The Cleveland Indians’ managerial hunt ended on Sunday, as they hired former Washington Nationals skipper Manny Acta. Acta will replace Eric Wedge, who in six seasons as manager of the Indians compiled a .495 winning percentage and reached the playoffs once (in 2007).
Acta managed for two and a half years in Washington, managing teams with very little in terms of talent. Over his tenure, the Nationals played putrid .385 ball, including a 59 win season in 2008 and a 26-61 record at the time of his firing in 2009. Despite his poor record, Acta has a fantastic reputation around the game with young players. As Cleveland enters the Manny Acta era, they will need these talents as they attempt to build around established players like Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo with prospects like Matt LaPorta and Carlos Carrasco.
Other candidates for the job included former Mets and Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine, Indians AAA manager Torey Lovullo, and Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly. Valentine is the only other candidate with ML managerial experience (Mattingly has never managed a professional team). Valentine reached one World Series with the Mets in 2000 but has an otherwise unimpressive record, with a .510 career winning percentage, and was ousted as part of the Steve Phillips era in New York. With Cleveland in the middle of a rebuilding period, he may not have fit well with their current personnel.
The most interesting thing about Acta besides his reputation with young players is his affinity for statistical analysis. In an interview with Squawking Baseball after the 2007 season, Acta told of his disdain for the sacrifice bunt early in games, and how Baseball Prospectus was among his favorite baseball reading.
More importantly, though, Acta’s openness towards statistics will not lead to tension between the manager and the front office. Mark Shapiro and his staff certainly are not stuck in the dark ages with regards to new forms of analysis. Would a manager like Bobby Valentine or Don Mattingly have conflicted with the front office in terms of player acquisitions, or perhaps on in-game strategies? It’s hard to say for sure. Acta, however, seems to have the perfect profile for a team looking to rebuild and willing to use advanced analyses.
Although Cleveland has pieces to build around, they do not appear to have the talent of a competing team as of yet. With the hiring of Manny Acta, the Indians have somebody who has both a great reputation among baseball men and an appreciation for the analytical part of the game that has created winners in Oakland and Boston, and is currently turning a franchise around in Seattle. Acta won’t bring the Indians to contention by himself, but he’s the right man to guide the ship.