Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just Say No, Manny

Is Manny Acta about to be hired by the only team in baseball that's been run almost as badly as the Nationals over the last few years. OK, it's not the Royals. Or the Pirates. It's the Astros.

The Astros are bad. They won just 74 games this year, and in fact they were lucky. By run differential, they were a 68-win team.

The Astros are old. Six of their starting eight position players in 2009 were 33 or older. Five of their top six starting pitchers by games started this year were 30 or older.

The Astros minor league system is a wreck. They were rated the absolute worst in baseball going into 2009 by Baseball America, and their comments on the ranking didn't offer much hope for the future either:
State of the System: The Astros come off an 86-win season, but leaner times may be ahead for the franchise, which has an older lineup and is No. 30 on our talent rankings by a fairly wide margin. The organization has drafted cheaply and poorly for most of the last four years, culminating with an '07 class that already ranks as one of the worst in draft history. Houston's historic forays into Venezuela are mostly a thing of the past as well; the organization that once dominated talent acquisition in that country now doesn't even have an academy there and makes little impact internationally anymore.
And they have one of the few GMs left who might have competed with Jim Bowden for the title "Worst GM in MLB," Ed Wade. The last couple years of roster management have been just awful down in Houston. When he wasn't getting choked by one of his own players (yes, Chacon is crazy, but who signed him?), he committed these general managerial sins:
  • Signed Kaz Matsui for 3 years, $16.5 million.
  • Signed--and actually gave starts to--Brian Moehler ($2.3m), Mike Hampton ($2m), Shawn Chacon ($2m), Jack Cassel ($400k), Russ Ortiz (minor league contract), and my favorite, Runelvys Hernandez (minor league contract).
  • Picked up the option year on Brian Moehler for another $3 million.
  • Passed on re-signing Randy Wolf, who went to the Dodgers for $5m.
  • Traded #8 prospect Drew Sutton for Jeff Keppinger.
  • Signed old, terrible Geoff Blum to be his starting third baseman for one year and $1.2 million.
  • Picked up the $1.2 million club option for older, terribler Blum to be his starting third baseman again.
  • Signed the decaying corpse of Brad Ausmus for $2 million to be his starting catcher in 2008.
  • Signed the decaying corpse of Pudge Rodriguez for $1.5 million to be his starting catcher in 2009.
  • Signed Chris Coste. To start. At first base. (For just a couple weeks while Lance Berkman was hurt, but still.)
  • Waited almost two whole years to fire Cecil Cooper.
  • Has shown a troubling interest in ex-Nationals, including Ray King, Aaron Boone, and Micah Bowie.
It could be worse. It looks like the Michael Bourn for Brad Lidge deal might not be as terrible as it looked after a season, though regardless it was the epitome of the sell-low trade. Trading for old Miguel Tejada and the last two years of his $72 million contract turned out as well as possibly be hoped for, but it's still not a trade that made a lot of sense for a rebuilding team.

Drafting catcher Jason Castro with the #10 overall pick in 2008 ahead of higher upside guys like Justin Smoak and Brett Wallace was rightly questioned at the time, but Castro played well enough this year to quiet some of that criticism for a while at least.

Bottom line, whoever takes this job is doomed. Just like Manny was doomed here in DC. I know managerial jobs don't come along very often, but, really Manny, you don't want this job.


Anonymous said...

Astros are interview 10 people. Acta is just getting a minority interview and a thank you for past service based on this past time served.

Yet if the Wade is as bad as you say. If Wade is really as bad as Bowden, then maybe your right, Acta will be offered the job!

Steven said...

regardless of what you thought of the job Manny did here in DC, I think it's pretty reprehensible to say he's "just getting a minority interview."

He's clearly a credible candidate worthy of an interview regardless of his ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

Would you hire Manny Acta to manage your team? Would he be your first, second, third or 10th choice?

Just saying, be honest and tell where he would rank in your world

Steven said...

I would interview him, sure.

James Bjork said...

Cluck indignantly all you want about postulating Manny's interview as a "token minority" gesture, but in the current system, there IS the added contingency there.

As such, a minority candidate must always live with the seed of doubt that he spent his time coming to a team for an interview solely to meet a quota.

