- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

The Washington Nationals have fired Manny Acta after two and a half seasons and replaced him with bench coach Jim Riggleman.

Acta confirmed to The Washington Times in an e-mail early Monday morning he had been fired after two and a half years as the Nationals’ manager. The Nationals lost 5-0 to the Houston Astros on Sunday, dropping their record to a major league-worst 25-61. The team finished 59-102 in 2008, a mark that also was the worst in baseball.

The 40-year-old’s tenure ends with a 158-252 record. His .385 winning percentage is the 10th-worst in major-league history.

“I want to thank the Washington Nationals for giving me the opportunity to be a Major League manager. It was a great learning experience, I have no regrets,” Acta said in a statement released by the Nationals. “As I move forward, I wish the Nationals all the best. I was very fortunate to work with and meet a lot of wonderful people while here.”

Acta, the youngest manager in the major leagues when he was hired, was given a two-year contract with a pair of one-year options and touted as a major piece in the Nationals’ rebuilding project. The team picked up his 2009 option at the end of the 2007 season, but did not give Acta the same show of faith after last season and let go every member of his coaching staff except pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Then, the team fired St. Claire in early June.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten announced the promotion of Riggleman at a late-morning press conference at Nationals Park. Riggleman did not attend, and he is expected to meet with the media for the first time on Wednesday at a team workout at the park.

“I’m not satisfied with the way we play the game at times,” said Rizzo, who did most of the talking at Monday’s press conference. “We don’t execute nearly as often as I expect them too. But the effort as far as the hustle and preparation is there; the consistency of the effort and the hustle needs work. The way we fundamentally play the game needs a lot of work.”

Riggleman, 56, has managed parts of nine seasons with three previous major league clubs and owns an overall 522-652 record. He went 112-179 with the Padres from 1992-94, 374-491 with the Cubs from 1995-99 (winning the NL wild card in 1998) and 36-54 as the Mariners’ interim manager last season.

“I think he’s obviously ready for the job and has had experience before,” all-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of Riggleman. “I think it’ll be good for us and we’ll see what happens from there. I don’t know if he’s the long-term answer that they’re looking for … but for now I think he’ll be great.”

Acta spent two years as the New York Mets’ third-base coach before the Nationals hired him to replace Frank Robinson in 2006. He leaves as the longest-tenured manager in Nationals history, still popular with some fans because of his upbeat personality but criticized by others for not taking a tougher tack with his floundering team.

Zimmerman said some of that responsibility falls to the players, though.

“I think some people there are so used to losing they don’t have that fire to win,” said Zimmerman, who’s in St. Louis preparing for Tuesday’s All-Star game. “That’s the next step we need to take, and once we do that we’ll get to that next level and start being more competitive.”

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