On Acta, and Passion

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, June 15, 2009 | , , | 8 comments »

I don’t understand why some people think that just because Manny Acta doesn’t scream and yell that he doesn’t have passion for the game and his team.

There is a very vocal segment of the fan base that is calling for Acta's head simply because he isn't jumping up and down screaming his fool head off. In other words, acting like Rob Dibble.

Acta (any MLB manager, for that matter) has more passion for what he’s doing than any of us making commentary about it. For us, baseball—this awful team—is a diversion from the mundane serial boredom of our everyday lives.

You think we have the right of be frustrated and disappointed about what's going on? Sure we do. But as a typical fan, we can't do anything about it, other than voice our opinion and scream at the TV every time something goes wrong.

But for Acta, it IS his life.

Acta is a very thoughtful person, contemplative by nature. It has not been his style to jump out of the dugout and argue with the umpires on bad calls. Should he argue more? That point is debatable. How effective is the manager of a last place team arguing?

Is some of it causal? Do the umpires know that Acta won't show them up, so they aren't on their toes as much, leading to missed calls? What about "protecting his players"? You see that thrown around a lot. But how many Nationals players have been ejected this season?

Imagine, for a moment, having your perfect dream job. Now imagine that your company was owned by the Lerners, continually doing things with the short-term in focus instead of forward thinking long-term goals.

Or if your direct boss had the word “acting” in front of his title and he/she always had to go over their own heads to get a decision made.

Or if someone you managed consistently wouldn’t listen to how you wanted things done and did things their own way.

How about if you're a widget maker, and personnel gives you three left widget makers when you need a left, center and right widget maker?

Think you could succeed in a job like that? Regardless of how much passion you had for that job?

Passion is a very personal thing. It's not fair to anyone to tell them how to be passionate about something. Because a person is contemplative by nature, should he be forced to display his emotion for our sake? Should it be a requisite for the job?

Acta is well-respected in baseball. He'll have another job very quickly after this one ends. He knows this.

But more than that, Acta is well-respected as a human being. He is a tireless worker, generous to a fault, and respectful to everyone he comes in contact with.

If the ownership group has already made the decision to make a change at manager as has been reported by multiple sources, they should show Acta the same respect he shows others in his daily life. Allowing a good man to twist in the wind is just the latest indignation of this ownership group, and unfortunately, just par for the course.

Remember, they couldn't even fire Jim Bowden. In his last, self-serving act, Bowden fell on his own sword.


  1. Carolyn // June 15, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

    Thanks for writing this piece and reminding me what I felt about all of this. A lot of your statements are in line with my own feelings.

  2. Anonymous // June 15, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

    @Dave "Is some of it causal? Do the umpires know that Acta won't show them up, so they aren't on their toes as much, leading to missed calls? What about "protecting his players"? You see that thrown around a lot. But how many Nationals players have been ejected this season?"

    I write this as someone who supports Manny. I still have some observations. Not trying to be negative.

    This is a problem though what you wrote about Manny's handling of umpires. Umpires don't like controversy and especially being shown up so they get away with it because as you wrote "Acta won't show them up". Manny does need to get out there more for his players.

    The other thing is that a Coach can project his personality on the team and make them too comfortable at times which can lead to lackluster play which is my opinion.

    Lastly, Manny's body language has been discussed and he looks like a guy who is expecting to be fired. I would be the same way if I were in his shoes however it doesn't help the situation.

    With all this said, I think Manny can get the job done! He should be proactive and fight for his job. This will take a sitdown with his bosses to ask for their backing to get this turned around by the All Star game. That gives Manny a month to do it.

    The team can't get anyone better and what will they do promote Riggleman as a "stop gap"?


  3. Dave Nichols // June 15, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

    anonymous, thanks for the comment.

    i agree that there have been times that Acta could have "gone to war" for one of his players. i also agree that there are occsions where a manager could argue for the sake of arguing to fire his team up.

    but Acta does not do this. he's even been quoted that in the minors he was something of a hot head, and decided that strategy did not work for him.

    my point was that either consciously--or subconsciously--umpires know Acta's probably not going to argue with them. if that is the case, then he hurts his team.

    as for holding on to his job: the only reason to fire him now is if the players have quit on him, and i haven't seen any evidence of that.

    however, if the Nats fire Acta and make Riggleman the "interim" manger, taking orders from "acting' GM Rizzo, i can see the clubhouse attitude getting ugly in a hurry.

  4. Jeff, Colleen & Curly // June 15, 2009 at 7:14 PM  

    Great article Dave, we could not agree more with your sentiments!

  5. Jenjensn // June 15, 2009 at 8:22 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  6. dcbatgirl // June 15, 2009 at 8:23 PM  

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

  7. Wigi // June 15, 2009 at 9:02 PM  


    That was a spectacular post. Trying not to get long-winded, but:

    1. You point out that the organization does not offer the perception of stability - to wit: Acting GM.

    2. The team is still behind him

    3. Acta offers a kind of stability in the clubhouse that will disappear if he's dismissed.

    The whole 'deathwatch' atmosphere that surrounds this really gets me down. I understand people's frustration, but it seems like when given a choice, the only people who are happy are those that choose to be the vultures circling overhead.

    Thanks for the very clear-headed commentary.

  8. Andrew Lang // June 16, 2009 at 8:10 AM  

    Nice to see a discussion about Manny that is intelligent with good observations. You can still support Manny in my opinion too while being constructive. Manny has passion.

    I always think back to Joe Gibbs who believed in Positive coaching but would have no problem getting in an official's face. There is a big difference from being Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, and how Manny was in the Minors. You don't have to be thrown out as many times as Stan's Braves manager Bobby Cox was to be effective and be passionate.

    You do have to stick up for your players and keep the umpires from taking advantage of your team. Can you accomplish "fairness" by other managerial means? That is the key to me!

    Also, nobody should subconciously have to feel like a lame duck Manager and I hope these Polls in support of Manny lets the powers to be know that Manny needs a vote of confidence even if that encouragement is tied to a performance W/L record for a specific time period.