Sucks, but there it is.

That said, I DO agree that Manny has earned the right to an interview based solely on his qualifications, having major league managerial experience, as well as minor league experience in the Astros' system.

I think the Astros are a train wreck too- for having a Snyder-esque owner who always wants to win NOW, and shoves aside the desires of more astute baseball minds (*COUGH! Hunsicker- COUGH!)

Steven said...

I just don't agree with that. You could say that every white male's achievement is always tainted by white male privilege.

You could say the achievements of the 10% of Ivy Leaguers who still today are enrolled as legacies are all fatally tainted.

You could argue that every kid that didn't go to a crummy inner-city high school is tainted by primary education privilege.

There is no such thing as a perfect competitive market in our society or any other. We all have certain advantages and disadvantages, and to single out JUST this one public policy and IGNORE all the other public policies and social and economic factors that favor other groups and just say that minorities are tainted by affirmative action is a really narrow prism to view the world.

It's fine to not like affirmative action. That's not what I'm objecting to. We're not talking about public policy--we're talking about Manny Acta. And for someone to out of left field say that this man is so unqualified, so non-credible as a job candidate that the only way he could get one of ten interviews is as a token minority gesture is beyond insulting to Manny. So I'm defending Manny and saying that's an absurd dismissal of Manny's totally earned credentials.

JayB said...


Sure Acta has earned an interview in a pool of 10 candidates but that is far from saying he has earned the job. He has not! I take it you content that he did an average job or better with the Nats? Acta proved he was ridged and unable to adapt. He proved he had no ability to lead or inspire a team to work hard and play to win. Why would any team look at his Nats body of work and say, "yes, that is what I want to bring to his organization".

He will be lucky to get a first base coach job this winter.

On the issue of minority or not.....just not the point....all that matters is his skill set (or lack there off really).

JayB said...

Sorry to rant but honestly Steven....

Acta teams were never ready to play out of spring training. They could not play defense at all. They had not idea how to hit cut off men, run bases.....Riggs took the same team without Morgan and mad them at least watchable and improved record by about .100 winning percentage....over that long a time frame it is not bad luck it is bad leadership. The data does not lie you should understand that.

James Bjork said...

Your points are well-taken. I don't like legacy admissions and the other sources and legacies of inequality either. The mandated minority interview just seems like such a ham-handed pandering tactic, especially when it really may not accomplish the intended objective. Teams can still hide behind having conducted such an interview if its executives harbor a bigoted mindset and wanted a good-ol'-boy all along.

I agree that Acta's strengths might lie elsewhere other than managing an MLB club, but I at least think he's qualified for an INTERVIEW on his merits.

Steven said...

I agree that a mandated single interview alone has a whiff of tokenism. I suspect whether you swing on the right or the left, you find this policy pretty unsatisfying.

JayB said...

Kris Kline's view of stats in evaluating players......* "It's unfortunate for me that a lot of teams are basing their scouting on stats and all kinds of formulas. It seems like they're trying to reinvent the game. And the game is still the same. If you walked into a ballpark and saw Troy, you just had a sense that he'd be in the majors. You develop that instinct, first, I guess, as a player. I've been playing baseball since I was 7 or 8 years old, and when I got into the baseball I wasn't the best player -- jack of all trades, master of absolutely none. Knew I wasn't gonna play in big leagues, but I always paid attention to better players, listened to managers, picked their brains, and after a while, you have a larger database to go by. You learn it. Nothing replaces your instincts as far as evaluating a player. Statistics tell a part of the story: If a guy hits .300 everywhere he's been, he's a pretty good hitter. If he's a .240 hitter in Class AA and he's 24 yrs old, he's probably just that. But stats are stats -- and yeah, some people put a lot of emphasis on that; it's how they're graded in the end. But as far as putting a draftboard together, it should be just a small piece to the puzzle."

I like this approach....much like I said back with Milledge in CF....all you had to do is watch a few games back in 2008 to KNOW Milledge would never make it in CF. Rizzo trusts his eyes first....I like that, you can make stats say whatever you want to see. Much like saying Kearns will be much better in 2008 and 2009. Care to go for 2010 Steven?