Thursday, September 20, 2007

One Question

The one question I have after tonight is when are we going to take the gloves off with Manny? He's clearly got the motivation factor down, and he's handled the personalities of this tone as well as anyone could possibly do. And that's probably nine-tenths of a manager's job.

But there's that other one-tenth.

And there are times that the things Manny does drives me up a wall. There were probably three of those tonight.

But he gets a pass because the bottom line isn't important.

But next year? When expectations are a bit higher? When we'll expect more from our team, and no longer applaud when they manage to go a day without crapping themselves?

You can lead with optimism. But you can't strategize with it. And too often, he makes moves based on hope, not on what's best for the bottom line. We'll see.

21 Comments:

  • I agree, no matter how poor Acta's decision have been and were tonight Radio boys (who are paid by the Nats) make excuses for him. I understand that but why does the print media?

    Are the Nats ever going to have a complete game? If not Jason tonight then when?

    If as we all knew Acta was going to take him out at 100 pitches then why not at 90 and pinch hit with the bases loads........But no Acta lets the pitcher hit and then takes him out 3 outs later......want to bet Barry or Mark never even asks about this?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/20/2007 11:59 PM  

  • Just because it doesn't make the paper, it doesn't mean it didn't get asked.

    I'm 99% postive they'd ask it.

    I'm 99% positive that Manny's answer would be "we thought he was throwing well and that with the way he had been throwing after the first inning, he'd be able to give us another inning or two... blah blah blah"

    In other words, something boring and banal that's not worth making the paper.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 9/21/2007 12:02 AM  

  • One question that you need to ask yourself before you raise your one question about Manny: Do the things Manny does that annoy you annoy you more or less than the things Frank did that annoyed you? Because when it all comes down to it there will never be a manager who does absolutely nothing that annoys you until Kasten hires you for the job. And if he ever does that, there will be a lot of people who will be very annoyed. Probably beginning with the 25 guys on the team.

    There is really only one thing Manny does consistently that really annoys me: the use of Fick et al as late-inning defensive substitutions for big bats like Dmitri when the Nats are only ahead by a run or two. That's not enough of a cushion for this team.

    Oh, yeah, there is one other thing he does that continues to annoy me: He starts Nook Logan in centerfield.

    But really I blame this more on what Manny has been given to work with than on Manny himself.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 12:05 AM  

  • Fair point Chris, I guess my comment really should have been that we have columnist who cover the team so I am expecting Barry to not just ask and comment on Acta moves. I would love to have someone get us some comments from Bergman on being lifted and from other in MLB on Act's whole 100 pitch obsession.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 12:13 AM  

  • Chris...

    Go ahead...take the gloves off...what's keeping you from doing so?

    What're the situations he really screwed up?

    By Blogger Jim H, at 9/21/2007 12:13 AM  

  • I feel as though Acta's caught between a rock and a hard place at times. Many times, he does make really annoying decisions (particularly those related to substitutions ala Fick, for instance) but he also is using this season to play around a bit to see what defensive positioning schemes may or may not work and to test his own limits as a manager.

    There is also the question of him having to justify his own existence. A manger like Acta is sort of like a repairman who is given crappy tools and inadequate spare parts, to work on a machine. Even if he is a virtuoso with the parts and the tools, they are of such a quality that the machine is never really going to work much better than it does in the status quo. But the repairman still has to justify his existence somehow. If Manny never decided to use Fick or never put in strange or unusual defensive replacements and pretty much let his starters maintain the status quo, sure, the team might play a bit better, but would there really be any job for him to do?

    Also tangentially related is today's SI story on Willie Randolph and the Mets, which ever so subtly suggests (at least as hopeful Nat fans read between the lines) that Manny Acta might have had more than a little to do with the Met's success last year and that he might have been more than a token behind-the-scenes player last year in contributing to Randolph's managerial success.

