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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Q&A with Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta interview

By Marla Published: May 12, 2011

I sat down with Indians manager Manny Acta Wednesday afternoon in his office at Progressive Field. Here's more of what Acta had to say about the Tribe's surprising start.

Q: Does this team have a special chemistry?

A: "Yes. We don't believe in the 'Nice guys finish last' type of thing. When you're going through tough times you need to have good people around you. Last year and the year before I got here we knew times were going to be tough, rebuilding. You need to have high-character people. I always believed in that and that's the deal here.

"You have guys who enjoy being around each other and when you come to work, whether it's a clubhouse, a factory, an office, if you're happy to be around the people you're going to work with, you're more productive at work.''

Q:  How did you develop the team's mental  toughness?

A: "It's a process that it's not over with, but it's something we're targeting as an organization, to bring guys up here who are physically and mentally tough. They're athletic and flexible that are going to give me an opportunity to do more things with them. It starts in the minor leagues. Our instructors down there deserve a lot of credit, that's the type of players we're trying to develop, and making sure they have the right makeup to go through this. We know to compete at this level, with the weaknesses we have as a market and payroll and stuff like that, we're going to have to do things differently.''

Q: So you like the fighter types?

A: "The majority of the guys we have here fit that. Pretty much weed out a complainer or (someone) who won't go all out or won't think about the team first. Guys who are not here right now -- Trevor Crowe and Jason Donald fit that description and some of the guys we have in Triple-A like Kipinis and Chisenhall and Phelps.

"We're looking for guys who are relentless, scrappy, testy, high-character and mentally tough. We don't want to have to waste time rehabbing character. Whoever doesn't fit that profile we're going to weed them out or it's on to Plan B. It's a credit to our farm system because they do a good job finding those guys.

Q: What do you think of the clubhouse atmosphere?

A: "These guys enjoy being around each other. The key this year has been the veterans we have brought this year have meshed and helped these guys along the way.

Q: You needed a few veterans to make this work?

A: "These guys are perfect. Adam (Everett) is a guy who fits really good, his whole mentality has been he's going to play when he has to play but here's here to help the younger guys. (Austin) Kearns knew coming in he was going to be the fourth outfielder. And Orlando (Cabrera) already understands what he has to do. He's helping the guys around him.

Q: All these wins in the last at-bat, does that make their confidence soar?

A: "It can always help. We're certainly not shooting for them; that's not what we want. I, for one, would like to have a few mental breaks, not having to be matching up every night and thinking about that stuff. But it's part of their makeup. It helped what they went through last year the second half of the season, we can see the progress. Now they always feel like they have a chance to win. That's something that we set out to do in spring training, we expect to win every day and when we didn't win we were going to be shocked or surprised at the end of the game. That's the type of attitude we're trying to carry this year.''

Q: If this team becomes a version of the Miracle Mets, can they handle it?

A: "It's very early. We're fine with whatever they throw at us. These kids are pretty good at handling all that. I know that once the year starts that there's going to be a bit more attention if we continue to play this well. They're pretty even-keeled. It's part of the game.

"We don't hold any grudges to the people that are calling us 'The surprising Indians' because those are the same people who picked this ballclub to win the whole thing in 2008. It's part of their jobs. We have to get out there, believe in ourselves and forget about what people are saying, whether it's good or bad, you just can't get caught up in it.''

Q: Did the culture here need to change when you arrived?

A: "The people here before did an outstanding job and I'm reaping some of the benefits. Eric (Wedge) did a fantastic job establishing the culture here, but we needed to do a little bit of an overhaul because of the trades. And also go through a couple years of being patient and taking it on the chin because we had to see the Brantleys of the world and the Mastersons and LaPortas and Donald and Marson and Carrasco and see if they were the players we thought they were when we made the trades. You have to be patient.''

Q: Do you believe in luck or is this success rooted in talent?

A: "I don't even use that word in my vocabulary. I've always believed if you don't study for a test you're not going to pass it. To me luck is when you don't play lotto and you're walking on the street and you find a lotto ticket and you win, too. To me preparation makes opportunity. If you don't prepare yourself and you don't work hard, luck won't have anything to do with it. I don't use that word. These guys have prepared themselves and played hard. They went through their ups and downs last year. The second half of the season we could tell how much progress they had made. Actually at the end of the season we didn't want it to end because it was fun already.

"Once we add guys like Cabrera and have Santana back healthy and having Grady back, we knew it was going to be much more fun around here.''

Q: Did Grady Sizemore's fast start give you guys a spark?

A: "We were playing well when Grady came in. Boy, he's a guy everybody looks up to and want to have in our clubhouse. We rub off him and his energy. The fact that he came in and started off that well lifted us to a higher level and also helped him, too, because he was conscious of coming in here and being a distraction or not fitting in to what we had. We just wanted to have him back.
The fact that he has come back and played at the level he's played -- pre-injuries two years ago -- it's been rewarding for us.''

Q: Are friends in baseball calling and saying how great your team is?

A: "I have a lot of friends in baseball who know pretty much how I think and how I do things. They're supportive. But they are in the game and they know anything can happen in the game if you work hard.

"I try to stay away from the outside world, the accolades and the criticism because you're never as good as the accolades or as bad as the criticism. You can't get caught up in that. John Wooden, who I kind of idolize, said that. You can be on top of the world right now and next month be on the bottom. We try to stay away from that.

"It's hard because I have friends who are not in baseball. Every piece of news that comes out or comment that anybody makes, they want to throw at us and I don't appreciate it. If I want to read or listen to what everybody is saying I would do it myself. I choose not to. In my job it's healthier for me not to listen to what other people are saying because it's nothing more than their opinion and you just have to respect them.

"I either delete (those emails) or I don't reply back to them.''

Q: But that's what you do this job for.

A: "Yeah, but it doesn't have to be a cover of a magazine. It's the fact that what you work for, it's happening. I've been in the playoffs before as a coach with the Mets. I want to get back to it and if I do it as a manager obviously it's going to be more gratifying because that's what we all play the game for. Whether we get attention or not, that's not what we're working for. We want to bring a championship over here. It's not going to be easy, but right now it's fun and we're going to take it one day at a time.''

Q: What has been your most fun moment thus far?

A: "Santana's walk-off was probably the nicest one because we did it against a guy who was very tough and last year pretty much abused us. At that point when he got into the game we thought it was an uphill battle. Carlos struggling at that point offensively just gave us a huge lift.''



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