Chico Harlan of the Washington Post reports
that Manny Acta was fired by the Nationals in large part because he was
too easygoing, particularly when it came to disciplining players like
As the season dragged on and the losses accumulated, players
appreciated Acta’s even temperament and easygoing nature. But all the
while, they wondered if a more demanding presence might benefit them.
Acta, fired late Sunday night with a 26-61 record this season, left
behind a clubhouse of players who almost universally enjoyed playing
for him. Every so often, however, they wanted more from him. They
wanted him to reprimand, to punish, to call out those who needed it.
They wanted him to push. …
“There were situations where it was like, ‘Oh man, I hope Manny says
something.’ And it never got said,” said one player, who spoke on
condition of anonymity. “If one person steps out and is not
reprimanded, eventually everybody is saying, ‘Is it okay to do that or
what?’ We kind of police ourselves, but at the same time we’re trying
to build with each other. We just wanted him to say something one time
to reaffirm everything.”
Acta believed that players didn’t generally respond well to public
forms of discipline; embarrassment wasn’t his teaching tool of choice.
He reached out to players, recommending self-help books, always making
himself available to talk about family. Yes, he could get angry — but
the fewer who saw it, the better.
I’ve been an Acta fan since speaking to him at the winter meetings
shortly after he was hired three years ago. He was thoughtful and
interesting and, yes, easygoing. Unfortunately, as Harlan points out
those traits won him more friends than games in Washington. Given more
talent to work with it wouldn’t surprise me if Acta was a successful
manager, but easygoing tends to be a bad fit when you’re losing 100
times a season.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrate. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.