    By Blogger Michael, at 9/21/2007 12:22 AM  

  • just want to point out taking out fick was a mistake tonight. batista GIDP and his inability to get to any ball on defense, which turned into the winning run.

    By Blogger facekdr, at 9/21/2007 12:45 AM  

  • I dunno, Chris - I think some of the annoying habits - taking a starter out sooner rather than later, the incessant defensive subbing, are a result of the hand he's been dealt. I'd much rather him take Bergmann out one inning too early this year than one inning too late...especially since he hasn't shown himself to be the healthiest guy in the rotation.

    I felt a LOT better when I read (maybe in one of the Svrblogas?) that he doesn't sub for WMP because "we can't have a team that requires four defensive subs." If NJ (or some other decent 1b-man) and a CF that was worth something were on the team, you wouldn't have the Zimm-WMP-tehNOOK 1-2-3 bottom of the inning that you had. I think if he's still subbing better players out, that's when we have to say that it's bad decision making.

    Of course, if Ayala and Munoz get anybody out at all, we're feeling pretty good about the decision-making, right?

    By Anonymous Marc, at 9/21/2007 1:01 AM  

  • I don't really understand the "all managers would bug you in some ways" comment. There really is no question from reading this blog that Chris much prefers Manny Acta to Frank Robinson.

    He's made a pretty narrow point - you're response that "you'll never be happy unless they hire you" really has nothing to do with what he said.

    - Sam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 6:52 AM  

  • "He's made a pretty narrow point - you're response that "you'll never be happy unless they hire you" really has nothing to do with what he said."
    You're mischaracterizing the point I was making in my response, which is this: All managers are going to annoy any fan with their decision-making sooner or later. Some moreso than others. There's nothing wrong with a fan expressing displeasure with the manager's decision, but it has to be done with respect to the big picture. If only 10% or less of what a manager does annoys you and you shoot your wad complaining about that, what do you have left when a manager shows up who annoys you 50, 60% of the time? It's like having to decide which pinch hitter to send up in which situation. If you use your best guy in the fourth, then what will you do when you really need a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth? Expressing annoyance with managers' decisions is a balancing act, not unlike managing itself, actually.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 7:35 AM  

  • ABM -- I certainly don't want to mischaracterize what anyone's saying. But here's where I'm confused. Chris' post is not about whether or not Manny Acta is a good manager or the right manager for the Nationals or whether any particular decision of Acta's was good or bad. His "one question" isn't about Acta at all. It's about us and the media -- his post is making the point that, because Acta has been so well received and has done the personality stuff so well, Acta has gotten sort of a free pass on a lot of in game stuff. And is that a good thing and will it continue next year when the stakes are higher?

    So, I still don't udnerstand why the "one question" he needs to ask himself before asking that question is whether Manny is better or worse (or more or less annoying) than Frank. And your sort of theme that fans can criticize too much and lose sight of the big picture is true enough, I suppose, but I just don't see it as a meaningful caution to Chris when he is asking a much more basic question about whether ANY criticism will come Acta's way.

    But this is more words than really need expending on this. Cheers.

    By Blogger Sam, at 9/21/2007 9:03 AM  

  • Things Manny does that drive me nuts:

    1. Pinch running for a good hitter who might bat again (either because he pinch runs in the seventh inning or in a close game that easily could go extra innings).

    2. Unnecessary double switching, when the better move is the leave the pitcher where he is and simply pinch hit for him when he comes up with the guy you used in the double switch.

    3. Always starting Schneider on Saturday night and Flores on a Sunday day game even if a lefty is pitching Saturday and a righty is pitching Sunday (he seems to have fixed this some).

    4. Babying starting pitchers by pulling them too early and then way too many pitching changes when we are into the pen.

    All of these things said, though, I think Manny has done a splendid job this year. Most of the job of a manager is getting the guys ready to play their best. That has to do with team attitude and how the manager treats the players. If you ever watch the Acta press conferences on MASN, he ALWAYS has the right perspective and ALWAYS says the right thing. He is a calming and stabilizing force on that team. In fact, watch how many Nats players are up on the rail watching a game as opposed to, say, the Orioles. That says a ton about the leadership of this team.

