I could've let it pass, but then why write a blog. I read MLB.com's Bill Ladson's, "Mailbag: "What is Kearns' future?", and was genuinely shocked when I got to Mr. Ladson's answer to the last question, where a reader asked, "How safe is Acta's job and how long does his current contract run?" and Mr. Ladson responded:
"Acta has a contract for the 2009 season and a team option for the following season. Is he safe after 2009? I don't know. I think it will depend on how well the team is playing next year. I believe the Nationals have to improve dramatically for him to manage the team past 2009."
Sorry...Repete, s'il vous plait?, Oh, that's right we're not in Montreal anymore, though the team is still spending like it (cymbal crash)...(ed. note - "Tangent to follow...") ...Actually, Montreal spent around $50 million in 2003, but at least DC was up to $63 million by their second season in 2006 after the team had settled into their new home in RFK, but 2007 saw the total team payroll drop to just over $37 million before the new stadium brought with it an increase to 2008's close-to-$55 million dollar payroll...But seriously, explain to me how this is Manny Acta's fault? Why not double that payroll total and see what Manny Acta can do?
Acta wasn't fired when DC purged itself of all of the Nationals' Managers' hand-picked coaching selections on the final day of DC's '08 season. Acta and franchise veteran, Pitching Coach Randy St. Claire are the only two holdovers from the 2008 staff who'll be returning in '09, and if you think the Nationals' manager didn't take it personally when he received the news that "his" staff had been fired, just remember what Mr. Acta told Washington Post writer Mark Zuckerman in an article entitled, "Coaches' reaction, season wrap-up", to quote:
"'It's a very tough day for me,' the manager said. 'I'm a blessed individual. I haven't had too many bad news in my life. Other than the death of my older brother (in 2006), this is the worst news I've ever had before.'"
When Acta was hired in 2006, ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian wrote an article entitled, "Acta is the antithesis of Robinson", in which Mr. Kurkjian reasoned that the decision to replace the MLB-appointed Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson with new Manager Manny Acta was made because:
"As they attempt to build their franchise with young players, they wanted a manager who was less intimidating than Robinson, they wanted a manager that all the players had the courage to talk to, they wanted a manager who wasn't one of the greatest players in the history of the game."
But it's that same attribute, Acta's ability to talk and work with young players that's being called in to question in recent articles, and appears as the only concrete complaint against Acta's work in '08 in Chico Harlan's "Nationals Journal" blog post entitled, "An Interview with Manny Acta", in which Mr. Harlan says:
"Q: I'll relay one criticism I've heard: That this season, you've oftentimes been more isolated than you were in the past. There's not enough interaction between you and the players."
...and, oddly enough, DC outfielder Lastings Milledge inadvertantly echoes this critique/criticism in MLB.com's Bill Ladson's recent article entitled, "Q&A with Lastings Milledge", (before he ends up providing support for Acta), when Mr. Ladson asks, "You have known manager Manny Acta since your days with the Mets. What was it like playing for him this year?" ...to which Milledge responds:
"'Going from being a best friend to following his orders, it was kind of weird this year. It wasn't bad at all. It was just a little bit different with him -- being in the driver's seat to actually being a coach. I knew I could, but it was different trying to go to him for pointers here and there and how to handle stuff because he is the manager.
'I know he is busy and has press conferences all the time. By being the manager, you don't have the time that you had being a coach. It took time to get used to it, but he's still a great guy and manager. I know he takes a lot of heat because we didn't win. He handles the team great and he knows how to handle young guys. The biggest thing is, he knows how to communicate with guys.'"
Manny Acta's response to Chico Harlan's original question serves as an indirect response to what Lastings Milledge has to say about his relationship with the DC Skipper, when Acta states, (again in Mr. Harlan's article, "An Interview with Manny Acta"):
"...I give players space. I let them have their own space. I don't need to be in their locker room all day and in their faces. I need to give them space. That's why I draw a line. I have a good atmosphere for them over here, and they respect me and I respect them. I don't need to be hanging out with them all of the time. They know that I'm behind them. And that's all I care about. I really could care less about what other people think about me. I'm dead serious."
They've fired his staff. They've questioned his job security. Are the Nationals and those covering the team trying to convince Manny Acta to leave? And what about that unnamed source Chico Harlan quoted back in a late September "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "Change, In Several Forms", remember the, "One team official (who) called the staff the "worst in baseball," right before they were all fired?
Trust me, I listen to sports talk radio up here in the NY/NJ area all the time and every few hours some Mets' fan will call in and suggest getting Acta back in the same tone they always use to say they expect any and all free agents to sign in NY, as if there's no way anyone could possibly want to sign anywhere else...But Mr. Acta ends his interview with Chico Harlan, "An Interview with Manny Acta", by explaining that the Nationals won't have to dismiss him if he can't turn things around:
"The day I feel that I'm the reason things are not going right here, I'm a high-character guy whose money doesn't make him happy; I'll be the first to recognize that and help with the problem."
Watch out, Mr. Acta, that almost sounds like a pledge of accountability, that kind of thing doesn't go over well in Washington these days...