In a long-anticipated move, the Nationals yesterday fired third-year manager Manny Acta following the team's 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros. Ironically enough, Acta's firing came a day after arguably one of the Nationals' best performances in recent memory, a 13-2 drubbing of Houston. Ultimately, the overly disappointing season, lackluster defense, and implorable bullpen management did Manny in.
Acta's job had been the topic of much speculation weeks ago, when media outlets prematurely speculated that he would be replaced by bench coach and veteran manager Jim Riggleman. After a better-than-expected performance in interleague play, which included series wins against both the Yankees and Blue Jays, it seemed as though Manny had been given one more chance. In the end, however, it appears as though the Nationals ultimately had to go with a new approach after returning from the All-Star break. After all, the fate of the manager of a team that is 26-60 and on a pace to win not even 50 games is pretty much a done deal.
Acta was 158-252 in 2 and a half seasons at the helm of the Nationals, his first MLB managerial job (he had also managed the Dominican Republic in the 2006 WBC, as well as some other winter league teams in the Dominican), but his few successes were frequently contradicted by his aloof approach to the media, where he seemed to stress how patience and maturation were virtues that would pay off for the Nationals in the long-run. This may very well be true, but unfortunately Manny won't be around to see it happen.
Bullpen woes have been the tail of the Nats' season, with a revolving door of mediocre relievers showing spots of stability, but far more frequent failures. A young starting pitching core and some evidence of offensive prowess both at the big league and minor league levels is what will ultimately impact the Nationals' success over the next several years. Even this though, remains questionable.
Riggleman brings a wealth of experience to the job from his previous managerial stints with the Padres, Cubs, and Mariners at an overall record of 522-652 in 9 seasons. He will be labeled with the infamous "interim" tag, but I don't expect him to be around next season. There has been talk (and who knows how likely this is) that former MLB manager Bobby Valentine will return to the big leagues after a successful several year run in Japan. Willie Randolph, former manager of the Mets, has also been talked about as a candidate for the managerial opening next year. Whoever takes the job next year will be stuck with what will likely look like the present day Nationals, save Nick Johnson, Ronnie Belliard, and a few others who are likely on their way out of D.C.
I have long thought (and continue to believe) that Manny Acta can someday be a good big league manager. He took a job in a low-pressure, small market situation, where a long-standing lack of talent and failed moves by former Jim Bowden left him stuck with little to work with. I think Acta should hone his game at the minor league level, managing for a few years in AAA and then resurfacing in the majors.
And so goes the sad and constantly in flux state of Washington Nationals baseball. In what might have been one of the Nats better PR moves of late, the team issued a statement to fans via email today. I'm not sure how true any of it is, but I guess they are just trying to be genuine. Read it here: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090713&content_id=5858516&vkey=news_was&fext=.jsp&c_id=wa