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Managing by the book
Manny Acta opened up the playbook yesterday for all to see. It wasn't 700 pages, but it was thorough enough to give a good idea of how the Nats' new manager is going to operate in key game situations.
So, keyboard managers (armchair managers is passe), have at it and see whether the new skipper is on the same page with all of you geniuses out there who, after years of reading "Total Baseball" and a few correspondence courses, think you are Sparky Anderson.
Defense: "A big part of defense is positioning. We are not going to be letting these guys do most of these things on their own. We are going to be controlling some part of the game from the bench. We will have enough charts and stuff to be able to see if he is in the right spot and, if not, control it. We would rather take that out of their hands, and between me and Pat Corrales, we will take care of that."
Stealing: "We will run selectively. I think one of the things that doomed this club last year is that they were first in caught stealing. I am not going to be running all over the place just because 25,000 people in the stands are saying I am aggressive while people are getting thrown out on the bases. Not everybody will have a green light here. The guys who are going to run are the guys who are going to prove to me that they will be successful most of the time trying to steal a base."
When asked who will have a green light, Acta said, "Nook Logan, Felipe Lopez, [Cristian] Guzman and then we will take a look at who has enough instincts and skills to pick those right spots to earn it."
Bunting: "It's been proven to me that a guy at first base with no outs has a better chance to score than a guy at second base with one out. That has been proven to me with millions of at-bats. I don't like moving guys over from first to second unless the pitcher is up or it is real late in the game.
"I am telling you right now you are not going to see me bunting guys from first to second in the middle of the game or early unless it is the pitcher. We will pick spots. If we have a slow guy on the mound, and we know Logan can lay it down, we will pick those times."
Lineup: Acta said his preference for the second spot in the lineup ideally would be determined by on-base percentage -- even though his plan is to bat Guzman, a low-percentage on-base guy, second.
"You can't steal first base," he said. "That is the main thing for me. You have to get on in order to score. I know Guzman is not a big high-percentage guy, but we don't have all the choices that we want to have here right now. With Lopez on base, Guzman may be the ideal guy to get him over with a hit-and-run or a drag bunt to get the guy in the scoring position for the [Ryan] Zimmermans and [Austin] Kearnses of the world.
He said if everyone were healthy, Ryan Church would bat second.
"If Nick [Johnson] was here, that was one of the original ideas because of [Church's] on-base percentage and his ability to hit a fastball," Acta said. "But right now, without Nick here, we need some protection behind Kearns, and if you put him hitting second, our lineup is pretty thin in the middle."
Pitching: "Our bullpen is our strength when it comes to our pitching, obviously, because we have some depth. You can't burn those guys. I like to get guys out of the game when they have the opportunity only to win or tie the ballgame, so they can come out of the game on a positive note and can build on it for the next game.
"But you need guys to give you some innings, too, because you don't want to burn out the bullpen. I am not a big fan of throwing guys more than three days in a row.
"We will carry 12 [pitchers] instead of the usual 11 in the National League. We are not hiding that with [Luis] Ayala coming back from surgery. We will take a starting rotation that, once we leave spring training, will let us know what we are going to get. We don't know what we are going to get. So we are going to carry that extra arm."
So there you go: The manager will put a high premium on defense. You won't see a lot of stealing without a high percentage of success. You won't see a lot of bunting. He's operating with two big drawbacks already, a lineup with a No. 2 hitter who is hardly his preference and a pitching staff so uncertain that he feels the need to sacrifice the bench and carry another pitcher.
That is Manny Acta's plan on the field, which may have little effect on the outcome of this season, based on "the plan" off the field.
By Tammy Bruce
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