Acta firing just a sign of mess in D.C.

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

There's a great scene from the old hockey movie "Slap Shot" in which goalie Denis Lemieux confronts the general manager about the identity of the team's ownership. "Who owns the Chiefs?" Lemieux asks in a heavy French accent.

Acta out in D.C.

Manny Acta The news: The Nationals -- the worst team in baseball -- fired Manny Acta going into the All-Star break, just weeks after saying his job was safe.
"Owns, owns," the GM replies, correcting Lemieux's pronunciation. Which leads me to one question as I ponder the Nationals' belated firing of manager Manny Acta, which was first reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes.com. I will pose the question in perfect English, though I know it cannot be answered in anything close to the sort. Who runs the Nats? Not Mike Rizzo, who remains only acting general manager, a position he has held for four months. Not Stan Kasten, who is club president, but appears to exert little control under the ownership of the Lerner family. Here's what Kasten told the National Press Club on June 25, 12 days after I reported that the team had decided to fire Acta and replace him with bench coach Jim Riggleman, which is just what happened, according to the Washington Times:: "I happen to be a big fan of his. I think he has the demeanor to be a long-term solution as a manager. He has the demeanor of a Bobby Cox and others who have been successful. "I had this great talk around the batting cage last night with Terry Francona, the young, possibly genius manager of the Boston Red Sox. And I said, 'Terry, I remember when you were a dummy as manager of the Phillies.' And he says, 'Stan, I promise you, I'm still a dummy, I just have better players.' "It's so true. And I have always from the beginning supported Manny. I can't predict whether it will work here, but I think he will, I think he's going to serve as a long-term manager here. That's my hope." Well, "long-term" lasted less than three weeks. And trust me, the Nationals' performance did not significantly change. The team was 17-43, a .283 winning percentage, on the day I reported that Acta would be dismissed. It took Rizzo three days to say that my report had "no basis." That week, the Nats won a series at Yankee Stadium and produced a season-high four-game winning streak. Whoopee. Since then, the Nats have gone 5-15, a .250 winning percentage -- awful to be sure, but not all that much worse than their record when I reported that Acta was a goner. I take no joy in any of this. Acta is a good man, and maybe a good manager. With the Nats, it was impossible to tell, though the team was a fundamental mess, reflecting poorly on Acta's leadership. At worst, my initial story was premature, though I still believe it was accurate. Regardless, the Nats should have reacted differently, out of fairness to a man who represented their organization with class and decency.
Once my story broke, the Nats had two reasonable choices: Fire Acta immediately. Or commit to him for the rest of the season, knowing the identity of the manager would not make one difference in their horrid team. The Nats, naturally, chose neither course. Kasten's comments to the National Press Club made it sound like Acta was secure. But either Kasten is a puppet, a disturbing thought given all that he has accomplished in the game, or he is as dishonest as a Washington politician, which despite his well-known condescension toward the media, I refuse to believe. So, who runs the Nats? I have no earthly idea. Kasten should be club president -- a real club president. Rizzo should be general manager -- the permanent general manager. Until either or both of those things happen, this team will remain an embarrassment.
Tagged: Red Sox

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