As Manager Manny Acta stated today:
"I think it's embarrassing. I think it's unacceptable. I think our fans have every right to be mad, like we are right now."And if you're a Nationals fan right now, you should be mad. This team, and namely this franchise, has been a mess and a disappointment since they came to Washington DC in 2005. We all know that the rebuilding process can take time, but at some point the Nationals need to show some legitimate progress on the field.
If the Nationals continue to struggle, the question will be raised: should the Nationals fire Manny Acta? By most accounts, Acta is a great guy and is considered to be one of the best young managers in baseball. But at what point is performance taken into account? The Nationals have finished in last place in each of Acta's first two seasons and they seem destined for the NL East cellar already in 2009.
Even with that in mind, I still think the Nationals should not can Manny Acta. While some of his in game decisions have been suspect, Acta has not been given a whole lot of talent to work with during his tenure with the Nationals, and many times, his options simply have not been that good. I really don't think having a manager other than Acta would have drastically changed the Nationals record. Let's face it, the Nationals teams in 2007 and 2008 were last place clubs, plain and simple.
I know management has spent the "big bucks" this offseason and expects better from the Nationals this season. Between Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Scott Olson, and Joe Beimel; the talent level was expected to go way up.
And in some respects, it has. But there is no denying that this team is still far too flawed. The bullpen so far has an ERA of 6.48 and last year's closer, Joel Hanrahan, has a 9 ERA in 5 games. Once again, there was just not much for Acta to work with out there.
There is no doubt that the Nationals roster is in flux right now. Hell, just yesterday, 3/7ths of the Nationals roster was either sent to the minor leagues or designated for assignment. One can make the case that through the first two weeks of the season, Acta did not have the luxury of playing with his best 25 guys. Again, this statement is very debatable, but management needs to give Acta quality talent to work with.
And I'll say that the moves made today were a start. The Nationals need their players to be productive and solely preaching patience is unacceptable. Saul Rivera was horrible; Wil Ledezma was a waste; and Steven Shell showed nothing during his three outings. None of these three deserved to be in the majors and pulling the plug on each was the right move.
In the end, if the Nationals finish with 100+ losses yet again, those calling for Manny Acta's head will grow stronger. But until Acta gets some actual talent, I have a tough time evaluating his overall performance as manager. I think this team is better than they have shown so far, but the problem is pitching, not Manny Acta.