Manny Acta

Mets Better Be Right About Mickey Callaway

Anytime you enter into a search for a new manager, you are really dealing with the realm of the unknown.  For first time managers, you really have no idea if that person is truly ready for the big leagues, he is better suited to the minors, or is a better coach.  For every Davey Johnson you hire, there are also the Joe Torres of the world, who were talented managers, but not ready to manage at the time you gave him the job.

Really, in these instances, you have to look at the relevant information available and the recommendations of other baseball people.  Mostly, you’re going with your gut.

The Mets gut told them to go out there and hire Mickey Callaway.

The Mets only needed one interview to choose Callaway over former manager and Mets coach Manny Acta.  It was sufficient enough for them to bypass current hitting coach Kevin Long.

Callaway had impressed so much during his interview and during his time with the Cleveland Indians, the Mets were not willing to wait.  They had Fred Wilpon sit down and sell him on the franchise similar to how the team once did with Billy Wagner and Curtis Granderson.

Give the Mets credit here.  They identified their man, and they did all they could do to bring him into the organization.  Deservedly so, many complimented the Mets on making a smart hire, including the fans who were skeptical of the direction the Mets would go.

Their man also happened to be a pitching guru, who will now be tasked with the responsibility of fixing Matt Harvey as well as finding a way to keep Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia healthy for a full season.

If Mets fans want a reason to be excited for this season, there is no bigger reason than Callaway choosing to manage this pitching staff.  By doing so, he’s announced he’s a believer, and he’s put his and the Mets future on this lines.

The team hiring Callaway so early and so aggressively had a domino effect.  It looks like the first domino to fall will be hitting coach Kevin Long.

Long has had a positive impact on the players on this Mets roster.  He helped turn Yoenis Cespedes from a slugger to a star.  By OPS+ and wRC+, Asdrubal Cabrera had two of his best five offensive seasons.  Michael Conforto would prove he could hit left-handed pitching at the Major League level.

With Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith being two cornerstones of the franchise, Long was exactly the man you wanted to help them reach their offensive ceilings.  Now, that won’t happen because Long is likely gone.

Another person you would want to help lead young players like Rosario and Smith is Joe Girardi.  In his one year with the Marlins, and this past season working with young players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees made a surprising run this season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS.

What is interesting is the Mets were rumored to want Girardi.  As reported by the New York Post, the Mets were looking to possibly “pounce” on Girardi if the Yankees did not bring him back.

That was written during the ALDS when it appeared Girardi’s job was in jeopardy.  After the Yankees recovered and upset the Indians and took the Astros to seven games, there weren’t too many people who stuck believed Girardi would be looking for another job.

And yet, he is.  This should at least raise some questions whether the Mets should have done their due diligence.  Maybe another round of interviews were in order.  Conducting that extra round could have left the Mets open to the chance of not making an hire before Girardi became available.

Maybe if there was a second round of interviews, Long feels more appreciated instead of taking his binders to another job.  That other job could be as the manager or hitting coach of the Washington Nationals where he would reunite with Daniel Murphy.  Maybe with Long at the helm, the Nationals finally get past the NLDS.

If that were to happen, and if Callaway falters, it would be too much for Mets fans to bear.  Yet again, the Mets let one of their own go to the Nationals leading them to further success because they were enamored with someone from another organization.  Like with Murphy and Justin Turner, Sandy Alderson will have opened himself up to justifiable second guessing.

The team jumped the gun costing themselves a chance to hire a terrific manager in Girardi, and it might have cost them the opportunity to retain a coach they thought highly enough of they almost made him their manager.  The Mets were left with a manager who has never managed professionally, and they have to rebuild a coaching staff.

Instead of making the safe choice like they did when they hired Terry Collins, the Mets instead chose to go for the high risk – high reward hire.  It worked with Davey, and it failed with Torre.

This is exactly why the Mets need to be right about their decision to hire Callaway.

Managerial Profile: Manny Acta

Manny Acta

Current Position: Mariners Third Base Coach
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 said 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.”  (Sports Illustrated).  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.  Put another way, Acta’s greatest weakness as manager might be his ability to handle a clubhouse.

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.”

Recommendation:

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.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on MMO

Mets Managerial Position Is A Dead End Job

Recent reports indicate Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus are not interested in the Mets managerial job.  For Ventura’s part, it seems he’s just not interested in managing again.   With respect to Ausmus, he’s interested in managing again, but he doesn’t want the Mets job.  Ausmus is interested in the Red Sox job.

There are also reports other managers with managerial experience were out of the running as well.  Specifically, Bob Geren and Chip Hale will not be reuniting with the Mets.  Both were assumed to be well respected by the organization, but for unspecified reasons, neither is a candidate for the Mets managerial opening.  With respect to these two, it should be noted, it was not known if they took themselves out of the running, or the Mets decided to go in another direction.

Really, the only manager with prior experience who is a candidate for the job is Manny Acta, who due to poor stints in Washington and Cleveland, probably won’t be a candidate for many managerial positions.  Unless Acta gets the job, the Mets are going to hire a first time manager, and the top managerial candidate on the market, Alex Cora, appears destined to go to the Red Sox.

It really makes you question why there isn’t greater interest in the Mets managerial position?  There may be a number of viable reasons why, but let’s not overlook the fact the Mets managerial position is somewhat of a dead-end job.

