Transcript of Manny Acta's media session
This afternoon, Manny Acta, now manager of the Cleveland Indians, sat down behind a folding table in a ballroom at the downtown Marriott here at the winter meetings. Every manager, at some point during these four days, is subject to the klieg lights of media questioning, and this was Acta's turn. As he took his seat, he moved aside an empty Pepsi can -- evidently the leftover of a previous session.
Somebody mentioned to Acta that Tony La Russa had been drinking that Pepsi.
Acta grinned, grabbed the soda can and rubbed it along his left arm.
"I'll take this home," Acta said. "Maybe something rubs off on me from him."
This was really the first time since his firing in D.C. that Acta spoke at length about his time with the Nationals. At times his answers seemed guarded, but a transcript follows. For the sake of our D.C-centric readership, I've edited out the numerous questions about Cleveland-related nuance. (Who's your first baseman? How is Carmona's health? What is the closer situation?) If you want all those answers, too, they are available here.
Q. You had a specific set of challenges in Washington with a young team. Seems to be a similar situation in Cleveland. What was attractive about this Cleveland situation that made you want to come on board?
Manny Acta: I don't see it as similar, because I think there are more pieces in place here in Cleveland. I think when we arrived over there, we only had Ryan Zimmerman basically, and we were looking for more pieces to add, and we ended up finding Flores and then added some more. But I'm getting into a situation where I already have one of the best right fielders in the American League. We had Grady Sizemore, we have Travis Hafner, we have John Peralta, we have Asdrubal Cabrera, so I could feel we have more pieces in place already, so that's what attracted me, and also the fact that the farm system is a rich one. So I'm looking down the line to see guys like Santana, Nick Weglarz, Shin-soo Choo, Rondon, Carrasco, so that kind of really attracted me over to the Indians.
Q. From the perspective of time since you left Washington, what are the lessons that you've maybe had more time to think about that you can carry over to Cleveland and make you a better manager?
Acta: I think the experience I had over there, it's what people need. Everybody needs experience. Everybody needs to pay their dues. That's what I did over there, and I never ran from my problems. I think when you run from your problems you have an opportunity to show the rest of the world what you can do, and that's what we did. We have no regrets. I mean, we knew what we were getting into, and I think if I wouldn't have gone through what I went through over there, I wouldn't be sitting here with you guys.
Q. Are you surprised it happened as quickly as it did for you, about three months ago?
Acta: You know what, I started getting phone calls way before the season was over about interviewing, so that gave me hope that it might happen quicker than anticipated. I talked to a lot of people in the industry, and most of those people, they don't always see just wins and losses. They were telling me that people are watching what's going on, and they knew what I was going through. I wasn't the first or the last one that was going to go through a rebuilding process, and it's tough. It's grueling. It's painful at times. But it was good. It was good for me. The experience, not only managing for two and a half years, which I already did, but also two and a half years times two, dealing with you guys, plus the individual interviews, so that's part of the job, a big part of the job. That's something that I already accomplished. Going to the Indians, to the Astros, or wherever else I might go in the future, hopefully nowhere else, I already have that on my résumé. Not everybody looks at wins and losses.
Q. Do you think style-wise even in small ways you'll be different this time?
Acta: You have to be different this time because you have three guys in the outfield that from the get-go will have green lights, guys that can run, high percentage of stolen bases. The style of every one of us, the 30 guys, just changes depending on the personnel that you have. It's that simple. None of us are basically defined as doing something. I think all of us will adjust to what we have.
Q. You talked about enjoying managing in the National League. How do you think it's going to compare being in the American League just from a fun factor?
Acta: It's going to be a little bit more relaxing. Even when you're not winning, you can't relax anyway. But the fact that in the fifth inning I'm not going to have to be looking over my shoulder, how many pitches this guy has, we're down by one, I have to pinch-hit for this and that. I think it makes it a bit easier. I'm not saying that, including myself now, that people who manage in the American League can't do it in the National League. Obviously all of these guys are capable of doing it. But it's a different ballgame. I think the most important thing for me is going to be since you can stretch out the starter a little bit longer, regardless of how many runs he's given up, it's finding enough work for the bullpen guys.
Q. After the firing in Washington, there was a period of soul searching or whatever for you. You said there was no regrets for you, but was there anything that you take away from that that you think you can improve or you can use to better yourself in your next opportunity?
Acta: I think we take too much credit when we win and too much criticism when we don't. I wouldn't do anything different. All you can do is control your attitude and your character, and the rest is going to fall on what you do in the field. I don't think too many people showed up in Cleveland to watch Hargrove or Eric Wedge, and too many are not going to show up to watch me next year. I think it comes down to the players. We do the best we can, and we don't put the blame on them, but I won't do anything different. I think you still have to be patient wherever you are and continue to work, and at the end of the day, I mean, it comes down to the people performing on the field.
Q. So those months after the All-Star break, what were they like? Was it tough, or were you immediately looking toward the next job, or what?
Acta: No, I wasn't looking for the next job. I was just planning for the offseason, what were my options. Yeah, I was getting my house in shape over there in D.C., to put it on the market and sell it and then moving my family down, down to Florida again, and then just watching ballgames every night and following baseball. I mean, I had plenty of time to do that. I started to get phone calls right after I got fired. I had options to go to work. But I just decided to spend time with my family and not want to go to work for somebody for three months and then get another job at the end of the season. That's basically what it was. Talking to a lot of baseball people in the industry, I knew that things were going to be okay. I didn't think right away I was going to get a Major League managing job, but I had some stuff lined up.
Q. So you ended up having two options. Why this one instead of Houston?
Acta: I thought that this was perfect for me. Perfect fit for me. I thought that it was because I really had to choose very carefully my next step, and I think that all the young energetic players that are already in place here, plus the one coming up, an opportunity to grow together with those guys as a team were better for me.
Q. Now that you've had a little bit of time and an outsider's perspective, what do you think that franchise needs to get to where it wants to be?
Acta: They need what the other 29 need, pitching. I mean, you talk to everybody here in the lobby, and everybody is looking for pitching. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. If you finished last in pitching, you're not going to win. You just can't shrug people away in the Big Leagues. I really don't like to talk much about that situation because whatever I said is going to sound like we're making excuses, but we set some records over there. We went through a stretch where we scored over five or six runs a game 10 days in a row, and we were 1-9. I mean, that's a message right there. I think we went about it the right way over there. That's why I think they're on the right path. The first half of the season, most of the starts came from four guys the year before who were in Double-A. I think it's a great -- it was a great experience for those kids that they could -- that were able to learn at the big league level. But same hand, you know, you're going to suffer some ails doing that.
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