CLEVELAND — Manny is the man, at least that’s what the Indians decided Sunday when they named Manny Acta the franchise’s 40th manager.
Acta, 40, replaces Eric Wedge, who was fired with a week left in the regular season after guiding Cleveland to one postseason trip in seven years at the helm.
The Indians will hold a news conference today at Progressive Field to officially announce the hiring of Acta for three years, with the club holding an option for the 2013 season.
“We are very excited to have Manny Acta as our major league manager,” said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro in a release. “After speaking with an impressive array of candidates, we feel that Manny is a very strong and experienced leader who possesses great energy and enthusiasm along with tremendous communication skills and a positive mindset that will command a presence in the dugout, clubhouse and with our fans.”
Acta, a Dominican Republic native and former manager of the Washington Nationals, beat out at least two other finalists for the job, Triple-A Columbus manager Torey Lovullo and former Mets and Rangers manager and current ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine. The Indians were also believed to be interested in interviewing another finalist with postseason obligations, Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly. The Dodgers were eliminated in the NLCS last week.
Acta is the first manager the Indians have hired outside of the organization and with big-league experience since John McNamara in 1990.
“I am very excited to become part of the Cleveland Indians family,” Acta said in a release. “I look forward to working with this talented group of young men who seem to possess a lot of energy and passion for their work. I believe we will grow together as a team with the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland and its fans.”
After conducting phone interviews with as many as 10 candidates — which included fan favorites former Indians manager Mike Hargrove and current Class A Mahoning Valley manager and ex-Cleveland third baseman Travis Fryman — the Indians whittled the field down to three to five finalists for personal interviews at Progressive Field.
Ownership and members of the front office met with Acta, Valentine and Lovullo last week, but Mattingly never made it to Cleveland, as the Indians decided to make the hire well before their post-World Series deadline.
The Houston Astros, who are searching for a manager, might have played a part in the urgency. Acta, who was a finalist for that job as well, has deep roots with the Astros as a former player and manager in Houston’s minor league system. He was asked by reporters last week what he would do if he were offered both jobs.
“This is my job, and it’s a business,” Acta said. “All of us in life have to separate our heart from our head when the time comes. I don’t know if I will be blessed enough that I would be offered both jobs, but I’m thrilled to have been a part of both processes and to get this far.”
Acta succeeded former Indians player and manager Frank Robinson as the second manager in Nationals’ history, compiling a 158-252 record in two-plus seasons. He was fired in July with Washington owning the worst record in baseball at 26-61.
His first season (2007) in Washington was his best, the Nationals finishing fourth in the competitive National League East Division with a 73-89 record. Acta also spent five seasons as a big league coach with the Montreal Expos (2002-04) and the Mets (2005-06).
Acta inherits an Indians team that went 65-97 in 2009 and finished in a last-place tie with the Royals in the Central Division. The club, which had playoff aspirations this year, is rebuilding after trading back-to-back Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and a host of other veterans.
“Rebuilding is tough,” Acta told reporters last week. “It’s grueling. You’re going to suffer in wins and losses. A lot of people judge you on that. I’m thankful baseball people look at more than wins and losses when you go into a rebuilding process.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.