Since the Wilpons assumed team control in 2003, the team has gone through four managers.  That’s five if you include Bobby Valentine who was fired after the 2002 season.  Of those five managers, Valentine was the only one who would ever get another managerial job, and that was only after he first went to Japan, worked as an analyst on Baseball Tonight, and got the opportunity from a Red Sox ownership group eager to hire him.  Otherwise, Valentine likely never gets another job.

There are several reasons why these managers never got another job.  With respect to Terry Collins, he will turn 69 early in the 2018 season, and there were rumors before the announcement the Mets were reassigning him in the organization, Collins was going to retire anyway.  Still, that didn’t prevent the Mets from trashing him on the way out.

It’s quite possible the scathing analysis of Collins as detailed in Marc Carig’s Newsday article was the Mets masterpiece.  It may well be the result of all the practice they’ve had.

In a New York Daily News feature after it was announced Art Howe would finish out the season before being fired, Howe was characterized as soft, uninspiring, weak, and lacking credibility with players.

His replacement, Willie Randolph, was treated just as poorly on the way out.  In addition to being fired after winning the first game of a West Coast trip, the Mets would again go to assassinate their manager’s character.  As detailed by Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, the Mets let it be known they had their reservations about even hiring Randolph and insisted the team won in spite of him.  As if that wasn’t enough, the report stated the team believed Randolph, “lacked fire; the players, especially the Latino players, had tuned him out; he was too sensitive to criticism; he was overly defensive; he didn’t communicate with his coaches.”

Is there any wonder why a manager with a 302-253 (.544) record never got another job?  The same manager who deftly handled the development of David Wright and Jose Reyes never got another opportunity.

Yes, there were other reasons why Randolph never got another job, but in the end, the character assassination levied upon him was a great disservice, and it played an important role in his never getting another job.  Same went for Valentine and Howe.

Knowing how the Mets handle the firings of their managers, and knowing how their managers never get another job, why would a top candidate ever consider taking this job?

Manny Acta Is A Risky Proposition

When the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008, one person that was conspicuously absent was third base coach Manny Acta.  In his time serving that role with the Mets, he had become known as an intelligent forward thinking baseball man, who showed an ability to connect with the players on the team.

Those traits led to Acta being a hot managerial candidate that offseason not too dissimilar to what we see with Alex Cora right now.  Coincidentally, many of the positive things said about Cora now were said about Acta after the 2006 season.

Acta would get hired after the 2006 season as the Nationals manager.  This would begin an interesting six year managerial career split between the Nationals and the Indians.  He would have go 158-252 (.385) with the Nationals, and 214-266 (.446) with the Indians.

One of the reasons for the struggles with the Nationals was talent.  The team had just parted ways with talented players including Alfonso Soriano.  Of the famed group of Nationals who are part of the core of the current Nationals team that won multiple division titles, he would only get to manage Ryan Zimmerman.

It was a similar issue with the Indians.  It was a team in transition after Cliff Lee was traded mid-season the year prior to his arrival.  Acta would lead the team to a surprise second place finish in 2011 increasing expectations for 2012.  That team had underperforming veterans like Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Casey Kotchman, and Johnny Damon didn’t produce, and young players like Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Jason Kipnis who were not quite ready.

Overall, Acta was well considered in baseball circles.  Its why when he was fired by the Nationals they said, “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.”  (Sports Illustrated).

It’s why Acta only had to wait a season between managerial jobs.  That is the case when he has two top five Manager of the Year finishes under his belt.  After his managerial stint was over, Acta was hired by ESPN where he would work for Baseball Tonight.  For the past two seasons, he served as the Mariners third base coach.  When he was hired, Mariners manger Scott Servais said, “I believe Manny will be a great addition to our staff.  I’ve known him for over 25 years, since we were teammates in 1989. His experience as a Major League third-base coach and manager, paired with his extensive player-development background, will be very valuable to me, and to our players, as we move forward.”  (MLB.com).

Between his tenure with the Nationals and the Indians, we began to get a picture of who Acta was as a manager.  Generally speaking, he was seen as a smart baseball man who had an analytical approach to the game.  Whereas some managers use instincts and a gunslinger mentality, Acta was a tactician who relied on the data.  For many, this would invoke comparisons to Joe Girardi, which depending on your point of view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.

In terms of the clubhouse, Acta had a mixed reputation like many managers do.  For one player, he was seen as someone who didn’t keep a tight reign on this players.  For others, he was a manager who respected the veterans and let them control the clubhouse.  For many, this would invoke comparisons to Terry Collins, which again depending on your view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.

Really, throughout his two tenures as manger, the only real pure negative thing anyone had to say about him was he was a poor motivator, and he was rigid in his ways.  As then Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said of Acta, “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.”  (MLB.com).

As for his ability to motivate Joe Smith said, “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.”

Overall, Acta is well considered to be a good and smart baseball man.  It is why he continues to get jobs.  It is also why you do see a positive impact on whatever team he joins.  Still, between his record and the specific criticism of being rigid in how he manages and his inability to motive, you do question if he’s well suited to be a manager.”  Then again, those things only to be raised as issues when someone is fired.

In the end, we still probably don’t know what Acta is as a manager because he’s never quite had sufficient talent to manage.  Considering the current composition of the Mets roster, this would make Acta a risky bet for this Mets team.  Then again, so would Cora or anyone else the Mets are considering.