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Don't worry, be happy

To wrap up an interesting week, I tried for today's print edition to take a look at Manny Acta's managerial style -- and namely, his patience. And hey, it's not often that you can get Elijah Dukes's and Joel Osteen's name into the same story.

I figured an excerpt from one of my recent discussions with Acta might be appropriate NJ fodder.

As background to what I'll paste below: By this point in our conversation, Acta had spent a lot of time talking about where his managerial style came from. At that point, I basically said, "Listen, I'm writing a story about patience in the same week everybody in baseball saw you lose your patience right in the dugout."

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Q: So where does that fit into it?

A: Well, I'm not perfect. Just because I have patience, that doesn't mean I can't lose my temper here and there. I don't claim... I have very good control of my emotions. I can control my emotions extremely well. That doesn't mean that I'm perfect, and I'm not here and there going to snap. Because I do, behind closed doors. When enough is enough, I do have my meetings with the guys. I don't go on an f-bomb tirade, because I don't believe in that. I believe I can get my point across in a calm, easy manner. But that doesn't mean I'm perfect. That doesn't mean I'll never be seen arguing or confronting somebody, because I've done it plenty of times in the past. It's just that nowadays I choose not to do it, because I've found out it doesn't get you anywhere. I get the best out of kids by treating them right, treating them with respect, and not by yelling at them. That's the way I raise my two girls, too, and I can say I'm lucky that they haven't turned out to be bad kids so far. Obviously you won't always be able to have your way with 25 guys, or 40 guys including the coaches and everybody else, but I believe in that. I believe in respecting people. I believe in giving these guys the best environment, atmosphere possible so they can be happy and play hard for me. Am I going to be able to keep everybody happy? Impossible. None of us can do that. I can't even keep my immediate family happy. That's the way it is. I always said, the only thing that makes everybody in this whole world happy? A one-hundred dollar bill. That's what everybody likes. I'm not going to be liked by everybody, but I can live with it, because I know that it's impossible.

Q: The difference this time was that cameras caught it, rather than being behind closed doors.

A: Well, yeah, but it's not like that goes on every day. It's not like every day I yell, I'm doing things behind closed doors. When I think we need a meeting, I call a meeting and I can go off and I can let these guys know how I feel about it. Some things are gonna happen in the dugout here and there because, yeah, I'm not perfect. And not everybody is like me. I'm dealing with 25 different personalities. Different personalities. If I was dealing with people just like me all the time, I would never have a confrontation. But that's not the case.

Q: Was there any part of you that felt ashamed about what happened with Elijah? Or regret that you did it?

A: No, not at all. There are times in life when you have to do certain things. That's not even - I don't even think it was anything big compared to the things you see on TV every single day. As much as you guys try to push it, you'll never see me being bleeped 50 times on TV. It's just a shame, I'm saddened by the world we live in, because something like that gets all the hoopla, all the press, instead of the fact that Ronnie Belliard gets two home runs and an RBI single after going 0-for-15 in a rehab assignment.

Q: Well, Elijah, too -- patience is paying off for him. Is that part of the reason he maybe felt compelled to apologize?

A: I can't speak for him. All I can do is accept his apology and move on, which I have done five minutes after we had out confrontation. Because if that wasn't the case, you know, I wouldn't be the one stretching out my arm to shake his hand after the game. It happens. There is no victory without conflict. In a 162 game season, dealing with 40 people, you are gonna have conflict. Does it make it worse because it was caught on camera? One of them. What's worse? Having 50 indoors that nobody saw, or one of them on camera? I can live with it. I think I'll be a hypocrite if I'm sitting here saying I'm perfect. None of us are perfect...

Q: Well, it's the difference between managing now and managing in, say, 1960. Cameras, media there to scrutinize everything.

A: Not even. It's the sadness of the world. Sarcasm. Negativity. We live in world where people love to boo instead of cheer. They'd rather say No than Yes. They love to say, You suck, instead of, It's OK you'll get 'em next time. They love violence instead of calm. That's why I'm so worried and feel bad about my daughter's future in this world. It is simple: The Washington Nationals sometime go days without being seen on highlights on TV shows. And that night, because of a little argument in the dugout, we were the leading story. What does that tell you?

Q: Isn't there a part of you that understands why that is?

A: It's the way the world is.

Q: I think to a large extent, I think things like that also offer a window into who these people are, and what are the dynamics of this team. They're interested to know what's happened, not just on the field.

A: No. It's the negativity. The sarcasm sells. That's what it is. Because every day in the newspaper on the front page, the biggest news is the bad news. OK. You can live in a neighborhood where somebody is doing 100 good things, but if somebody got shot, that's what's gonna be on the front of the newspaper. And that's what is so sad. Because the average person is being fed all that sarcasm and negativity, and that's how people live with distress. I choose not to. Here and there will I be involved in some type of conflict? Yes. I am not perfect. Not even close. The perfect one died a long time ago. I can live with it, I can understand, I can see... the world is full of negativity, and that's what sells. Just 20 years ago none of this was around. I can remember when I was 19, 20 years old, and you didn't have the Internet. Didn't have YouTube. Didn't have TV channels geared up for loud arguments.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 17, 2008; 8:49 AM ET
 
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