Anthony Castrovince is reporting that the Indians have hired Manny Acta as manager:
Acta was the first candidate to come to Cleveland for a formal interview, and he left a lasting impression. He has been signed by the Tribe to a three-year contract through 2012, with a club option for 2013.
Acta beat out Bobby Valentine and Torey Lovullo for the job. The Indians were expected to interview Don Mattingly this week.
Manny Acta began his coaching career in 1991 while still playing minor-league baseball. He got his first managerial assignment in 1993 with Auburn (New York-Penn League) at age 24, and worked his way up the Astros system, culminating with AAA New Orleans in 2001. He then left the Astros organization to coach third base with the nomadic Montreal Expos, then was hired by the New York Mets as an on-field coach in 2005. Meanwhile, he managed Winter League teams in Venezuela (1999-2000) and the Dominican Republic (2002-2004). He also coached his native Dominican Republic in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. So when the Washington Nationals tabbed him to replace Frank Robinson as manager in 2007 at age 38, he had been a minor-league manager or major-league coach for 14 seasons.
His 2.5 seasons with the Nationals is difficult to evaluate, since Washington's talent level was the worst in baseball during his tenure. His first season, the Nationals finished 73-89, and he received votes for NL Manager of the Year. The Nationals lost 102 games the following season, but I don't really think they underachieved. That season, the Nationals finished 15th in the NL in OPS, and gave up the second-most runs in the league. In 2009, with no appreciable talent additions, the Nationals started 26-61, and Acta was fired in August. The Nationals rebounded under interim manager Jim Riggleman to finish 59-103.
Acta brings several things to the table. He's managed at virtually every level of organized baseball, including in the Winter Leagues. He's fluent in English and Spanish, which is a major plus with the current makeup of major league rosters, including the Indians. Terry Pluto noted Acta's preparation, both for his interview with the Indians and when manager of the Nationals:
Many baseball people gave glowing reviews of Acta, but perhaps the most meaningful came from Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. He called the Indians unsolicited to say Acta was exactly the kind of energetic manager the team needed, adding that he thought Acta was "well-prepared" when Cox managed against him.
When the Indians hired Eric Wedge in 2003, many people in baseball raved about Wedge. In my research on Acta, I've seen similar endorsements. Obviously the difference this time is that Acta has already made his rookie managerial mistakes, though in baseball a manager's strategy rarely will turn a bad baseball team into a good one or vice versa. Ultimately the wins and losses come indirectly through player development, whether it be a young player breaking into the majors or a veteran player turning his career around. I'll be paying close attention to any impact this hire has on players like Kelly Shoppach, Fausto Carmona, and Jhonny Peralta, for if those players don't turn things around, Manny Acta's eighth inning pitching moves will be irrelevant.