The String Runs Out For Acta


With Worst Record In Majors, Washington Fires Manager

July 14, 2009|By Chico Harlan | Chico Harlan,The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - -Employed by an organization with a tenuous infrastructure and in charge of a crumbling team, Manny Acta, in the end, ran out of support both from those above him and below him. The team he managed couldn't win. The team that hired him 2 1/2 seasons ago finally lost the willingness to keep waiting. Though the Washington Nationals crave stability right now as badly as they crave some victories, the team decided late Sunday night to fire Acta, sacrificing the short-term stability in hopes of sparking a competent second half.

During a news conference Monday announcing the firing of Acta and the hiring of bench coach Jim Riggleman as his interim replacement, team president Stan Kasten acknowledged an organization in flux, and said: "I'm very uncomfortable with that; I've strived my whole career [for] value, stability and consistency and I want to get to that here. We're not there yet. I think we're working toward that."

After Washington's final game - and final loss - of the first half, Acta flew with his team on Sunday from Houston to Dulles International Airport. Around 10:45 p.m., he was back at his Nationals Park office, planning for a restful All-Star break, which included a Jonas Brothers concert with his teenage daughter. But Acta, too, knew that managers of sloppy 26-61 teams can't take employment for granted.

By 11 p.m., sources said, he had been summoned into the office of acting general manager Mike Rizzo. There, Rizzo and Kasten delivered the news. Nobody from the Lerner family, which purchased the team in 2006 and hired Acta that November, attended that meeting or the Monday news conference.

Acta, 40, had a 158-252 record in his 2 1/2 seasons. But this one was his most disappointing. He had called this club, in spring training, the most talented of his tenure.

Those in Washington's front office - who often referred to Acta as a future managerial star - kept waiting for results that validated those beliefs.

"The reason it took so long," Kasten said, "was that we didn't want to do this. We thought it was going to turn."

The decision to remove Acta extends a tumultuous season for the Nationals. Their old general manager, Jim Bowden, who resigned in February, is now living in California and appearing on a talk radio show. Their old pitching coach, Randy St. Claire, was fired in June. Their No. 1 draft pick, Stephen Strasburg, remains unsigned. The members of their Opening Day bullpen are largely scattered across the country now, playing for different organizations in minor league ballparks.

They have a general manager with no permanent title, an ownership group that operates largely out of public view, several veterans who could be in their final days and weeks with the ballclub, and a president who still hasn't committed to a single permanent piece of leadership below him.

"I want to thank the Washington Nationals for giving me the opportunity to be a major league manager," Acta wrote in a statement. "It was a great learning experience, I have no regrets."

Down in the dugout

Manny Acta has the fourth-worst winning percentage in the past 50 years among managers with at least 320 career games.

Manager Years W-L Pct.

Roy Hartsfield '77-'79 166-318 .343

Mickey Vernon '61-'63 135-227 .373

Alan Trammell '03-'05 186-300 .383

Manny Acta '07-'09 158-252 .385


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