CLEVELAND -- The Indians are not satisfied with where they finished this season, but the organization is undoubtedly pleased at the direction the team appears to be headed. Manager Manny Acta has played an instrumental role in that.
On Thursday, general manager Chris Antonetti opened a season-end sit-down with reporters by expressing his confidence in Acta's leadership and ability to take Cleveland to the next level. Antonetto also announced that the Indians have exercised Acta's club option for the 2013 season.
"I'm very happy," Acta said. "This is the place I want to be."
The Indians are coming off a promising campaign -- one in which they placed second in the American League Central despite a roster ravaged by injuries -- but the club believes it is capable of more. That starts this offseason, when Cleveland will tackle its holes and try to build a contender for 2012.
In his second season at the helm, Acta helped guide the Tribe to an 80-82 record, marking an 11-win improvement over last year's showing by a young and developing team. Along with some internal decisions, the Indians will look to add a bat and upgrade their rotation over the course of the winter months to improve even further.
Entering this season, Acta insisted that his team could vie for the AL Central crown, even though most prognosticators felt the team would reside in the division's cellar. That early confidence was backed up when Cleveland stormed out to a 30-15 record and held a seven-game lead for first place in the Central on May 23.
The Indians faded down the stretch, but Antonetti made it clear that he firmly believes the success the team did experience this year was largely due to Acta's influence in the clubhouse and expertise in the dugout.
"When we reflect back," Antonetti said, "and look at the successes we've had this year and the progress we've made, I think it began with Manny and his coaching staff and the tone that they set in Spring Training, the expectations about winning and transitioning from a young team that was developing to a contending team.
"That helped with our start to the season, and then I think the leadership of Manny and his coaching staff allowed us to persevere through some challenging and some significant obstacles through the course of the season. I feel much better about where we are organizationally today than we were a year ago.
"I think a lot of that is due to Manny's leadership and the leadership of the staff."
Acta said the fact that Cleveland picked up his option did not alter his approach in any way.
"To me, it wasn't going to change the way I was going to go about my business," Acta said. "From Day 1, my goal was to be here. I wanted to be here, and I'm very happy now that I know that I'm going to be here at least for two years, although there are no guarantees."
Following a previous stint as manager of the Nationals, Acta signed a three-year deal to manage Cleveland prior to the 2010 season. After a 69-win showing in his first year in the Indians' dugout, Acta watched them contend for roughly five months before an onslaught of injuries and inconsistencies led to the Tribe's tumble down the standings.
There was plenty of disappointment over the way the season ended, but this year also affirmed some beliefs Acta had when he first took the job as manager.
"I made my decision to come here based on some facts," Acta said. "Over the last two years, they have been confirmed, which has been our farm system, our young players that are making an impact at the big league level and my chances of being competitive and eventually winning.
"I've seen it in two years, so I'm happy."
Happy, but hardly content.
"We just can't sit here and be satisfied about what we have," Acta said.
Antonetti noted that the Indians would see a significant raise in their payroll in 2012 after operating on a budget just under $50 million this year. Part of the increase will be necessary, considering as many as nine players have the potential to be eligible for arbitration this winter.
Cleveland's biggest decision of the winter, however, will arguably be one of the first ones they make. Within three days of the conclusion of the final game of the World Series, the Indians need to decide whether to exercise center fielder Grady Sizemore's $8.5 million club option for 2012.
Sizemore is scheduled to have his ailing right knee examined by specialist Dr. Richard Steadman on Monday in Vail, Colo. After Sizemore's consultation with Steadman -- Cleveland has yet to rule out surgery -- the team will have more clarity about the center fielder's status for next season.
"We obviously have some meaningful and significant decisions coming," Antonetti said. "The direction we go with those decisions will largely shape what needs we might have."
Acta believes acquiring some offensive help is imperative.
"I think adding another bat will help," said the manager. "Don't go into right or left, because I don't care about that as long as the guy can hit. But all of that will be addressed depending on certain guys that we have the ability to play in different spots."
It is a puzzle that the Tribe will piece together over the coming months.
One thing is clear: Cleveland sees hope for the immediate future.
"Organizationally, this was a significant step for us," Antonetti said. "We're in a much better position now than we were last year towards achieving our goal, which is to not only make the postseason, but to win a World Series.
"We've transitioned from that developing team to a contending team. We contended for 4 1/2 months, but we're disappointed in the result. We wanted to still be playing baseball at this point, but we're not."