Manny Must Go
May 1, 2009
Last year, Manny Ramirez was shipped from the Red Sox to the Dodgers
ostensibly because he was portrayed as a guy who wasn't helping his
team. There may have been some clubhouse discord at the center of
this, but from the stats it looked like he was doing a pretty decent
job all year. Still just because one guy is performing doesn't
mean he's not affecting other people's game so there may be some truth
to the notion that the Red Sox were better without him. They
still managed to make it to Game 7 of the ALCS so clearly they were a
still a pretty good team with his replacements.
But along those lines, I am going to suggest that the Nationals would
be better off without their current Manny, Manny Acta. Before I
say anything more I want to say that as a person, Manny Acta is beyond
reproach. He is a thoughtful and caring person and that is
abundantly clear from any interview and the way he interacts with his
players when they are on the field. However, just because he is a
good man does not mean he is a good manager. So here are the ways
I think he is making the Nationals artificially woeful.
1) He doesn't let his starters pitch
It's still early in the season so I can understand not wanting to
extend his starting pitchers, especially the youngsters like Lannan,
Martis and Zimmerman, at least until the weather warms up. But
taken this to a manic extreme. Only one starter, Scott Olsen, has
topped 100 pitches in a start and he did that once: 103 versus the
Marlins. Lannan has hit 95, 97 and 99 pitches, Cabrera has thrown
94, 94 and 92 pitches in his starts and Jordan Zimmerman was only
allowed to throw 72 in his lone start. Shairon Martis has yet to
top 90 pitches in any of his starts. I understand taking
it easy on young guys, but Martis and Zimmerman are 22 (JZ will be 23
in a month), Lannan is
24 and Olsen is 25, the latter two at ages when workload concerns
should be beginning to taper off. It's not as if any of their
arms are going to blow out if they throw 105-110 pitches in an
outing. That'd one more inning from guys who are pitching well
and one less inning from guys who generally are not. Which
brings me to my second point...
2) He manages the resources in the
Some might suggest that the Nats didn't have a lot of talent in the pen
to work with but Manny does have input into who the team brings north
and he is the only guy who puts them into games. Knowing full
well that some of his guys are destined for Triple-A, why on earth
would he use some of the better relievers to get one out when he needs
three innings of relief after taking the starters out so
early? He's done that with his supposed "8th inning guy"
Joe Beimel, as well as with statistically the Nat's most effective
reliever this year, Julian Tavarez (something he has done 5 times with
Tavarez already). By doing so, he was forced to use the teams
effective relievers - Mike Hinkley and Saul Rivera - for multiple
inning outings. That's just begging to lose the game. Which
brings me to my next point...
3) He didn't do the necessary due
diligence in spring to understand who he should bring north.
Maybe some of the guys were brought north because they lacked minor
league options; I get that. But clearly Mike Hinkley wasn't ready
so they should have left him in Florida for extended spring training if
he needed to work on his mechanics if they didn't think he would pass
through waivers. Saul Rivera did have options but they took him
north anyway. This is an especially egregious mistake this year
because spring training was two weeks longer than most years because of
the World Baseball Classic. If Manny didn't know who was going to
be ready and who wasn't by the end of this spring, he simply wasn't
paying attention. Still none of this might have mattered
had the offense been a little more productive, but...
4) He still hasn't figured out the
Manny still thinks Ryan Zimmerman is a #3 hitter. Despite his new
contract, Zimmerman most certainly is not, at least not yet. He
doesn't get on base enough and gets himself out far too often.
Zimmerman should be in the #5 or #6 spot behind Dunn. Nick
Johnson should be the #3 guy, but if one is to be a stickler about the
lefty-righty orientation of the line-up, then put Johnson at #2, Elijah
Dukes at #3 followed by Dunn. Both Dukes and Johnson get on base far more than Zimmerman ever has,
they both have as much power and Dukes offers the added bonus of a some
speed near the top of the line-up. Manny also still thinks that
speed is the most important characteristic of a lead-off hitter.
I don't mind Cristian Guzman leading off. He's not ideal, but if
he continues to hit like he has the last 2 years, he's a .360 on base
guy at the top with a modicum of speed. I can live with
that. I also think that if Anderson Hernandez can dink his way to
hitting .260, he'll be a .350-.360 on base guy too because he has a
pretty decent eye. But Manny needs to put Zimmernan where he can
be less destructive to the run-scoring potential of the line-up and
make better use of his ability to make contact and hit for power.
