CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta, who was unable to turn the talent-thin Washington Nationals into winners, was introduced Monday as Cleveland's 40th manager after he picked the Indians over the Houston Astros, a team close to his heart and the one that gave him his start as a big leaguer.
Offered jobs in Houston and Cleveland over the weekend, the 40-year-old Acta selected a city he had never visited until he came for an interview last week. He also chose a team he thinks can recover quickly from a disastrous season and move back into contention.
The Indians signed him to a three-year contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013. Financial terms were not immediately available.
"This is a perfect place for me," Acta said. "That's why I'm here. I'm attracted to all these talented young players. I'm looking forward to teaching and leading them and helping this team win a championship."
Acta spent 2½ years with the Nationals, who fired him after a 26-61 start last season. With Washington, he went 158-252, an ugly mark that has stained his resume. Acta has a lot to prove and is confident he one day will be looked upon differently.
"If you give people the opportunity to choose between Joe Torre after his first three years with the Mets or Joe Torre now, I believe everyone would pick Joe Torre now. Not everybody who is a big shot now was a big shot when they started. Big shots are little shots who keep shooting.
"I'm willing to keep shooting until I become a big shot."
Shapiro said Acta's win-loss record became less of a factor as they learned more about the native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, a hotbed for baseball talent.
"We went through a thorough process, talked to people who had managed against him and played for him at every level and the same kind of comments about Manny kept coming through -- his character, his resourcefulness, his desire to continue to improve, his ability to teach and bring the best out of players.
"When you look at the resume and the characteristics of the person, you combine those and put them into our situation, he's the right man for this organization. He's the right man for this city and he's the right man for our team."
Cleveland, which fired Eric Wedge in the final days of a 65-97 season, began its managerial search with an initial list of 35 candidates. The club whittled to about 10 before inviting Acta, former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine and Torey Lovullo, the Indians' Triple-A manager, to Cleveland for second interviews. The team had also planned to interview Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly a second time.
But when the Astros made an offer to Acta on Saturday, the Indians jumped in and negotiated with his agent before agreeing to a contract that night.
"I knew we might lose him because he got offered a job," Shapiro said. "They offered him a job first while we were still working through our process. We just sped up our timeframe, since we were headed in that direction."
With two offers on the table, Acta said he spent an emotional night at home with his family in St. Cloud, Fla., weighing his options.
"What were the odds I would have two choices?" he said, smiling. "I never imagined I would have been in that situation."
Saying no to the Astros was difficult for him. Acta was drafted by Houston as a 17-year-old and spent 16 years in the club's minor league system, including six seasons as a player and eight as a manager. But he turned down the Astros, who reportedly only offered Acta a two-year package compared to Cleveland's three-year deal.
Acta said he didn't sense the Indians' strong interest in him until they offered the job.
"These people are very good poker players," he said.
During his interviews, Acta impressed the Indians with his detailed knowledge of their team. After he was let go by Washington, Acta immersed himself in learning about other teams so he would be prepared in case there were some openings in the offseason.
His hard work paid off and Acta is already thinking about how he can get the Indians, who just two years ago were one win away from the World Series, back on top in the AL Central. He has begun working with Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti on assembling a coaching staff and would like to have one completed in a few weeks.
Acta also plans to contact many of Cleveland's players and see some play in the Arizona Fall League, Venezuela and the Dominican this winter.
"When I'm in, I'm all the way in," he said. "The only hobby I have is playing golf, and I'm not even good at it. So why would I be out there?"
One of Acta's main goals during the offseason is to help rebuild the confidence of starter Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner in 2007 who was sent to the club's training complex this season in Arizona to work on his mechanics. Acta has other plans. Winning is at the top of his list.
"Nobody likes to lose and I am a sore loser," he said. "I won't even let my wife and daughter beat me at tic-tac-toe. I'm about winning, just like everybody else. We understand that we have to pay our dues in our playing and coaching careers. I'm ready to win."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.