Not only did the Nats lose again yesterday (5-0 against the Astros), they did so with another freakshow play. The team had a pitcher balk while trying to give an intentional walk. Tyler Clippard tripped mid-delivery, stumbling off the mound, allowing a runner from third to score.
After the game, Manny Acta said, " "I've never seen it before in my life. I've seen guys commit balks like that, but not while you're walking a guy intentionally."
Well, now that's the last oddball play the ol' Manny-ger is going to see in a Nats uniform. After a 26-61 first half performance, the Nats have mercifully let Acta go.
Acta managed the Nats to increasingly miserable seasons. The team's record got worse and worse every year, and many of the small problems that plagued the team the first season never got better. As it stands now, Acta's winning percentage is the 10th worst of all time.
For Nats fans, Manny was frustrating to watch. While it's true that a manager's ability to influence wins and losses during a game is limited, Acta took that to its absurd conclusion. While Rome burned, Manny stood there, staring glassy eyed at some fixed point in the distance.
Acta's the ultimate pacifist, believing so much in his heart that any act of aggression or hostility toward an umpire is beyond the pale. Even on a few cases where it seemed like the Nats got screwed by a call, Manny just stood there, taking it on his chin.
For Manny, there was no dimmer switch on arguing. He seemed to believe that you were either completely passive or a raging 'roid-hound. There was no in-between.
Consequently, he never backed up his players during the game, and rarely argued calls.
And as the long season wore on with losses mounting from little errors that constantly went uncorrected, you could see Acta's patience wearing. Increasingly, Acta framed his comments about players to distance himself. "Look, that these guys suck isn't my fault" he seemed to be saying.
And while there's some truth to it -- no amount or managing is going to make Ron Belliard useful again -- there's a whole lot of truth that Acta put some players into positions to fail (like with Milledge) and never really held the players accountable in a way a manager probably needs to do.
Acta will move on elsewhere and probably have success. He didn't in Washington, and things weren't improving. The time was right for Manny. And it was certainly right for the Nats.
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. He's working on his Fire Riggleman Web site as you read this.