10/16/09 9:02 PM ET
Melvin, Acta interview with Astros
Former managers make cases for open spot in Houston
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
They were the fifth and six candidates to interview in three days with Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, general manager Ed Wade, assistant GMs Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck and special assistant Enos Cabell. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and Philadelphia bench coach Pete Mackanin will interview on Saturday.
Acta, who was fired in July after 2 1/2 seasons as manager of the Washington Nationals, considers the Astros his dream job. He signed with the Astros at 16 years old and spent 16 years in the organization as a Minor League player and manager.
"It would be too good to be true," Acta said. "It's amazing because as I mentioned I owe them everything, including my wife. I met her while playing in the Minor Leagues for them. That being said, I understand what the process is all about. They have to do what's best for the Astros, and I'm happy to be part of it."
Acta, 40, is also in the running for the manager spot in Cleveland, having had a phone interview earlier in the week. He said he expects a phone call over the weekend informing him whether he's one of the three finalists, but he certainly demonstrated he has a great knowledge of the Astros while meeting with the media.
Acta managed ace pitcher Roy Oswalt in the Minors and slugger Lance Berkman in the instructional league, and he knows Carlos Lee from managing in winter ball in Venezuela. That being said, he realizes the Astros have issues to resolve beyond their star players.
"The left side of the infield needs some work and the catching situation has given this team a few problems up until [former first-round draft pick Jason] Castro is ready to come in and step up," Acta said. "I believe that Roy and Wandy [Rodriguez] probably need a supporting cast, but there are some bright spots there."
While some may point to his 163-254 career record as manager in Washington and believe he's unqualified, Acta said Washington was a difficult situation.
"I learned that rebuilding is tough, rebuilding is cruel and can be grueling, but those are the types of jobs that go to people like me," Acta said. "Obviously, you're going to ask one of those big-time managers to do one of those jobs, but we have to get our foot in the door. We did it and it was a tremendous experience and we can use that going forward."
Melvin guided a veteran Seattle team to 93 wins during his first year as manager in 2003 and four years later led an up-and-coming Arizona club to the National League Championship Series and was named NL Manager of the Year. That history of success with younger and older players is a key asset.
"This [Astros team] looks to be a mix of both [young and old] and having experience with both of those groups, I feel like I'm a good candidate for this one," Melvin said.
Melvin, 47, spent 10 years playing the Majors as mostly a backup catcher with Detroit, San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City, Boston, the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox. He began his post-playing career by scouting for the Brewers and became an assistant to the GM. He was bench coach under Bob Brenly in Arizona from 2001-02 before going to Seattle.
One of the aspects that attracted him to the Astros job is the club's history of being in contention so many times in the past 15 years.
"This organization has always been committed to winning and based on the payroll they certainly have the resources to win here," Melvin said. "I know that's always been the focus. It's an ideal situation to be in and a great organization, and I really love coming to this ballpark and performing in front of Texas fans.
"I always found whether there's 25,000 [fans] in his place or 45,000 in this place, it always is a very excited crowd. I know coming from Arizona over the years that our guys really look forward to coming here."
Garner, who managed Houston to the World Series in 2005, called Smith last week to recommend Melvin and wound up being a candidate himself. Melvin was the bench under Garner when he managed in Milwaukee and Detroit.
"He's a great friend of mine," Melvin said. "I owe a lot of my career to him. We have a long history together, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."
Houston interim manager Dave Clark and Minor League field coordinator Al Pedrique interviewed Wednesday and former Brewers manager Ned Yost and San Diego Padres hitting coach Randy Ready interview on Thursday.
The Astros will wrap up the first round of interviews on Monday with Boston Red Sox coaches Tim Bogar and Brad Mills. Wade said Friday there will be no additional candidates beyond the 10 they originally scheduled.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.