By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS, June 17 -- On the day the New York Mets fired Willie Randolph, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta tried to explain that his friendship with two leaders in the Mets' front office won't lead to a job alongside them.
"People are really mistaking my relationship with Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard," Acta said, referencing New York's general manager and vice president. "We are friends. I'm assuming you guys have friends, too. And those are two guys I talk to during the season and during the offseason, too. It has nothing to do with Expos, Mets, Nationals or anything. It's friendship, and I think people are blowing things out of proportion. I'm a National. I'm very happy here, and I'll be here as long as the Lerners, Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden want me to be."
After Randolph's late-night firing in Anaheim, Calif., some quick-trigger speculation about Randolph's replacement placed Acta's name in the New York tabloids. During series between the Mets and Nationals, Acta has often found time to talk with Bernazard and Minaya. In late September last year, amid speculation Randolph wouldn't survive a Mets' late-season collapse, Acta's contract was extended through 2009.
In 2002, Acta received his first chance to coach in the big leagues because of Minaya, then with the Expos, who hired Acta as Montreal's third base coach. Acta then followed Minaya to New York, where he spent 2005 and 2006 coaching with the Mets.
Acta called Randolph's long-speculated firing unfortunate. Less than two hours after the Mets defeated the Angels on Monday night, the announcement of Randolph's firing was released to the media -- timing that Paul Lo Duca, another former Met, called "unprofessional." Randolph was replaced on an interim basis by Jerry Manuel.
"I feel bad for Willie," Acta said. "He's a great guy. I worked for him for two years. He treated me the way I wanted to be treated -- with respect. And he was very good to me."
General Manager Jim Bowden, asked how Washington would respond if New York sought permission to speak with Acta, said via e-mail that "Manny Acta is our manager. Permission would be denied."