Nats' List of Managerial Candidates Appears to Be Growing

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Washington Nationals' search for a manager is likely to continue into November because there are still potential managers involved in the playoffs with whom the team would like to speak, according to sources with knowledge of the search. Thus, even as the club has interviewed a list of candidates -- including former Florida manager Joe Girardi twice -- the Nationals' pool of candidates appears to be growing, not shrinking.

Girardi, according to sources, remains a strong candidate. But the list of potential managers on the three teams remaining in the playoffs -- Detroit, St. Louis and the New York Mets -- includes Mets coaches Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel as well as Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo.

Commissioner Bud Selig annually asks clubs not to generate news during the World Series, which begins Saturday, because he wants the attention of fans to be focused strictly on the games. The Nationals, though, could quietly interview candidates during the Series, continuing a process that began the day after the season ended on Oct. 1, when Frank Robinson managed the last game of his five-year tenure.

Speculation throughout baseball has been that Girardi has an offer in hand but is weighing whether to wait for a chance to manage the New York Yankees in 2008 -- after current manager Joe Torre's contract expires -- but sources with knowledge of the situation insist Girardi doesn't yet have an offer from Washington. One source said even if the Yankees' job were open, Girardi might consider himself a better fit with a rebuilding club such as Washington.

All sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Nationals are insisting the discussions remain private. General Manager Jim Bowden didn't return messages yesterday.

Acta, 37, has been considered a rising star in the coaching ranks since he joined the staff of Mets Manager Willie Randolph in 2005. Personable and outgoing, he publicly handled himself well during a stint managing the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic in March, though there was some question as to how well he did with game strategy and in using personnel.

Acta also has ties to the Nationals. He served on Robinson's staff as third base coach from 2002 to '04, when the club was still in Montreal. Acta managed eight seasons in the minors, all at Class A.

Manuel, 52, is Randolph's bench coach, but he made his reputation as a manager in Chicago, where he managed the White Sox from 1998 to 2003, winning a division title in 2000 and finishing second four times.

Oquendo, 43, has served on Manager Tony La Russa's staff in St. Louis for eight seasons, seven as third base coach. He managed Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

Another possibility is Oakland coach Ron Washington, who has already interviewed in Texas and will be a candidate to manage the Athletics, who fired Ken Macha earlier this week.

Several of the candidates previously identified haven't been kept abreast of the search's progress in recent days. Dusty Baker, the former Cubs manager who wants a new job for next year, spoke to Bowden earlier in the week. "But I haven't heard anything since," Baker said yesterday.

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