07-13-2009, 03:15 AM
Acta says he's been fired
Sunday, July 12, 2009 ESPN.com news services Updated: July 13, 2009, 1:28 AM ET
Manny Acta has been fired as manager of the Washington Nationals, he told ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas on Sunday.
The Nationals were blanked by the Houston Astros on Sunday 5-0 to go into the All-Star break with the worst record in the league at 26-61.
"I thank the Nationals for giving me this opportunity and I'm sorry that things didn't work out as expected. It's normal for the manager to pay the price when the team is not doing well," Acta said.
Although not confirmed, Jim Riggleman is the leading candidate to take over as manager for the remainder of the season.
In three seasons at the Washington helm, Acta posted a 158-252 record. His best season came in his first when the Nats finished 73-89, but they slid to 59-102 last year. Washington was on pace to win only 48 games this season.
Before getting the Nationals job, Acta was the third base coach for the New York Mets.
07-13-2009, 03:17 AM
Wouldn't that be two consecutive seasons Riggleman gets a interim manager position? Note to future managers: Do not let this man be your bench coach.
07-19-2009, 06:36 AM
I was unaware that Riggleman is a Washington area native. Boswell's column today:
By Thomas Boswell
Thursday, July 16, 2009
For a third of a century, when Washington didn't have baseball, the bonds of affection between the sport and the nation's capital grew weaker every year. Each season, those who had once played for the Senators and were still in major league uniforms as managers or coaches, dwindled and disappeared from the sport, a Dick Bosman or Frank Howard at a time.
Ever more rare, almost extinct now for decades, were those in baseball who had actually grown up in the Washington area and learned to love the sport in their formative youth by watching the Senators. Once, the commissioner of baseball, Bowie Kuhn, had worked in the scoreboard at Griffith Stadium. But those authentic Washington connections shrunk long ago.
Right now, as far as I can determine, the only man now wearing a major league uniform -- in any capacity, manager or coach -- who grew up in the Washington area, attended games here as far back as Griffith Stadium and spent his childhood and youth loving the Senators is Jim Riggleman.
Now, in a season of mortifications and misery for the Nationals, Riggleman is suddenly the manager of Washington's team. True, interim only. Perhaps this is just a sweet 75-game interlude, like his 90 games as interim manager of the Mariners last season. Or maybe this will become a mini-fairy tale. Either way, what are the odds?
"This is my home. I still have family here," said Riggleman who grew up in Rockville and went to Richard Montgomery High before graduating from nearby Frostburg State. "I grew up watching Fred Valentine and Danny O'Connell."
O'Connell was one of the original, atrocious expansion Senators in '61. In 591 at-bats that year, he hit one home run. The next year, in 268 at-bats, he got much better -- two homers. So, he retired. O'Connell wasn't a hero to many, just a few Washington kids -- including Riggleman, who was 8 and 9 years old then, the age when baseball grabs you and sometimes never lets go.
"We had the Senators. We loved the Senators. But we didn't win enough, we didn't support 'em enough and we lost 'em," Riggleman said. "All those years when Washington didn't have a team, I always said, 'You've got to have baseball in the nation's capital.' So I was thrilled when a team came back."
The word to note here is, of course, "we." So, a managing job that might be a nightmare for some is actually a dream for Riggleman.
He's also probably good news for the Nats. The 56-year-old isn't the one who created this Natinals mess. No one on earth should expect him to transform it. But Riggleman is more than a stopgap. He's one of only 80 men since 1900 who've managed in the majors for at least 10 seasons. In baseball, longevity is a measure of trust and esteem, as well as, sometimes, old-shoe comfort. Riggleman has taken a team (the Cubs) to the playoffs, something that neither Frank Robinson (in 16 seasons) nor Branch Rickey (10) ever did. Whatever happens in the last 75 games of this season, if the Nats think Riggleman is their problem, they're nuts.
On the other hand, let's face facts and not get mushy. Sometimes you find unsettling stats you were not looking for. Of those 80 managers with 10 seasons, I've interviewed the majority (41) and Riggleman has the worst career winning percentage of any (.445).
In the last two days, many have jumped to the conclusion that since Riggleman replaced Manny Acta, he must be dramatically different either as a manager or in personality type. He isn't. In fact, he's much like Acta, but with the intensity during games and the accountability afterward turned up a notch or two. He's a more experienced, less-touchy-feely but still empathetic version of Manny. He won't hand out self-help books or ask about family all the time. And he might actually chew you out.
"The last couple of days I've been hearing that I'm 'fiery.' I feel like I'm a bit of a softy. I think I'm kind of easy," said Riggleman who, in five years running the Cubs sometimes heard that he was "wasn't getting on 'em enough."
"If they are not playing well, I understand. The game is difficult," he said. "But if they don't play hard, then that irks me. [In the past] if a player hasn't been respectful of the game, the uniform, the fans, then I have had a few [incidents] in the dugout over the years and the camera always catches that.
"If you miss it, chase it."
Perhaps the Nationals' biggest organizational issue right now, and it is a potentially huge one, is the gradual insidious growth of a culture of defeat. Riggleman is acutely aware of it.
"Agonize over the losses. Losing should hurt and winning is hard," he said. "Sometimes, players can [come to] accept losing. But that is unacceptable."
The mere fact that the current Nats enjoy each other so much, despite a horrendous 26-61 record, is closer to a condemnation than a compliment. No good manager, even on a "building" team, can afford a clubhouse that's both under-performing and comfortable.
Is a losing mentality already entrenched, less than two seasons after the nationally maligned '07 team fought to the last day of the season to avoid 90 losses and stuck out its chest after finishing ahead of eight teams?
As the losses have become mountainous since then, some players, including Ryan Zimmerman, have worried. How much can you lose, and for how long, without becoming losers? That's why the few green shoots of hope in recent months that the Lerners will spend enough money to build a credible team have been scrutinized so closely. So far, everything's been a bargain: a 40-homer slugger for $10 million a year or an all-star third baseman for $9 million per. Will this franchise ever sign a check that stings?
Riggleman, in his 75-game hometown trial, will have to cope with the hand he has. "You manage what you have," he says. "But the most important part of managing is what happens in the clubhouse. There's an aura about a club. We played Tommy Lasorda's Dodger teams and we'd say, 'How can they beat us?' But they believed that they could."
Right now, the Nats believe that they "can't" as deeply as any team you'll see. It curses them with the body language, especially in close games, of 97-pound weaklings expecting sand to be kicked in their faces. Just as, in golf, bad putting "works its way back through the bag," so atrocious relief pitching and bad defense seems to work its way back through the whole Nationals game. Improve one, improve the other?
As dusk settled at Nationals Park, Riggleman put his team through a long workout with plenty of infield drills. As a churlish counterpoint, center field was full of brownish blotches after a rock concert Saturday. Before tomorrow's game, the Nats say they will paint it green. Like their new revenue stream.
For one day at least, Riggleman deserves to imagine the best possible future, not focus of such "Natinalsness" that strongly resembles the "Senatoritis" of his youth.
"These fans here have treated us well. If this were Boston, New York or Philly, it would get ugly," the manager said. "Let's return some of that and get enthusiasm for baseball back in Washington."
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