Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE
Continuing our series of potential new Jays' managers, today we take a look at Manny Acta.
Manny Acta has plenty of experience as a big-league manager, with 890 games under his belt. He also had a professional career of his own. After growing up in the Dominican Republic, the Houston Astros signed the 17-year old Acta and he spent six years in their system. Acta made his way up to Double A, but never any higher than that, and the Astros, more impressed with Acta's analytical abilities and knowledge of the game than his playing skills, offered him a spot at scouting school. Shortly thereafter, Acta was coaching.
Acta managed some A-level teams in the Florida State League, and first broke into the big leagues with the Montreal Expos in 2002 as the third-base coach. Acta served as third-base coach under Frank Robinson through the 2004 season, the Expos' final season in Montreal. During the 2004-2005 offseason, Acta interviewed for positions with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he was still very young for a big-league manager (not yet 40) and was not selected. He instead became the New York Mets' third-base coach under manager Willie Randolph, a position he held for two seasons.
After the 2006 season, Acta got his first shot to manage at the big-league level with the same franchise that had given him his first big-league coaching job, the Washington Nationals. The young and enthusiastic Acta, known at the time for his willingness to rely on statistical analysis and sabermetrics, was regarded at the time as a good managerial choice for a young team that was bound to experience some growing pains. Acta's first season for Washington went reasonably well as he outpaced expectations and the team finished 73-89 and garnered some manager of the year votes in the process. The second season, though, went far worse and the Nationals lost over 100 games due to poor play in all aspects of the game. The Nationals let Acta start the 2009 season, but halfway through, with the Nationals floundering, Acta was fired and replaced by Jim Riggelman, the Nats' third-base coach.
Being fired by one of the worst teams in baseball didn't hurt Acta's still-solid reputation. He quickly found a job early in the 2009-2010 offseason as the manager for the Cleveland Indians, another then-struggling team. Acta's first season with Cleveland didn't go very well, but they improved greatly in his second year to 80-82, finishing in second place. At the end of the season, Cleveland announced they had extended Acta, who was already under contract for 2012, an additional season through 2013. That 2013 season never came to be for Manny, though, as Cleveland fired him with the disappointing 2012 season winding down, after a particularly poor second-half showing.
On paper, Manny Acta is pretty much a dream manager for me. He has a low-key style that I really appreciate, since I work in a field that prizes never losing your cool. His stated philosophy is basically that people don't respond well to being yelled at, a sentiment with which I agree, and that passion shows in a manager's preparation for the game, not in his antics on the field:
"This isn’t high school or college, these are elite athletes playing at the professional level. I shouldn’t have to scream and yell at them to get them to do something, and if I do, I have the wrong guys." Source:CBS Cleveland
I couldn't agree more. On the other hand, some people (including some players) see a team that is performing poorly and a manager taking it all in and conclude that he must not care or that he isn't motivating the players properly. Based on the cult of the manager, people expect certain actions from a manager, and Acta doesn't really deliver on that at all.
Additionally, Acta is known for his willingness to rely on more sophisticated statistical analysis for things like formulating lineups, positioning fielders, and tactics. He doesn't like to run into outs.
According to the Bill James managerial metrics, Acta tends to shuffle his lineup more than the average manager, to platoon slightly more than the average manager, to use fewer pinch-hitters than the average, to use more defensive substitutes than average, and to have an average "hook time" on his starting pitcher. He is very willing to use additional relievers to try to gain an advantage. He gives an average number of intentional walks.
On the basepaths, as I mentioned, Acta doesn't like to run into or give away outs. Consequently, he steals less often and rarely sacrifice bunts.
It would be silly to judge Acta solely by the records of the teams he's managed. He's 43, and new managers often have to take jobs with poor teams. The list of well-regarded managers who started out managing losing teams is quite long.
Making Manny Acta the Jays' manager wouldn't bother me one whit. What do you all think?