At the time of his promotion from head coach of the Hershey Bears to the head coach of the Washington Capitals, Bruce Boudreau joined Joe Gibbs, Eddie Jordan, and Manny Acta as boss of a major sports franchise in the district (sorry Barra Brava, you all don’t get counted in this one). Now, little more than 18 months later, the other three have all left town, leaving Boudreau with the most seniority of this group. When presented with this info, his response was "I don't know if that's good or bad. We better keep winning." Good call in this town Gabby. Let’s take a brief look on how we got to this point.
Jordan was introduced as coach of the Wizards prior to the 2003-2004 season. He began with a thud, finishing that year with a 25-57 record. Jordan then led a 20-game improvement that propelled the Wiz to four straight playoff appearances, which was unheard of in this city for quite sometime. The Wizards started out an injury-riddled ’08-’09 season 1-10, and Jordan was let go in favor of Ed Tapscott. Many believe that Jordan was on a short leash after three consecutive playoff losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I believe management was just jealous of his acting skills...
“The Savior” came back to DC in the spring of 2004. He led the team to two playoff appearances and only one playoff victory in four seasons. After dealing with the tragic loss of Sean Taylor (consequently the first draft pick in his second go-around) and struggling with being away from his ailing grandson, Gibbs retired shortly after a Wild-Card loss to the Seattle Seahawks in early 2008.
Acta was hired following the 2006 season as a positive, patient influence for the young Nationals. Acta led the team to a 73-89 record in his first season as manager. While the team was expected to be one of the worst in major league baseball, Acta managed to weather poor personnel and upper-management decision over the following year. Entering 2009, Acta was on a short leash and was dismissed yesterday after a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros. As comical as the situation on the waterfront has become, you have to feel a little bit for Manny and the effort he has made and attitude he has possessed through it all. I’ll let my buddy Jim Eustice sum up what we all should be feeling today as Jim Riggleman takes over for the remainder of the season:
Jim Riggleman, whose high school I've been to (it's in Rockville, so it automatically sucks), values discipline over Acta's patience and positive reinforcement. If you were one of the Nationals' young pitchers, which would you prefer? If morale is already low, how can it help to take away the patient, level-headed optimist?
How does it help Acta to scorn free agency? How would a few veteran pitchers helped in the starting rotation and the bullpen? Sure, the hitting in Nationals Park is fine, but what does that matter when they don't have pitchers that can keep the opposing team from scoring 7 runs?
Manny Acta never had a chance. That's why I can't get behind the Nationals. The team's leadership continues to sell a horrible product. I feel sorry for the Nationals fans because they've been starving for a team for decades and now the get this: all-around disarray and incompetence.
Yep, sounds about right. Here’s hoping that the Nationals quality young pitching doesn’t respond poorly to Riggleman’s style. I certainly hope they’re able to salvage something out of this season, but no one knows for sure. Mets here we come!