.


More on the four

A quick look at the known finalists for the Indians’ managerial job:

MANNY ACTAactaheadshot.jpg
Experience: Former Nationals manager

Hire him: His open-mindedness toward sabermetrics might mesh well with the Indians’ front office, his Dominican roots allow for an easy rapport with Latin players and he could be primed to succeed after learning from his experiences with the Nats.

Stay away: Yes, the Nats were an awful ballclub, so it’s best not to put too much stock into Acta’s managerial record, but the team was 26-61 with Acta this season and 33-42 after he was dismissed, so they showed improvement without him.



lovullo.jpgTOREY LOVULLO
Experience: Triple-A Columbus manager

Hire him: As the Indians retool with their young talent, who better to take over that young talent than the guy who helped mold those players at the Triple-A level? Lovullo is smart, confident and a good communicator.

Stay away: Hiring Lovullo, who has no Major League coaching experience, would reek of the “same old, same old” atmosphere the Indians are trying to avoid. Fans might view him as a Wedge clone.



mattingly.jpgDON MATTINGLY
Experience: Current Dodgers hitting coach and former Yankees first baseman

Hire him: His credentials as a player would earn him instant respect with his players. He’s studied under Joe Torre and is even said to be in line to be Torre’s successor, if he doesn’t leave first. “Donnie Baseball” has been very successful as a hitting coach.

Stay away: The Yankees didn’t name him Torre’s successor in 2007 for a variety of reasons, including his mild-mannered nature, what they deem to be his unpreparedness for a big-league managing job and the simple reason that they felt he was too much like Torre. If Wedge didn’t appeal to fans, would the soft-spoken Mattingly have a better fate?


Experience: Current ESPN analyst, former Mets, Rangers and Chiba Lotte Marines (Japanese Pacific League) manager

Hire him: He is, by far, the most experienced of the remaining candidates, and his career managerial record in 15 big-league seasons is 1,117-1,072, including a World Series appearance with the Mets in 2000. He would bring a welcomed new opinion to an organization that has struggled with the evaluation of its own talent. And his personality might be a hit with fans.

Stay away: At this stage in his career, is Valentine a good fit for a team that figures to come out on the short side quite often next season and will be geared more toward player development? And considering he made about $4 million managing in Japan last year, is Valentine affordable for the cash-strapped Tribe?

Four in line for Tribe's managerial post

GM Mark Shapiro met with reporters today, following Manny Acta’s formal interview for the Tribe’s managerial vacancy, and revealed that four candidates are in the hunt for the job.

Acta, the former Nationals skipper, is, of course, a finalist.

The remaining internal candidate is not Travis Fryman, as had been speculated elsewhere, but Triple-A manager Torey Lovullo. Lovullo will interview on Friday.

Former Mets and Rangers manager and current ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine is also in the mix. Shapiro was not yet sure when Valentine will be coming to Cleveland, but it will be sometime this week.

Finally, there is another candidate whose identity Shapiro did not reveal. Shapiro just said that this candidate currently has other responsibilities — the implication being that he is still involved in the postseason. Though Shapiro didn’t say so, Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly is that guy. The Dodgers are down 3-1 to the Phillies in the NLCS, so he could be available to interview soon.

While it’s believed these are the final four candidates, there is a chance that one or two others may emerge late. For now, it’s down to Acta, Lovullo, Valentine and Mattingly.

MLB.com contributor Steve Herrick will have more on the Indians.com site in a bit. 

Acta to interview for Tribe's managerial post Tuesday

Manny Acta, you’re up.

The Indians will hold their first formal interview for their managerial vacancy on Tuesday afternoon at Progressive Field, and Acta, the former Nationals skipper, will be the one under the microscope. He’ll meet with the Indians at 1 p.m. ET and the local media at 3 p.m.

acta.jpgThe Plain Dealer reported that Bobby Valentine and Travis Fryman are two other finalists for the job, but, as of this writing, the Indians have not yet confirmed that. Mark Shapiro had said there would be “three to five” finalists invited to Cleveland for a sitdown.

Two things about Acta that might appeal to the Indians: he’s a statistically minded manager who does not shy away from discussing and applying sabermetrics, and he’s a bilingual Dominican native who can develop a good relationship with Latin players.

Valentine, with 15 years of big-league managing experience and seven years of experience in Japan, is the most experienced of the bunch, and he’d also be the most costly. He made about $4 million last year with the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan.

Fryman has managed the last two seasons at short-season Mahoning Valley. His potential inclusion at this stage is a surprise, given that the Indians aren’t (or weren’t) expected to promote from within.

Stay tuned to Indians.com for more on Acta on Tuesday. I’m on the West Coast, covering the ALCS for MLB.com, so, unfortunately, I won’t be in Cleveland for the press conference. But we’ll have it covered, all the same.

Baby Pronk is born

Congrats go out to Travis Hafner and his wife, Amy, who became the proud parents of a baby boy Wednesday.

Here’s the best part. The kid’s name? Blake Lee Hafner.

I asked if the name is an homage to two of Hafner’s former teammates (he was particularly good buddies with Casey Blake) and was told that Pronk simply loved the name Blake and is firmly expecting to get all kinds of grief from the Dodgers third baseman.

Little Blake is not so little. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces.

The Hafner family is said to be doing well.

Like soldiers in the winter's night

As announced today, the Indians will have 18 players, including Jordan Brown, Hector Rondon, Andy Marte and Luis Valbuena, taking part in winter ball this offseason.

Fausto Carmona had indicated to the Tribe that he would like to pitch in the Dominican Republic, but the Indians decided not to go that route.

Here are the participants, by league:

Venezuela: INF Cristo Arnal, INF/OF Jordan Brown, INF Carlos Rivero, RHP Hector Rondon and INF Karexon Sanchez (Caracas), INF Niuman Romero and RHP Steven Wright (Caribes de Oriente), INF Luis Valbuena (Cardenales de Lara), RHP Johan Pino (Tigres de Aragua).

Also, Minor League field coordinator Dave Hudgens will manage Caracas and Triple-A hitting coach Jon Nunnally will serve on Hudgens’ staff.

Dominican Republic: OF Jose Constanza and INF Andy Marte (Azucareros del Este), RHP Frank Herrmann (Aguilas), LHP Juan Lara (Las Estrellas Orientales), OF Lucas Montero (Gigantes de San Francisco).

Puerto Rico: C Roberto Perez and RHP Neil Wagner (Mayaguez).

Colombia: 3B Giovanny Urshela (Cartagena).

Mexico: OF Roman Pena.