Jim Riggleman takes over as Interim Manager
Former Nationals manager Manny Acta Photo by John E. DeFreitas
The Washington Nationals have fired manager Manny Acta two and a half years into his tenure. Acta posted a record of 158-252 as the Nationalsâ€™ manager. The teamâ€™s record at the time of Actaâ€™s dismissal was 26-61, the worst in Major League Baseballs. With 75 games remaining after the All-Star break, the team is on pace to lose 114 games.
â€œI want to thank the Washington Nationals for giving me the opportunity to be a major league manager. It was a great learning experience. I have no regrets. As I move forward, I wish the Nationals all the best,â€ said a statement from Acta released by the team at a news conference held on Mon., July 13.
Last modified on Monday, 13 July 2009 18:18
The firing comes at the start of the three-day All-Star break, after nearly a month of media speculation that Acta would be let go before the season ended. Acta will be replaced on an interim basis by Jim Riggleman.
â€œIt was a decision we reached over the weekend,â€ said acting general manager Mike Rizzo. â€œWe feel the team has underachieved this season, and that we have a much better ballclub than what weâ€™ve shown on the field. We acknowledge that our ballclub has flaws that we are working to improve, but we believe a different voice might help us to achieve more success in the second half.â€
Acta was well known for his patience and his positive attitude, but rumors began to surface within recent weeks that Acta had lost the team, a theory which Rizzo denies as playing a part in Actaâ€™s termination.
â€œWe donâ€™t believe he was losing the players. We just kept thinking that it would turn around,â€ Rizzo said.
Rizzo added that making the managerial move now during the teamâ€™s three-day All-Star hiatus will give them a chance to â€œget their ducks in a row.â€
â€œWe have specific goals and expectations in mind for the second half of the season. All the players need to look in the mirror and take accountability,â€ Rizzo said.
One of the goals Rizzo said included a return to basic fundamentals.
In addition to having the worst record in baseball, the Nationals also lead the league in errors and are plagued by inconsistent play. The team has a young but promising starting pitching staff, but the bullpen has had disastrous results, showing an inability to preserve a lead.
The inconsistency and instability of the franchise is something team president Stan Kasten called both unfamiliar and uncomfortable, as the team now has the interim tag in front of both the manager and the general manager.
â€œI donâ€™t like that kind of instability. â€œWe need stability in this franchise, and Iâ€™m doing all I can to achieve that,â€ Kasten said.
The firing of Acta comes on the heels of the firing of pitching coach Randy St. Claire on June 2, and the resignation of general manager Jim Bowden on Feb. 23, amidst a federal investigation that Bowden was skimming money from Latin American prospects.
But despite all the front office moves, Kasten insists that the team has made significant progress in the past three years, and is not starting from ground zero in building a winning organization.
â€œWe are not starting over. We are close, and have made some good progress. The past three years have not been a waste,â€ Kasten said.
The team has some solid pieces in starting pitcher John Lannan, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was named to this yearâ€™s All-Star team, and outfielder-first baseman Adam Dunn. Recent on the field moves include sending talented but inconsistent outfielder Elijah Dukes to the minor leagues, and a trade that sent outfielder Lastings Milledge and pitcher Joel Hanrahan to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett.
Morgan is a speedster who gets on base, can manufacture runs with his base stealing ability and hustle, and excels in the outfield with strong defensive play. Burnett is considered a solid reliever who should help a bullpen which has the worst ERA in the major leagues.
The Nationals also released a letter to the fans explaining Actaâ€™s dismissal, expressing their dissatisfaction with the teamâ€™s play thus far, and asking for continued patience and support as they try to turn this franchise around.
â€œWe wanted to put our beliefs in writing. As bad as the fans feel, we feel worse,â€ Kasten said. â€œThis [losing] is not acceptable to us.â€