This one is tough to write for a variety of reasons. I really, really like what Manny Acta seems to be about and I want him to succeed - not just because he manages my favorite team. I'm also breaking one of my cardinal rules because I am griping about a problem and I can't offer a solid solution. But not writing this would be breaking a promise I made to my faithful readers. I will never be less than honest in how I think. Often wrong, yes. But always honest.
I think a managerial change has to be made. And I have one of those feelings that if the Nats lose today - and who doesn't fully expect that to happen? - it will happen before the start of the homestand Tuesday. A 2-9 homestand followed by an 0-6 road trip? They just can't let that pass and not do something. You can't come out of the gate 13-36 after a 102-loss season.
What flipped the switch?
Well, I was going to write this on Thursday and wanted some time to think. Manny's comments in the postgame after Wednesday's loss in New York have stuck right in my craw. He made an excellent point about the overruled home run. How does it hit the sign, head toward the field and then bounce back TOWARD the fence? Shouldn't it bounce toward Dunn? Excellent question.
So why didn't he haul out there and ask the umpires? Why didn't he take a baseball with him and provide a demonstration? Why did he not go nuts after that one? Why did he not fight for his guys? Not that it would have changed the call. Of course not. But the players HAVE to see that you are MAD ENOUGH to fight for them. The balk call? Same thing. I sure as hell didn't see a balk there. Don't shrug. GO FIGHT. Get tossed in defense of your team.
Stoic and calm is good in most situations. I don't want a raving lunatic managing my team. But I do want some fire, someone who knows that sometimes you have to show it.
Check out some Atlanta broadcasts. Bobby Cox looks stoic as all get out every time they pan to him. Guy makes an error? Mr. Stoic. Ball flies out of the park? Mr. Stoic. Guy gets nailed being stupid on the bases? Mr. Stoic. An ump makes a bad call? Berserk. All-time record for ejections. Has anyone ever said that kind of thing is bad for his team? Ask any former Brave you happen to meet. They'll all KILL for Bobby Cox. Never shows 'em up in public. Has their back. EVERY TIME.
The actual baseball stuff? I'm sure Manny knows his stuff. Yet this team is pretty weak fundamentally, something we've all noted from time-to-time. They don't cover bases. We could go on and on there. We probably could with any manager.
That isn't what has me sliding into the "must go" camp. I asked it much earlier this season, maybe after the first game. Is this the right manager for THIS team? I've come to the conclusion he is not.
What's next? That's where I come up empty. Riggleman as interim, then let Rizzo or a permanent GM hire a manager after the season? Listach? I know he's well regarded. His decisions at third base don't fill me to the brim with confidence. But I'd be OK with that if he can light a fire under these guys. I don't know right off the top of my head who else is out there. Are any of the minor league managers worth a hoot, worthy of a shot?
I'll repeat what I've said many times. Manny isn't playing on a level field. He doesn't have a full deck like most other managers. I'm also not expecting a pennant or even playoffs. I think a push toward .500 was realistic and most of us felt that way. I can't even calculate what they'd have to do now to finish with a .500 record. I'm not sure the team can win the 28 games it needs to win to beat the '62 Mets. I just don't think Manny is doing all he can with the deck he does have.