Current Position: Mariners Bench Coach, Aguilas Cibaenas Manager
Age: 1/11/1969 (48)
MLB Managerial Experience: 2007-2009 Washington Nationals 158-252 (.385); 2010-2012 Cleveland Indians 214-266 (.480)
One of the most respected coaches on Willie Randolph‘s staff was noticeably missing during the 2007 and 2008 collapses that doomed not just the Mets, but also Randolph. The person missing was third base coach Manny Acta.
Much like we saw with Alex Cora this season, Acta was a hot commodity back then because he was widely considered the next big manager. Acta was respected for his intelligence, baseball acumen, and his ability to communicate with players. That went double for young and Hispanic players.
In fact, the Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten said this to Sports Illustrated of Acta, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.”
That’s a remarkable thing to say about a manager. It’s all the more incredible when you consider that was said when they fired him.
Because Acta is well respected and because people believe he’s an intelligent man who continues to educate himself, he keeps getting jobs. After failing with the Nationals, he was hired by the Indians. After failing with the Indians, he was hired by Baseball Tonight. After a well received Baseball Tonight stint, he was hired by the Mariners to serve as their third base coach, a position which he holds today.
Considering how well respected he is, it makes you question why he never worked out as a manager. For starters, he’s never really had good teams. When we thing of the current Nationals who are one of the best teams in baseball, you think of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman. In his Nationals tenure, Acta only got to manage a young Zimmerman.
In Cleveland, he had a difficult situation with the old players getting old fast, and the young players not being quite ready. Players like Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe were hanging on while Jason Kipnis and Corey Kluber weren’t what they are now. As many will note, even the best of managers cannot win without talent.
But with Acta, it might have been more than just a lack of talent. In a MASN article, Acta was described as being unable to relate to players. As bad as that might be, an AP article was even more damning of Acta as a manager with Indians players feeling as if Acta did not have their back. There were other reports suggesting Acta was rigid in his ways, and that he was unable to motivate his players.
What the Players Say:
Joe Smith: “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.” (MLB.com)
Josh Tomlin: “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”
It is interesting to see Mike Puma’s recent New York Post article on the subject of Acta’s candidacy. Ultimately, it highlighted the best points of Acta that leads to teams continuously trying to bring him into their organization. However, that same piece highlighted his weaknesses, notably his inability to “handle controversy.”
What we don’t know from with Acta is if he’s grown from the issues that held back his career in Washington and Cleveland. If he hasn’t then hiring him should prove to be a disaster much in the same way hiring Art Howe or Jeff Torborg was. The Puma article does little to quell those concerns.
However, if Acta has grown and has learned from his mistakes in the clubhouse like we have see from Terry Collins during his Mets managerial career, you will have a smart baseball person who is hard working. In life, you can never go wrong with smart and hard working.
Ultimately, any decision on Acta should begin with long and honest conversations with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both are veterans who Acta has coached/managed. If both endorse Acta, it’s possible he’s the right man for the job. That goes double when you consider most of the praise directed at Acta comes from front offices and not players. If Acta doesn’t receive glowing endorsements from Wright or Cabrera, it should be an easy decision to look in a different direction.