Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Very Sullen Day

First came the really sad news of the day: Josh Willingham's Brother killed in an auto incident in his hometown of Florence, Alabama.

Second came some more upsetting news: Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports declaring on National Television that Our Manager Manny Acta would be fired--by Monday at the latest--and replaced by Jim Riggleman?

Finally, came a real stinker of a ball game from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Another bad loss thanks to some really poor relief pitching. A 2-1 advantage evaporated in just six pitches from Jason Bergmann. A resultant seven run 6th inning that sent Our Washington Nationals down for their 44th defeat of 2009.

All of today's events combining to make for a very sullen day. And the final score in tonight's 8-3 loss to The Tampa Bay Rays the least of our concerns.

First and foremost--Sohna and I would like to add our condolences to those of the many others whom have sent their best to Josh and his family. Losing a family member is never easy--at any time.

And how disconcerting--on the heels of personal news of grief that affects not just a member of Our Washington Nationals Family, but also an entire clubhouse--the flying of the Manny Rumor could not have been more badly timed.

So--who exactly are these Major League Sources? And seriously, why would you replace Our Number 14 with someone that has an unimpressive managerial record while working with better talent overall?

That doesn't make any sense.

Manny Acta has more to learn when it comes to game management and strategy decisions. There is no question about that. But he's never been given a full deck of players to send out onto the field. You can't hire someone (Manny) and then tell him from the very beginning--"We are going to be rebuilding. It's a long process that's going to take time. It's going to take patience." And then get rid of him only because management's patience might be running out?

That would be sending the wrong message.

That's saying what you preach is not what you believe.

And it makes ANYONE coming on board to possibly replace Our Number 14 wonder--what exactly he's getting into?

Manny Acta did not pick most, if anyone, from the 25 names he's been given to place on the lineup card each day.

Our Number 14 was handed a terrible bullpen that has totaled 22 Blown Saves.

He's been given a rotation of "BABY" Starters--all under 25 Years Old--combing for a total of 22 Major League Wins.

He's stuck with a Defensive Lineup that has committed 60 Errors in 60 Games.

None of that is Manny's fault.

Since Interim GM Mike Rizzo took over day to day roster management of Our Washington Nationals in the wake of Jim Bowden's Resignation--he admitted Our Bullpen was a significant problem waiting to be exposed.

He was right and despite all attempts to fix our relief corp by looking at everything available on the market--that sinking ship has yet to be righted. Mr. Rizzo also believed Shawn Hill would never hold up. And Daniel Cabrera was not an answer. He was right on both accounts. Our previous General Manager would never have admitted that.

But everyone knows--no one wins consistently when four of your five starters are rookies. That takes time--learning on the job--feeling the development pain while understanding the long-term benefits.

Manny Acta did not put together Washington's terrible fielding team. You could argue Mike Rizzo didn't also.

Mr. Rizzo didn't trade "Our Second Baseman Of The Future"--his Emilio Bonifacio (and two minor leaguers)--for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham. A swap that really hasn't worked out for both sides yet.

Jim Bowden did, as well the signing of Adam Dunn's prolific offense and terrible defense.

Clearly, Our Manager Manny Acta can only do so much with what he's been given. Joe Torre or Tommy LaSorda couldn't have done much better--if at all--with the same lineup. And to use Manny as a scapegoat for all that is wrong on the field for Our Washington Nationals would be a mistake in judgement. A "Forced" decision just to do anything--while providing no long-term stability to the development for Our Struggling Franchise.

If a manager decision is imminent, more thought needs to be put into the move than this Rosenthal rumor.

Remember, Manny has been nothing but respectful both on and off the field for Our Washington Nationals. He's treated everyone, fans included--with that same regard. Our Washington Nationals owe that same respect to Our Current Manager.

Keep Manny Acta is our wish tonight.

That and Our Best Wishes which we pass along to Josh Willingham and his family in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

Truly, this has been A Very Sullen Day--making tonight's game sort of meaningless.

