By Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 10, 2006
New York Mets third base coach Manny Acta returned from Japan yesterday, exhausted from a long flight and lack of sleep, but still with the hope provided by the news that he is still in the running to become the next manager of the Washington Nationals.
Acta, who coached third base for a team of major leaguers that swept a five-game series from Japanese professionals over the past week, confirmed that Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden called him shortly after the team charter arrived in Chicago yesterday and was told he's "still a factor in the process."
"It's such an attractive job for me," Acta said. "I'm only two years removed from being with that team, and I still know a lot of the players. It's a really exciting possibility."
Acta, who coached third base on the staff of former manager Frank Robinson from 2002 to 2004 when the franchise played in Montreal, still has other potential opportunities. He is scheduled to interview for the Oakland Athletics' vacant managerial position on Sunday in Naples, Fla., with A's General Manager Billy Beane.
Acta is one of five remaining candidates to replace Ken Macha, who was fired by Oakland last month. Two of those candidates -- ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser and Japanese league manager Trey Hillman -- said this week they hadn't heard from Washington.
The Nationals have kept their list of candidates closely guarded, and it's possible there are some who have not been publicly identified. One candidate, New York Yankees first base coach Tony Peña, may not be in strong standing. Peña told the New York Times that he had spoken to the Nationals once but that "I have not heard from them yet."
Other candidates who have not heard from Washington recently -- such as former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker -- assume they have been eliminated from contention.
Acta, 37, has already interviewed once in Washington, meeting not only with Bowden and team president Stan Kasten but with team owners Theodore and Mark Lerner, perhaps an indication of the seriousness of his candidacy.
"I'm just convinced they have a great plan," Acta said yesterday.
In other news, former Chicago Cubs color analyst Steve Stone confirmed yesterday that he has been contacted regarding the Nationals' TV analyst's job, which came open when the team and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network let go Tom Paciorek.
"I was called to see if I had interest, and the answer was yes," said Stone, whose 11-year career was highlighted by his winning the American League Cy Young Award for the Baltimore Orioles in 1980. "But as I understand it, they're going to take their time and make the best decision for them."
Stone provided analysis for Cubs telecasts from 1983 to 2000 and again from 2003 to '04, working alongside legendary play-by-play man Harry Caray for most of that time. He said he is eager to return to the daily grind of team broadcasting, and would relish the opportunity to do so in Washington.
"Number one, it's a very exciting city," he said. "Number two, they're opening a brand-new ballpark in 2008. And number three, the team is just going to get better and better as they lay a foundation and build on it. It's a highly desirable job."
Bob Carpenter, the Nationals' play-by-play man who is under contract for next year, was upset by Paciorek's dismissal.
"I was really disappointed," Carpenter said. "But I'm going to work hard to give us the best telecast in baseball, whoever my partner is."
Other potential candidates to replace Paciorek include Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton and former ESPN analyst Harold Reynolds.