Monday, June 15, 2009

Manny Acta Never Had a Chance

Word is that Manny's in his final hours as manager of the Washington Nationals. It's a perfectly understandable move for a team working on one of the worst two-year runs in baseball history. Something has to be done to shake things up, and it's hard to imagine any manager being able to suffer this much losing and not lose the confidence of the team.

But let's be clear: Manny could be the best manager humanity's ever known, and the Nationals would still be awful. I've criticized plenty of Manny's decisions over the years.

On the day it was reported that he would be fired, he once again cost the Nationals any chance at victory with his absurdly quick hook, pulling Jordan Zimmermann after just five innings in which he threw 92 pitches and allowed just four hits, one run, and two walks against six strikeouts. Boy, I'm tired of that.

Still, Manny really never had a chance.

The most unfortunate thing to me isn't just that Manny's never had a good team--he's never had a young team. Remember, that was the whole idea hiring him in the first place. Manny had a ton of experience in the minors as a player, scout, coach, and manager. He's still just 40 and can relate easily to young players from various backgrounds.

Yeah, he's had the occasional Milledge, Flores, Dukes, or Lannan. This year the rotation's gotten suddenly very young, very fast. But for most of his time here, he's written line-up cards full of names like Belliard, Kearns, Harris, Lo Duca, Lopez, Guzman and Young.

It's just another sign of the team's schizophrenic dysfunction that while building a coaching staff designed to help young players crack into the majors, they built rosters full of fading veterans and journeymen.

One other thing that's bothering me. Like they did with Jim Bowden when he was pushed out, the team is letting Manny twist in the wind with reports in the media that he's about to be fired. Why do they do this? Just fire Manny and get it over with.

Once Stan Kasten doesn't deny the report that the firing is imminent, what are they waiting for? This kind of indecisiveness is just bad for morale and makes management look every bit as incompetent as the team's performance on the field.

I wish Manny good luck. Whatever his next job is, it can't be worse.


John O'Connor said...

Good post, agree with pretty much everything in it. I will say, though, that I think Manny's in-game decision-making has been more or less horrific. But that's less than half of what's improtant about a manager, and probably much less than half of what's important for a manager of a team that's not built to win now. And the in-game stuff is fixable (and Manny has fixed some of it, such as the moronic double-switches).

Don't get me wrong, Manny probably has to go. As much as he is a stand-up guy in the post-game press conferences, this team just needs a different personality and approach.

Mr. Mustache said...

I don't understand the criticism of taking out Zimmermann this weekend. His innings and pitch count should be watched more than anyone. And that's before you consider that he missed his prior start due to an arm injury. Manny has made many terrible decisions on when to pull the pitcher. This was not one of them.

Steven said...

I agree this wasn't his most egregious sin. It's just the latest example of a pattern.

Still, 5 innings and 92 pitches? I think that's a bit extreme if the only rationale is to protect the young arm. I'm generally a hawk on pitcher abuse, but this seems overboard.

If he goes out there in the 6th and walks the first guy, then fine, pull him. But he was basically cruising. With a couple quick outs he could easily go one more inning without reaching any kind of danger zone for pitch counts.

Roughly Speaking... said...

Acta should be fired for having twice played Corey Patterson. It's not his fault that Rizzo called him up, but it's his fault that Patterson got to start a major league game.

Cheryl Nichols said...

I have to agree with Mr. Mustache. Jordan skipped a start because a tweak in his arm. It was fair to pull him after 92 pitches. For all we know, maybe McCatty said 90 was the limit for this start or Jordan may have given an indication that he was at his limit. Who knows. Everyone seems to think that they know the best solution.

It was Bergmann that didn't do his job at that time. I understand that no player is perfect and they will have bad games, however, we have to remember that this is their JOB and they are expected to perform more often than not and that isn't happening with all of them.

I hope that Manny stays and finishes the season.

flippin said...

I like Manny Acta and I think the Nats brass does to, he is not twisting in the wind. My guess is that Manny knows he is done and management is trying to sort out the most humane way to let him go. Acta may have asked them to wait until this afternoon or perhaps after the Yankee series. He deserves as much. As for individual moves, yes he has made some head scratchers. But, lets face it, rearranging the deck chairs (and criticizing it) seems kind of silly at this point anyway.

phil dunn said...

Acta is just one of the problems. The major problem is the incompetent ownership and that is not going to change. Firing Acta and St. Claire is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. That said, I think the Nats would be better off with a manager who has some fire in his belly. He is far too laid back and as a result the whole roster is sleep walking through the season.

longgandhi said...

Manny never had a young team? The Nats finished last season with the youngest team in the majors.

And please stop with the "Manny's never had anything to work with" routine. The Nats have one of the best offenses in the NL - 3rd in on base, 3rd in slugging - yet are 8th in runs scored. The reason is that they are a terrible baserunning team (as evidenced by their last place ranking in SB efficiency, among other things). That's a coaching problem, not a talent problem.

Manny routinely yanks his promising young starters in order to put in the wrong mediocre reliever. Soft-tossing lefty Beimel as the closer? Please.

The defense is the worst in the majors but some of these guys are actually good glove men. So why are they making so many mistakes? Maybe it's because Manny has everyone taking infield before every game, which is a little like having an NBA team take free throw practice before every game. Mindless repetition like that doesn't improve a team; it only leads to bad habits.

They have some flaws for sure, but what is most ailing the Nats is Manny Acta.

Ben said...

Can we stop talking about stats like they exist in isolation? Yes our offense is much better this year but, because we have a lot of player who really really can't defend. Nick is an upgraded bat, but frankly he's not even as good around the bag as Casto. Dukes is a very good RF who has been forced to play in CF. The less said about Dunn and Willingham the better, Guzman is bad on a statue at SS, and Kearns has very limited range (although he is also a light contributor to our offense to be fair to him). The fact is if you have mediocre players you chose the strengths that you value. This season we valued offense and because of this we are paying a price on defense. Granted there have been a few nasty surprises (Hernandez, Gonzalez) but you reap what you sew. We let Emilio go for Willigham. Why because one had what we wanted and the other didn't.

You can not make gold out of straw. Not Manny, not Francona, not Torre. So if we are firing Manny lets be honest and admit is just because we need a change of scenery. Sometimes that works and it may be worth a shot but, let's not pretend this man has let us down.

Anonymous said...

It isn't Manny's game management, it is that he set _this_ team up in spring training and it was a bad team. He left spring training with an incredibly bad bullpen and awful defense. He doesn't pithc and catch, but he picks the guys who do pitch and catch, and if he can't tell the guys who can from the guys who can't, that's a bad manager.

Souldrummer said...

The way their handling this firing is Metsesque with the firing of Willie Randolph. Fire the man. Don't leak it, not deny it, and leave him twisting in the wind. The way it was leaked, on the day that Willingham's brother died was sad.

Still, I'm pretty neutral on whether Manny should stay or go. I've felt that around the all-star break or after the interleague BoSox/Yankees/Rays gauntlet might be better than doing this right now.

But it seems to be a done deal at this point.

Management, though is ultimately the problem. Why are we bringing Kip Wells back? Bergmann was performing adequately until this one conspiculously bad inning.

I'd still like to see Tyler Clippard given a chance.