Manny Acta was fired for being too easygoing (and losing a lot)

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Chico Harlan of the Washington Post reports
that Manny Acta was fired by the Nationals in large part because he was
too easygoing, particularly when it came to disciplining players like
Lastings Milledge:

As the season dragged on and the losses accumulated, players
appreciated Acta’s even temperament and easygoing nature. But all the
while, they wondered if a more demanding presence might benefit them.
Acta, fired late Sunday night with a 26-61 record this season, left
behind a clubhouse of players who almost universally enjoyed playing
for him. Every so often, however, they wanted more from him. They
wanted him to reprimand, to punish, to call out those who needed it.
They wanted him to push. …

“There were situations where it was like, ‘Oh man, I hope Manny says
something.’ And it never got said,” said one player, who spoke on
condition of anonymity. “If one person steps out and is not
reprimanded, eventually everybody is saying, ‘Is it okay to do that or
what?’ We kind of police ourselves, but at the same time we’re trying
to build with each other. We just wanted him to say something one time
to reaffirm everything.”

Acta believed that players didn’t generally respond well to public
forms of discipline; embarrassment wasn’t his teaching tool of choice.
He reached out to players, recommending self-help books, always making
himself available to talk about family. Yes, he could get angry — but
the fewer who saw it, the better.

I’ve been an Acta fan since speaking to him at the winter meetings
shortly after he was hired three years ago. He was thoughtful and
interesting and, yes, easygoing. Unfortunately, as Harlan points out
those traits won him more friends than games in Washington. Given more
talent to work with it wouldn’t surprise me if Acta was a successful
manager, but easygoing tends to be a bad fit when you’re losing 100
times a season.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.