Nationals will name new skipper -- Manny Acta. The Washington Post has confirmed the prediction I made six weeks ago, that the Mets' first base coach, Manny Acta, will be their new manager. Acta got high praise for his job managing the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year. The Mets' manager, Willie Randolph, has been hyping Acta's potential as a major league manager. Though the Nationals were rejected by their first couple of choices, Acta is probably the right choice.
As a Dominican, Acta might be more popular still in New York, but hiring Acta will go some way towards repairing any ill-feeling in the minority community over the dismissal of Frank Robinson, the Nats' previous manager. Acta also was a former member of Robinson's staff when the team was still in Montreal. This gives him some familiarity with several of the Nats' top players. In addition, although he is only 37, Acta has a fair amount of managerial experience already, both in the D.R. and in the Houston Astros' farm system, before he joined the Expos' staff.
Hiring Acta does raise one interesting question, though. I wonder if this means that the Nationals are conceding in the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes. Apparently, Soriano is seeking a contract in the range of Carlos' Beltran's mega-blockbuster deal with the Mets two years ago. Given the results that Beltran had in his first year, I think that contract is not viewed favorably anywhere in baseball. Ditto for Alex Rodriguez' even bigger deal. Soriano will have to be more realistic about the market this year.
What does any of this have to do with Manny Acta? Well, Acta was Soriano's manager during the W.B.C. During the first games of the tournament, Soriano played badly in the field, at second base, and did not hit either. Acta benched him fairly quickly, in favor of Placido Polanco. If Soriano bears any ill will towards Acta over that very public rebuke, he may be thinking of crossing the Nationals off his list.
The Post's story is at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/11/AR2006111100827.html