October 20, 2006...
On this day, two years ago, the Washington Nationals first asked New York Mets' GM Omar Minaya for permission to interview then-NY third base coach Manny Acta, who had spent time as a coach with Montreal before joining the Mets, and was considered a serious candidate to replace departing Nationals' Manager Frank Robinson. In an uncredited Washington Times' article on 10/17/06 entitled, "Pitching coach retained by Nats", the anonymous writer noted that Acta was just one of the potential managers DC was interested in, but:
"Acta, in particular, is an attractive choice given his familiarity with the organization (he was the Expos' third base coach from 2002 to 2004) and his experience managing the Dominican national team at this year's World Baseball Classic (a team that featured Nationals slugger Alfonso Soriano)."
The Nationals did eventually choose Acta as their Manager, but not even bringing in his friend and Dominican national team skipper was enough to convice the Nationals' reluctant left fielder Alfonso Soriano to turn down the Chicago Cubs' 8-year $136 million dollar offer, so the first-year Manager inherited a team with a young unestablished offense, and the result has been a 132-191 record in his first two seasons and the first signs of doubt surfacing about Acta's abilities.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson, just this week, in the most recent edition of, "Mailbag: What is Kearns' future?", stated that he was unsure about the now-39-year old Acta's future in DC, responding to the question, "How safe is Acta's job...?":
"...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."
Asked what he thought the Nationals would need to achieve success in the future (and now we know, possibly save his own job), by Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in a 9/30/08 "Nationals Journal" post entitled, "An Interview with Manny Acta", the Nationals' Manager stated what is obvious to anyone who has watched the Nationals the last two years:
"It's not a secret that we do need two bats in our lineup that can produce without worrying who's surrounding them...(and)...a couple of pitchers for our starting rotation so finally we can develop our younger guys. You don't want to develop five guys in the big leagues, because you don't want to show up every day not knowing what you're gonna get. I think we need a front line guy and a No. 2 guy, and then fill out the rotation."
Acta is then asked by Mr. Harlan about what if any input he has in personnel decisions, and the Nationals' Manager replies, "I'm just the manager over here, and I'm trying to make the best of what we have," which doesn't exactly sound like a Manager who is happy with the personnel decisions that have been made while he's led the team...
Does anyone out there actually think the Nationals are going to add the big bat and pitcher or two that will make the difference in DC? Or will they wait 'til the last minute, try to explain away their inability to sign the players they need and then ink some bargain-basement possibilities in the hopes that another Tim Redding or Odalis Perez surfaces from amongst the available second-tier free agent options? The only things DC fans know for sure right now are...Peavy isn't interested and the Nationals probably won't be able to afford Mark Teixeira...
Just like it was when Washington first signed their new manager back in '06, it's just Acta and Randy St. Claire right now, with all the Willie Randolph-Barry Larkin-Don Baylor-coaching position talk swirling and the Nationals once again beginning to prepare for a season in which they will most likely not compete in the NL East...after which they might just go out looking for a new Manager and start this all over again...? How is this all Acta's fault again?