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Sunday, May 31, 2009

I think it is about that time

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.


JayB said...

Thanks for the you know I came to the very same conclusion last year but was willing to give him one last chance but with the way he ran spring training...Milledge given a job not earned, same with many Bull Pen was clear before the season started he was going to crash and burn.

Going forward? Riggleman is the obvious choice. He might well be our Dave Trembly. If not what is really needed is a complete house cleaning from GM down...keep Rick E. as hitting coach and fire everyone else in baseball operations except Dana Brown.

Chris Needham said...

two things

1) if they're going to make a change, they might wait 'til after the Lincecum/Randy/Cain juggernaut that's going to crush us this week. (although the off day is always a good time to do it)

2) Potomac's manager, Trent Jewett, was one of the finalists for Manny's job. I imagine they're still high on him internally.

Natty Fan said...

Excellent post.

I've been a Manny fan from the start. I've defended him against overly-critical fans that held him responsible for things beyond his control, and held him to a higher standard than any MLB manager should be held to.

While I often derided their anti-Manny rantings as "irrational," I can't honestly say that my support of Acta is any more rational. I liked his demeanor, and he said the right things. After 2007, I thought he had made lemonade out of lemons, and I expected that he could (eventually) make a good team great. Obviously, that hasn't happened, and I can't rationally defend him. And I don't really want to anymore.

I dislike talk of "auras" (especially from our new GM), but this organization has an aura of failure. I wouldn't have said this in March, but two months later, I'm all for cleaning house, from Kasten all the way down to the last scout.

I'm not angry, and I'm not demanding blood. I can watch a bad team -- I just can't watch a hopeless one. Last seasons was awful, but this season has completely deflated me. It's completely irrational, but a major change would give me a little bit of hope.

MikeHarris said...

For the record, I do not hold Manny responsible for Josh Bard not being able to catch.

An Briosca Mor said...

Manny Acta impressed in 2007 by taking lemons and making lemonade. Either he had some managerial tricks up his sleeve, or it was beginner's luck. But since then he's been Roseanne RosannaActa. "It's aaalways sumthin'!" He's got to turn it around, or it will be clear that 2007 was a fluke. But you'd have to figure that by now he's tried every possible trick he has, yet they continue to lose. There's no reason to keep him around any more. Bring up one of the minor league guys as the interim manager for the rest of the year. Maybe he catches lightning and does okay this season, in which case give him a one year contract for next year. If the interim guy doesn't turn it around, then get a real manager in the offseason.

In summary, I think it's time to DeActavate this team. There's everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing it.

JayB said...


Are you man enough to admit that you were wrong about keeping Acta? You have been saying for months that their is no way he get fired and no way he should....What gives?

An Briosca Mor said...

JayB, all I've ever said about Acta is that he should have a chance to turn it around. I really have never had any idea whether he'd be able to do it or not. I just said he deserved the chance. Now, I think he's had enough of a chance and hasn't been able to turn it around, so they might as well bring someone else in to see if he can do it.

As for my prediction that they won't fire him, I stand by that. I still don't expect they'll fire him until the season is over, when instead of actually firing him they'll just not pick up his option. That's the MO of this front office.

bdrube said...

I wasn't on the "Fire Manny" bandwagon until after the 1-10 start, but it infuriated me that for the third season in a row the team was not ready to play at the beginning of the season.

I actually think the Ntas did Manny a disservice by keeping him on this long. Had he been canned at 1-10, Bowden would have gotten most of the blame. Now, it is obvious by the team's sloppy and lackadasical play that it is not just Jimbo who is at fault.

If I owned another team and was looking for a manager, I would never consider Acta after this debacle.

Ben said...

I think it's safe to say that the cloud of doom has fallen over this club house. However, I think there is little point in firing Manny until Rizzo can swap out some of the players. A new manager can only change so much here before reality sinks in, the rush wears off and the go back to losing and everyone feel demoralized again. Call it the Bonafacio effect.

Unless the interim Riggleman and then bring in a new guy when the players are traded.

Wil Nieves said...

Do you think they'll bring in just a new manager when/if they make a change or will there be any shuffling in the front office. Seems like it's going to be difficult going into the draft with no GM, either a new manager or a manager flapping in the breeze, and a 0.250 winning percentage (we're going to have to improve from our current performance to even reach that).

Also, what's your take on Rizzo's statements about the catcher's ERA? My problem with it (clearly I am not the best qualified to discuss this) is that Dukes and Jesus got hurt at about the same time. So it's hard to separate worse defense from worse game calling...

Mama B said...

They have a gem of a manager in the bullpen - Randy Knorr. He managed the Nats only championship team last year at high A. Believes in fundamentals (where we are sorely lacking right now) and has consistently taken disparate groups of players and melded them into a team.

ben said...

I think one of the problems that we are having is that Rizzo was brought in specifically because he build the monument to good baseball that is the Arizona farm system and, he built it through drafting. Now he has to do the same but, how do you dump guys like Willigham, Keanrs Guzman (I'll not list them all) if you are focusing on a draft which, lets be honest, he is gambling his whole future on.

We need a GM. Either that means you hire someone else to do the drafting work, but why would you when you have someone in the organisation who does it so well, or you hire a damn GM.

This problem of fudging things permeates the whole team from the GM role to centre field. It's our calling card and it can only lead to bad baseball.

George Templeton said...

I thought today (June 1) would be the day that Manny Acta would get the bullet for what has happened. It isn't his fault, but it would probably be best for all involved.
If Acta does get fired I would propose someone who has built a winner twice. Someone who has been a GM and a manager at the same time. Someone who could let Rizzo get back to his job as personnel director.
If the Nats really want to make a splash and show the fans that they are trying to do something then hire Buck Showalter. Hire him and say to him at the end of the season, the organization is yours fix however you think it needs to be fixed.

MikeHarris said...

I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring up Buck.
Not sure how I feel about that one.

DMan said...

Some of what is going on is really not Manny's fault. If you don't have enough good players and a proper mix of talent, you will not win. However, what you can legitimately lay at his feet is the lack of fundamentals. The team has been under prepared to start the last 2 seasons. I can live with mistakes of execution - overthrows, drops, etc. when attempting to make the proper play. But the seemly constant mental mistakes are inexcusable. It's time to make the change. Embrace the bad - 62 Mets, here we come!!