Game Notes & Highlights

Manny made the right decision to take Jordan Zimmermann out after throwing 92 pitches in five innings. Precaution was necessary after the small scare earlier this week about JZ's elbow soreness. Our Number 27 is a strikeout pitcher, his pitch count was high. He left ahead in the game. And if Jason Bergmann hadn't pitched so poorly, no one would second guess Our Number 14's move to sit Jordan down. Zimmermann is our future for tomorrow--just not the winner of this one game this night.

Our Number 57 was shockingly awful. He said after the game he was worried about just throwing strikes and aiming the ball--not throwing HIS pitches. Was that ever costly--Bergmann faced just five batters in the key 6th frame. He allowed four hits, one walk, two home runs and five runs scored. His ERA ballooning to 6.91. Although you got to give him credit for standing up to the media after the game and taking personal blame for letting this game get out of hand. One of the reason's Sohna and I have always enjoyed him.

"The Human Rain Delay" relieved Jason and didn't fair much better in that bottom of the 6th. Jesus Colome allowing two more runs to score. Julian Tavarez was given Mop Up Duty for the 8th.

Our other "Zim"--the one with just one "N" at the end of his name--was the only other bright spot. Ryan Zimmerman slamming his 12th home run to dead center off Tampa Bay's Andy Sonnanstine in the top of the 1st. And knocked in Washington's second score of the evening when he grounded into a force out with the bases loaded in the top of the 3rd. Anderson Hernandez knocked two hits and scored Washington's last run of the game when The Rays' Gabe Gross committed a throwing error on a single by Nick Johnson in the 8th frame.

Finally, nearly the first hour of today's game was unable to be broadcast by MASN due to Fox Networks Major League Baseball Television Contract. A blackout is enforced until 7PM on Saturday Afternoons to give Fox exclusive rights for nationally televised games. With The Rays hosting a post-game concert at Tropicana Field with Ludicrous--tonight's game started at 6:08PM. MASN joined in progress at the top of the hour.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Brian Blanco (AP)


Edward J. Cunningham said...

I'll be sad to see Manny go, but seriously---should anybody be surprised considering their record? At this point, I'll be very surprised if Manny keeps his job the rest of the year.

Anonymous said...

According to Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo, Manny asked Rizzo to unceremoniously FIRE Randy St. Claire, one of
the best pitching coaches in MLB, and a coach who successfully held together pitching staffs made of chewing gum and string, ever since the Nats came to DC in 2005.
Live by the sword in the back, die by the sword in the back, eh?

Anonymous said...


You are thinking with your heart and not your head on this one. A better manager would win more games with this talent. Manny has lost games this year and last as a result of his decision but more this is about his inability to light a fire under players. Sure they have not quit but other than Alberto Gonzolez slide into second base a few nights ago, what passion have you seen from this team?

Defense is the biggest problem and the way Acta makes out the lineup card has a lot to due with that problem. Bard should not be playing at all. Remember just how poorly he handled the Alex Cintron thing? Acta has yet to make any decision on who plays were in the outfield and the huge amount of errors of lost focus by our vets has to lay at his feet as well.

Sure Manny has been a nice man but that is not the job description. Winning games is the goal and his teams have gotten worse with better talent each year. That can not be ignored and it past time to make this change. I would put Rick Eckstein in and let him lead by example. Now that guy has a future as a MLB manager. He out works everyone and players want put in the time with him. Yes he would need Riggleman’s help but that is what he is there for right?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Jesus Flores has been injured, most likely out for the year. Bard's not helping, but Wil Nieves isn't a full time catcher also. They are short at the position.

Elijah Dukes was again on the DL. Dunn has been a disaster in the outfield, but Manny must put his bat in the lineup. Kearns isn't hitting and Willingham has struggled in his limited roles. Bernadina unfortunately broke his ankle. Maxwell played lost.

