CLEVELAND -- There is no denying that the Indians' performance on the field this season fell well short of expectations. As a result, manager Manny Acta was relieved of his duties on Thursday.
But Acta could only play the hand he was dealt, and it is clear that he was dealt a roster that was not capable of competing in the American League Central. Even so, the Indians plan on moving forward with Chris Antonetti as general manager.
Team president Mark Shapiro said on Thursday that the organization has confidence in Antonetti's strategy for the building of a contending team.
"We obviously look at a broad range of criteria when we're evaluating everybody," Shapiro said. "Chris is dealing with a set of challenges, which I understand, some of which are the creation of the organization that he and I ran together, and some of which are the result of other decisions.
"But I feel he's controlled the bulk of what he can control well. [Indians CEO Paul Dolan] and I still endorse strongly [Antonetti's] vision for how we can be competitive and, ultimately, a championship team.
"We feel that he's uniquely qualified and more capable than any other person in leading us to that outcome."
The Indians have named Sandy Alomar Jr., Acta's bench coach, as interim manager, though he will be strongly considered for the full-time job.
The Indians entered the season with high hopes for contending but entered Thursday at 65-91, including a Major League-worst 15-42 since July 26. The result has been a drastic slide from first place on June 23 to a tie with the Twins for last place in the division.
Antonetti can see why Acta might be viewed as a scapegoat.
"I understand that perspective," Antonetti said. "Manny is not the only one to blame. We really need to look hard organizationally to figure out how we can continue to get better, especially at the Major League level, because our performance was not what we had expected and not what we had hoped.
"We all have higher expectations, and we need to do a better job at identifying those solutions and how we move forward. We started that process and we'll take the next few weeks to make sure we execute them."
Antonetti, who is wrapping up his second season as Cleveland's GM, had a number of misfires.
In July 2011, he swung a blockbuster trade with the Rockies, sending a package of four prospects to Colorado in order to acquire star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. This season, Jimenez turned in one of the worst performances in team history, going 9-17 with a 5.55 ERA.
Over the winter, Cleveland traded for Derek Lowe and Aaron Cunningham, and added Jose Lopez and Jeremy Accardo as Minor League free agents. All four underperformed and were designated for assignment, as were Shelley Duncan and Johnny Damon (signed as a free agent in April).
During the offseason, the Indians re-signed outfielder Grady Sizemore to a one-year contract worth $5 million, but he spent the entire season rehabbing from knee and back injuries and did not play in a single game. Free-agent signing Casey Kotchman (one year, $3 million) has hit just .234 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs as the everyday first baseman.
Cleveland, rumored to be in on free-agent left fielders Josh Willingham and Yoenis Cespedes over the winter, wound up cycling through 10 left fielders. Willingham and Cespedes have turned in solid showings for the Twins and A's, respectively.
Antonetti knows that many of the decisions gone wrong rest on his shoulders.
"I'm accountable for some of those things," he said. "Certainly, many of the decisions that we've made haven't worked out as we hoped. At the same time, I continue to believe in the talent that we have on this roster, and I'm hopeful moving forward that the group of guys we have here will perform better."
In the meantime, the Indians continue to believe in Antonetti's direction.
"His vision and his plan are still evolving," Shapiro said.
Antonetti believes that Cleveland has a solid young core to build around.
"We need to do a better job of complementing that group," he said. "That's what we'll spend time doing. I understand that frustration, certainly with the way we've played in the second half. I think that there's a lot more reason to be optimistic than what might just be there on the surface."