Maybe he could figure this out if he put a few guys in the same place
for more than a couple days but...
5) He hasn't stopped changing the
I think Zimmerman and Adam Dunn are the only guys on the team who have
hit in the same spot in the line-up every game they've played.
This is ridiculous. Good managers find a place where their guys
are comfortable and productive and let them stay there. Again,
with as long a spring training as there was, Manny should have had a
very clear idea where the guys should hit and stuck with it.
Among other things he hasn't stuck with...
6) He doesn't abide by his own teams's
Elijah Dukes got fined $500, benched for a game and threatened with a
demotion to Triple-A for violating team rules when he showed up five
minutes late from signing autographs for a little league.
Meanwhile, Lastings Milledge completely blew off a team meeting the day
before Opening Day and didn't get so much as a finger wag. I
don't even want to get into how absurd this is. But I wouldn't
be surprised if that played some factor in...
7) The Nats have begun three
consecitive seasons with awful Aprils
In 2007 they opened 9-17. Last year they opened 9-17. This
year they are already 3-11. And in none of these years did the
Nats have the worst April pitching. They did have the second
worst April hitting in 2007 but that might be more evidence that Manny
isn't so good at getting the right everyday line-up very
quickly. Of course, injuries and talent had something to do
with that, but this kind of consistency is not the kind of thing you
build a winning resume with. Other things that don't help to
build winning resumes is...
8) Managing the team out of run
such as using one-run strategies like sacrifice bunting and the
hit-and-run in the early innings of games, giving inexperienced
baserunners the green light to steal when they are already in scoring
position, again, in the early innings. These kinds of things kill
an offense that is built to score runs in bunches. A number of
the Nats power hitters haven't found their stroke yet, but concievably
this team could have five hitters in the line-up every day that are
capable of hitting 25 homers apiece this year - Dunn, Dukes, Johnson,
Zimmerman, Willingham/Kearns - and if Jesus Flores gets his head on
straight, another capable of 20. With a few guys getting on base
in front of that power, this team could have a very good offense.
So unless the pitcher is at the plate or there's a runner on first in
the bottom of the ninth with no outs, this is just squandering
opportunity. But then again...
8) Manny concerns himself with stuff
that doesn't help anyone
Like how Adam Dunn should be a .300 hitter. Adam Dunn is a - and
I say this with the greatest respect and well-meaning - a mule of a man
who wallops 40+ balls over the wall every year and draws more walks
than Claude Monet. He gets on base 38% of the time and slugs
almost .520 for his career. Who cares if he hits .300?! If
he hits .260, he's an All Star with all the other things he does.
This is like Don Baylor complaining that Sammy Sosa didn't steal enough
bases during those years when he was hitting .320 and 60 homers a
season. The guy is already the most productive hitter on your
team and you are complaining he doesn't do enough already, especially
considering what you are asking him to do only marginally increases his
value and if he fails to do it or alters his game in order to satisfy
this insipid request, he could actually hurt his value. What's
At the end of last year, the entire Nationals coaching staff and their
medical staff got sacked with the exceptions of pitching coach Randy
St. Clair and Acta. St.
Claire has proven to be solid if not very good pitching coach.
Consider that Daniel Cabrera has allowed only 3 earned runs combined in
his last two starts. The last time he put two starts together and
allowed 3 earned runs or less between them was last April. Before
that, one has to go back to the middle of 2006. If he allows 2
runs or less in his next start, that will mark only the third time in
the last five years he has gone three consecutive starts without
allowing more than 2 earned runs. It will be a challenge, facing
the Mets at their new field and Cabrera has never faced them so it
should be interesting. But I digress...
Manny might be the right caretaker for a young starting staff,
especially considering how much potential they have - and this is not
even including the probabilty of adding Stephen Strasburg and possibly
Mike Leake to their future rotation. He is extremely careful not
to overwork them or in any way jeopardize their futures. I would
take that a step further to suggest that he is being far too careful
but that's not really the point. The point is that the Nationals
have the kind of offense that can contend and that the only thing that
has kept them from a winning record so far is bullpen meltdowns, sloppy
defense and bad decisions, on which all a manager has significant
If the big problem
is not the team talent - and you'd be hard pressed to show that the
Pirates, Rockies, Astros, Orioles, Royals, Mariners and Padres have
better talent than the Nats do - then the source of the Nationals'
becomes increasingly obvious. It would be great to keep Manny
Acta on as a coach or in some capacity because he is a really good guy,
but perhaps his usefulness as the manager has come to an end.