Thursday, July 30, 2009

Was it Really all Manny's Fault after All?

With the Nationals on the cusp of winning their third series in a row, the inevitable questions have to be asked.

Is the sudden turn-around the result of the firing of Manny Acta? Is Jim Riggleman making that much of a difference? Is it possible that this team would be 10, 15, or even 20 games better in the win column, if only they had fired Acta and put Riggleman in charge on day one?

Sorry, Fizzleman fans. The answers are no, no, and hell no.

First, it must again be noted that Riggleman has had the luxury of facing some miserable opposition. The Padres and Mets are AAA teams at best. The Brewers are now below .500, and their pitching is extremely suspect after Yovani Gallardo, whom they will see today.

Still, you say, this team has found ways to lose to bad teams all year. You can't take these wins away from them.

And I don't. Some of it is that the bats have heated up again. Riggleman didn't do anything to teach Josh Willingham how to hit two grand slams in a row.

Some of it is that that John Lannan is on a wicked hot streak, saving the bullpen and sending a positive ripple effect through the team.

Some of it is pure regression to the mean.

And indeed some of it is the managerial change, I suspect. Not that Riggleman is any better than Acta (he's not), but it's hard not to tune out a guy after this much losing. It doesn't matter that the losing is a function of the terrible roster. Acta's just too closely associated with too many bad things that have happened over the last two and a half years.

That's why I said at the time that it was time to liberate Manny from this dealth march. Riggleman won't say anything different, but hearing the same thing from a new voice can create a fresh perspective. Just starting fresh with a clean slate can create a short-term uptick in morale.

Is it a long-term solution? No. Is there any reason to think that things would be one iota different if Riggleman had managed from day one instead of Acta? I don't see that.

But unfortunately the narrative is set, and we'll probably have to live with it forever now. Acta was a push-over, and the team lost a lot. Then Riggleman yelled at them, and the team won more. Ergo, Manny sucked, and yelling works.

And now the only question is, is Riggleman tough enough, and if not, is Marlo Stanfield available?

Unfortunately, given the talent in the organization, there's still a lot more losing than winning in this team's future. And people tend to tune out yelling a lot faster than they tune out patient, rational level-headedness. The impressive thing is that it took two years of hopeless beatings for the team to quit on Acta. Put a screamer in there, and the team will be throwing in the towel in weeks, if not days.

Of course, that has little to do with Riggleman, who isn't a screamer, and is taking more or less the same relentlessly optimistic approach that Acta did. That doesn't really fit the narrative though, so that doesn't get mentioned much.

Oh, and there's one other thing that happened right around the time this recent hot streak started. Scott Olsen was lost for the season. Don't forget about that.


hb said...

Marlo didn't yell. If anything, he was like Manny in his terseness and unflappable demeanor. Even the threat of Chris and Snoop wouldn't get this team motivated. No, they need a Stringer or an Avon, who know how to yell at times and make their threats explicit. Hell, D'angelo Barksdale might suffice for them.

Steven said...

The Barksdales weren't yellers either. Really I think Jay Landsman would be the most popular Nationals manager. Maybe Frank Sobotka?

JayB said...

This post confirms you care more about agenda's than facts Steven.

The change was needed and should have come in May or better last Sept with Jimbo being fired too. Then this team would be a much better really needed both moves to get turned around and headed in the right direction.

Oh not to put facts in the way of your agenda many errors have they made in the last 5 games? How does the fundamentals look....the bunting...the base will take time to undue the Acta effect but even you should be able to see it soon enough in Excel, but if you do not want to wait six your eyes and watch a game or two.

An Briosca Mor said...

Of course it wasn't Manny's fault. All the blame goes on Milledge. (Notice how things started to improve once he was traded?) Acta was just an enabler.

How long til they remove the final piece in the puzzle of this lousy team, and exorcise Dukes?

Sasskuash said...

I don't think it's the yelling that did it for the Nationals- I think it's the extra communication. Riggleman has a talk with them after every game- win or lose. I think the debriefing helps keep them level headed and focused on what they need to improve on. I think it helps that he will raise his voice occasionally, and I think the "positive reinforcement" approach is more effective when that positive attitude is vocalized instead of silently assumed as it was under Acta.

I also wonder how much of an effect the extra fielding practice before home games helps. Riggs has the team coming in a couple hours earlier to home games to take full-time fielding practice before batting practice. Before, any field work would be done while guys were in the cages. Riggleman says they tried to implement this during the last few weeks of Acta's tenure, but due to rain and road trips they didn't get to actually use it much. Either way, I do think it does something.

None of these things are the complete answer, but I believe that these changes from Acta do help. It may only be a couple wins, but at this point I'll take even that small increment.

JayB said...


Without trying you got it right kind of.....Getting a real CF is the biggest improvement and Acta did enable Milledge....he was the one who put him in CF and Lead off and let him know it was OK to be late on your birthday.