    I figure a manager can reflect on and fix strategic failings a lot easier than all of this other stuff, so I hope Manny's in-game strategy comes to match what I can only assume is an excellent off-field performance.

    By Blogger John O'Connor, at 9/21/2007 9:44 AM  

  • There's a direct relationship between fans needing to ration out how they choose to shoot their wad of disgust at managerial decisions and how the media chooses to shoot its wad, Sam, if that's how you think this discussion should be steered. The media actually has a much smaller wad to shoot. Acta not being held to account by the press for his in-game decision making? Okay. Was Frank held to account by the press over this kind of thing, and if so did he have more or fewer instances than Manny of questionable in-game calls? I don't recall much discussion in the Post on whether or not Frank chose to pinch hit for a particular pitcher in a particular situation and whether or not that was the right choice at that point in the game. If Frank's managerial antics were analyzed at all in the Post, it was for things like arguing a home run call, facing down Sciosca, crying over having to pull Matt LeCroy, etc. Did the Post not get into the weeds of analysis over Frank's in-game decision-making because they were distracted by his more dramatic managerial antics, or just because they don't do that kind of in-depth analysis of a manager? We'll never know, but it's pretty clear that they didn't do it with Frank, so why should we expect them to do it with Manny?

    As I believe Chris has pointed out here on occasion, the Post ought to have two voices writing about the Nats, a beat writer doing the gamers and notes, and a columnist doing opinion and analysis. But they don't. They have the beat writer in Svrluga, who does a great job of it, but they don't have the columnist presence that they should on the Nats. Boswell ain't it, because whenever he writes about the Nats (which isn't often enough) it's nothing more than a puff piece. The only aspect of the Nationals that Boswell has ever attempted true analysis of is attendance and parking in the new stadium. In the dugout or on-field analysis on the Nats from Bos? I don't recall anything like that from him, ever. Given the quality of his attendance and parking analysis, though, that actually might be a good thing.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 9:46 AM  

  • If you don't think that the Post was questioning Frank's managerial strategy enough, you weren't reading that closely.

    That was a regular and recurring feature of the coverage, especially late in 2005.

    Granted, the beat writer doesn't have as much freedom as a columnist, but by asking the right questions and presenting things as options instead of definites (as Barry did), you can get an opinion across just using facts.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 9/21/2007 9:51 AM  

  • I'm hoping Svrluga gets promoted to columnist and focuses mostly on the Nats. That would be the ideal situation methinks.

    By Blogger WFY, at 9/21/2007 10:17 AM  

  • Okay, maybe I wasn't reading that closely back in late 2005. But I daresay the Post was paying better attention back then that it ever has since. Based on their editorial decision-making this year, it's clear they've lost whatever interest they may have had then in the Nationals. Virtually no above-the-fold front page play of any Nationals story. Very few Boswell columns on the Nats. More focus on the medical condition of one pitcher who was a star for one brief shining moment in '05 and who's done virtually nothing since than on the performance on or off the field of anyone who's currently playing for or managing the team. Even if Acta was to give a non-boring and non-banal answer to the questions you're 99% sure he's being asked, do you think the Post's editors would give it any play? I'm 99% positive they wouldn't, and I bet Svrluga knows that too, although I'm sure he'd never actually say so. So given that, how sure can we really be that he's even bothering to go through the formality of asking the question any more? Are you thinking that a grilling of Acta by the press on his in-game decision-making is going to cause him to re-think his managerial style and possibly change it? Are you thinking that a grilling by the press, rather than being given a pass (as you say - I personally think the press is just not interested enough in this kind of thing for the reasons I've mentioned, rather than that they're giving him a pass on anything) is a necessary right of passage that Manny needs to go through in order to become a 100% effective manager, and he's not getting the chance to experience this and thus it will stunt his managerial growth? Or is it something else? Gee, your "one question" has sure led to a lot of confusion, hasn't it?