He's not going to bench Zimmerman or Nick Johnson for their errors either. It's the makeup of the team, not necessarily who he puts out on the field. The pieces don't match up and don't fit.

The bullpen can't hold any lead. The component of players are not working.

Anonymous said...

When do the excuses end SBF? They are on pace to be the worst team of all time. They have enough talent to win at a .375 pace at least. They are historically bad and that is not due to injuries or component parts. They are this bad because they have no passion for the game and their leader has no passion for winning.

paul said...

SBF, you're right that the front office bears the most blame. By not extending Manny's contract this spring, they hung out a lame duck manager to twist in the wind. They then built a team as a middle school kid would as a fantasy manager.

The front office and Manny continued their separate paths when Manny inexplicably insisted on starting Milledge in center field and severely restricting the playing time of Dukes and Willingham. The front office, against Manny's wishes, sent Milledge down.

I imagine it was a group decision to allow Daniel Cabrera to join the rotation and be the opening day starter. It was a terrible decision, forced by the huge contract, I suppose. Recall we started 0-6 on the road and then opened in front of a packed house with Cabrera pitching, Milledge in center field, and Dukes and Willingham languishing.

The bullpen was not ready for prime time and hasn't been for a long time. But Manny is way too slow to tell if a pitcher is faltering or doesn't have it. The latest bit of evidence is Bergmann yesterday. When a relief pitcher comes in a tight game and gives up two baserunners immediately, he should be out of there. Period. In Bergmann's case, he stayed in for five batters yesterday. (And please don't say that there was no one warming up; I deal with enough tautologies from my students.)

Another morale sucker for players and fans: During games, umpires have made shockingly bad calls against the Nats. Off the top of my head, the strike 3 calls in the Randy Johnson game and the late Reds' game the other day come to mind, as do the atrocious home run call reversals at Citi Field. Manny likes to quote scripture when defending the thesis that there is no point to arguing. I disagree on two grounds: strategically, if the umps know you are going to be in their face, they will not roll over you time and again. Second, if the players know you have their back, they will respect you more.

Against this backdrop, it is not surprising the team is playing so poorly. The players from spring training on have had to wonder: who is in charge, why are these strange decisions being made, and why are we not fighting back instead of meekly retreating. It's hard to play good baseball under these circumstances.

I agree that replacing him with Jim Riggleman would continue this trend of lack of inspiration from management. Even though it would create a domino effect of disruption in the minor league teams' managerial ranks, I think Foli should come up now.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

The writing has been on the wall since last year when all of Manny's coaching staff was fired except Randy St. Clair. Then a few weeks ago, Randy was fired. Would it really shock anyone that Manny gets fired this soon?

Assuming that Manny IS fired, obviously the new guy is an interim manager. Looking ahead to 2010, should the Nats try to bring in Gary Carter if Frank Robinson is not available and doesn't want to manage again? (If he is and he does, I vote for bringing Frank back.)

Tim said...

This game looked like a replay of so many we have seen just this time was in a rather ugly stadia.

Great starting pitching. No clutch hits. Double plays kill a inning. Bullpen really blows a slim lead to a point that the offense has no chance of getting back into it.

Today is another day with hopes that Manny lives to see another day. As the Willingham family knows, life is precious and baseball is a game and a ugly business all rolled into one ball.

natsfan1a said...

Just getting caught up with blog reading.

I was saddened to hear of the Willingham family's loss, and my heart goes out to them at what must be a very difficult time.

Re. Manny, I agree with SBF. Manny was never given a lot to work with, and if I recall correctly his calm demeanor and patience were cited by Stan as a perfect fit for our "rebuilding" phase. Now he's being criticized for it?

If it was a Nats employee who leaked the rumor, shame on them for showing a lack of class in their timing (after the death of Willingham's brother) and in their treatment of Acta. He deserves better than that. Be up front with the man, and with fans. If it was another team that leaked it, why does the FO not shoot the rumor down?