*The part of Devil's Advocate will be played by Davo.
Is it really that bad that the Astros lost out on Manny Acta?
We've gone over his resume a ton, but let's talk about this one little thing: .385.
That's his winning percentage as a major league manager. No Cleveland manager has ever been hired with a career winning percentage that low, according to Chris Jaffe over at THT. The Indians have only been around since, oh, 1901 or so. The Astros have been around since '62, but still managed to hire someone with a worse record than Acta. That would be Preston Gomez in 1971. Gomez was coming off a disastrous four-year stretch as the skipper of the San Diego Padres.
But, wait, you say...Acta was sabotaged by a terrible Nationals team! He wasn't given a chance to win and did what he could with a bad product. I submit to you this man. Pena not only took a bad Royals team over .500 for the first time since 1994, he did it with Jose Lima playing a prominent role. Jose "Casa Ole" Lima! That the team lost 100 games the next season or that Pena hasn't gotten a whiff of another job opportunity since shows something, right?
Okay, so you still think losing Acta was a big real, right? Because Acta is this informed individual who uses advanced stats and doesn't like small ball. Let me posit another hypothesis: what if the only reason you like Acta's managerial style so much is because he's allowed you to see it? Look at the interviews he's done, how candid he's been with his quotes and how much information is out there on his process. Doesn't that strike you as odd? It's almost like he's running a campaign....go look on Google right now for Brad Mills. Do it, I'll wait...
What did you find? Not a whole lot. The guy's been managing forever in the minors, has been a bench coach on one of the best, smartest run teams of this decade and we have no quotes about his style? No interviews detailing his usage of splits or UZR numbers? What if Acta is just a better self-promoter? What if our whole perception of him is exactly what he intends us to see and is figment of our collective imaginations?
Now you've gone too far, you say. I probably did, yes. But it still strikes me as odd that Acta is as open as he's been about everything. Didn't he have a blog too at some point this season? Was I dreaming that? It should be considered is all. Do we want our local skipper to have a better relationship with Justice than with Drayton?
So what about Garner then? He's reliable, he's been tested. In fact, he's the only manager to ever get the Astros to the World Series. That's got to count for something, right? Except that he was fired once by this same team. The same team that featured Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman. Those guys are the tone-setters and they know Garner. I'd argue that this is a bad thing, but is it? The real problem is that Garner didn't distinguish himself as a tactician back then, making an impact more with his calming influence on the club. This current team needs more than an emotional impact, though. They need new thinking.
Don't feel too bad for Ed, Tal and Drayton. So they have to go to their second choice. It's not that bad. Corporations do it all the time. You think ESPN doesn't turn down their top choice for editorial gigs if they ask for more money? The guy just behind you on the pile can do the job about as well as you for the pay we're offering. How is that a bad decision? Plus, will Mills or Garner really be 'managing for their job' if they get just a two-year deal? Shouldn't they always be managing that way? Winning is what we want, it's what the players want, it's what Drayton wants. Why should his employee not want that same thing right away? Certainly, I'm not advocating firing someone before those two years are up, but there should be some urgency there, regardless if they have a contract or not.
Sure, Acta would have been a nice hire, but him going to Cleveland isn't the worst thing in the world. I have thought all kinds of unkind things about Drayton and the front office's lack of commitment to winning. Lately, it's the draft and international free agent spending that gets me the most. Still, I just don't see this as the case with Acta. Sure, everyone liked him, but obviously Drayton didn't like him enough. I'm sure Wade loved C.C. last offseason too, but you didn't see McLane backing up the wheelbarrow for Sabathia. Find me two starting pitchers and a good hitter for the left side of the infield and this offseason will be considered a success.