Acta and Nationals Will Have Options at Season's End

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS, July 13 -- Come October, the Washington Nationals will be searching for a permanent manager and Manny Acta will be searching for a job, and while there is no chance of a match between the two -- not after the Nationals fired Acta as their manager late Sunday night -- both could wind up having their choice of several enticing possibilities within their respective searches.

Several baseball executives surveyed Monday in St. Louis, where the sport will hold its All-Star Game on Tuesday, predicted Acta, 40, would get a chance to manage in the big leagues again -- though perhaps not right away.

"My guess is that he'll have to go through a coaching job first, but he won't have any trouble [achieving] that," said one National League executive. "He may not be the rising star he was [when the Nationals hired him in November 2006], but I think people will look at that mess in Washington and see him as deserving another chance to manage."

Acta has extensive ties with two other organizations -- the Houston Astros, with whom he played for six seasons as a minor leaguer and coached and managed in the minors for nine more, and the New York Mets, for whom he served as third base coach from 2005-06 -- although he is unlikely to find a new job before the end of this season, even if he wanted one. The Nationals still owe him the balance of his $600,000 salary for 2009.

The Nationals, meantime, named bench coach Jim Riggleman their interim manager in the wake of Acta's firing, and indicated a willingness to consider him for the permanent hire. However, interim managers are rarely retained -- as Riggleman found out last year, when he got the interim job in Seattle following John McLaren's midseason firing, only to be passed over for the permanent job.

Speculation in Washington is certain to focus on Bobby Valentine, the former Texas Rangers and New York Mets manager now in the final year of his contract for Japan's Chiba Lotte Marines, who appear unlikely to bring him back. Valentine has publicly acknowledged a desire to return to the United States, although it is unclear if the Nationals would be willing to pay Valentine what he is making in Japan (about $4 million), or if not, whether he would agree to a steep pay cut.

Valentine, 59, declined comment in response to an e-mail message seeking to gauge his interest in the Nationals' job.

Nationals President Stan Kasten is known to maintain ties to several potential candidates from his days with the Atlanta Braves, including Ned Yost, formerly the Braves' third base coach and most recently the Milwaukee Brewers' manager; Jim Fregosi, who managed four different teams between 1978 and 2000 and is currently the Braves' advance scout; and Terry Pendleton, the current Braves hitting coach, whom the Nationals interviewed for their manager's job in 2006.

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' acting general manager, also has ties to potential candidates from his days as the Arizona Diamondbacks' farm director, perhaps most significantly to former Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who was fired this season and last week was hired as a special assistant by the San Diego Padres.

One executive who knows both men said Rizzo and Melvin remain close, and that Melvin would "jump" at the chance to manage again.

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