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 10:21 AM  

  • With all due respect, you're dangerously close to venturing into the land of paranoid loon.

    "do you think the Post's editors would give it any play?"

    Um, yeah.

    "So given that, how sure can we really be that he's even bothering to go through the formality of asking the question any more?"

    Because they're fucking professionals. And they don't get jobs writing for major market papers by being idiots.

    The point I was making (I'll put it in caps so you can see it better) is THAT MANAGERIAL STRATEGY DOES NOT MATTER THIS YEAR SO NOBODY HAS FOCUSED ON IT BUT WHEN IT STARTS TO MATTER LIKE NEXT YEAR WHEN EXPECTATIONS ARE A BIT HIGHER WE'RE GOING TO NOTICE MANNY'S FUNNY STRATEGIES MORE THAN THIS YEAR.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 9/21/2007 10:25 AM  

  • Bla, bla, bla....he's got runway, and he's using it. I bet none of you guys "carry a bag" where you are measured as objectively as a Manager in MLB.

    In sales, when you're get runway...you're an idiot not to use it. When you have to post a number....you make decisions aimed at hitting the number.

    I really like his approach to this year. A great example is how he's working with Chad..."The closer closes." If Chad blows 'em - that goes into is evaulation for the spring to answer the question, "Who is gonna be the closer?"

    He is purely prepping for next year.

    By Blogger Ray, at 9/21/2007 10:51 AM  

  • All caps? Careful, you're treading on plagiarism

    By Blogger Brian, at 9/21/2007 10:52 AM  

  • "THE NATIONALS DO NOT MATTER THIS YEAR SO THE POST HASN'T FOCUSED ON THEM BUT WHEN THEY DO START TO MATTER LIKE NEXT YEAR WHEN EXPECTATIONS ARE A BIT HIGHER WE'RE GOING TO NOTICE THAT MANNY EVEN HAS STRATEGIES AT ALL UNLIKE THIS YEAR."

    Fixed your post.

    And what is funny at all about Manny's strategies? If anything, he goes strictly by the book (late-inning defensive substitutions, pitch counts, 7th inning guy followed by 8th inning guy followed by closer, etc, etc), rarely deviates from that, and has been totally upfront about all that with the press, both before and after games. So why ask the question over and over again if you already know what the answer will be, even if you are a fucking professional (or if you'e fucking a professional, for that matter)?

    I'm still confused by your "one question". Is your beef with Manny's "funny" strategies, or the press's failure to grill him on his "funny" strategies?

    As I've said, by and large I don't think Manny's by-the-book strategies are the issue. The issue is that the players he has right now are not good enough to be used as plug-in parts in such a strategy. The question I would like to ask Manny is if he thinks that by doing this he is training himself on how to manage so that when he does have the right parts he'll know what to do with them, or does he think that he's training substandard players on how to improve themselves so that they can better fill the roles he's expecting from them? Or maybe both? It seems to me that he's doing a bit of the second, saying to players "Thees ees your role. I trust you to perform in it (even though you stunk up the joint doing it yesterday). So now go do it." And he's actually, perhaps surprisingly, been more successful than not this year in doing that.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 11:31 AM  

  • How f**king dare anyone out there question Manny Acta after all he's been through this season. He had to get a new apartment, his pitchers got hurt and Felipe Lopez stunk. All you people care about is readers and making money off of him.

    He's a manager. He never managed in the major leagues before. You're lucky he even managed for you bastards. LEAVE MANNY ACTA ALONE! … please. Anybody who doesn't leave Manny alone will have to come through ME!

    By Anonymous NTR An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 12:05 PM  

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