- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Manny Acta is better off without the Washington Nationals.

That, no doubt, is not what Acta thinks today after getting fired from the job he worked so long to get.

No one likes to get fired, and Acta made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Nationals. But as the days and weeks pass, Acta probably will consider the pink slip a blessing.

Most people who leave bad organizations are better off, particularly talented people. And despite the results on the field, those in the game know Acta is talented and believe he still has a future as a major league manager.

A manager with a career record of 158-252 usually wouldn’t get a second chance.

But Acta will because, in organizations where reason and respect reside, people recognize that winning 158 games while managing the Washington Misfits is a worthy accomplishment.

They will look at the way he handled the worst situation in baseball in his 2 1/2 years as manager, never losing his composure or the clubhouse.

They know Acta had to work with the game’s most dysfunctional general manager in Jim Bowden and a family ownership group that was convinced it knew how to run a baseball team and knew how to do it better than anyone else.

How’s that working out for the Lerners?

The Nationals are not now going to become the Colorado Rockies, who turned their season around after firing Clint Hurdle. If you think otherwise, you are delusional enough to work in the Nationals’ front office.

The Rockies have players less than two years removed from a National League pennant. The Nationals have spare parts no other team in baseball wanted.

The Nationals have been baseball’s 12-step program, a Boys Town for miscreants and malcontents - Dmitri Young, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Ronnie Belliard, Paul Lo Duca, Felipe Lopez, Odalis Perez, Robert Fick and Johnny Estrada.

Acta had to be a keeper, a baby sitter, as much as he had to be a baseball manager.

Consider, in addition, the overrated talent Bowden gave Acta to use, particularly among what passed for pitchers. The only pitchers from last year’s 59-win team that have been in a major league starting rotation for any length of time this season are Washington’s John Lannan and Tim Redding and his 7.14 ERA with the New York Mets. The same goes for the 2007 staff as well.

Now the Nationals, nearly three years to the day after the Lerners and Stan Kasten took over ownership, must start all over again this offseason.

They have to find a new manager, someone willing to work for a franchise with one of the worst reputations in baseball and for owners who aren’t about to write a big check to hire a manager.

The only choices will be desperate retreads, and, like Acta, those looking for their first major league managing job.

This is the poison that Bowden left behind, the poison the Lerner family embraced.

That poison set the Nationals back for years to come. For all of the hoopla about the club’s young pitchers, the farm system has nearly nothing in the way of position players.

Now suddenly the Nationals’ best position prospect is Derek Norris, who is 20 years old and at Class A ball in Hagerstown. Chris Marrero and Michael Burgess have been disappointments so far. The club’s minor league player of the year last season is Leonard Davis, who is 25 and still at Class AA Harrisburg.

Yes, they will line up to manage this organization. Bobby Valentine? Are you kidding me?

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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