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Manny Acta was fired for being too easygoing (and losing a lot)

Jul 15, 2009, 2:59 PM EDT

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
Lastings Milledge:

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.

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