Last week, Jim Bowden threw his support behind Chief Optimist Manny Acta for Manager of the Year consideration. While Bowden may be about three months late with such a statement, it is nonetheless laudable, and completely accurate. At 54-64, the Nationals could lose their last 44 games and still exceed all expectations and predictions for this season by at least 11 wins (depending on the prediction).
We’ve documented this expectation-exceeding all season long and won’t dwell on it too much here (saving most of it for a season wrap-up of expert call-outs, likely to be titled “Everyone Who Was Wrong and Should Be Fired From Their Respective Publication or Broadcast Platform or At Least Banned From Writing About or Commenting Upon Baseball”). We will instead (again) praise the job that Man Act, our leader and the partial inspiration for this blog, has done with this team, and show why we so completely agree with Bowden’s statement that Manny deserves Manager of the Year honors (The Examiner rightfully cites compelling precedent for such an honor.)
So history-defying (defining?) has his managerial debut been, that we will even take it a step further and insist that, from this point forward, MLB re-name the award in his honor. Each year MLB should present the most outstanding manager in each league with the Manny of the Year award. Deion Sanders wanted the cornerback position re-named after himself. While the overrated, front-running, contending-team-joining-then-dumping egomaniac was completely undeserving of such a distinction, Manny has proven himself, already, more than deserving. Let’s look at a few key moments from this year, moments in which Manny’s overwhelming optimism and managerial mettle contributed to the alteration of what many considered to be pre-written baseball history (badness).
June 13 vs. Baltimore (booooo). An angry Felipe Lopez looks destined to be tossed for arguing balls and strikes with the bases loaded and the game on the line. Man Act heroically dashes to the scene and pulls back his struggling infielder, whispering Spanish encouragements to him. Shortly thereafter, Felipe pulls through with the winning hit, the highlight of a glorious three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore.
June 24 vs. Cleveland. The previous day, Manny watched his closer blow a ninth-inning lead, giving up a titanic home run in the process, and ultimately lose the game. Nevertheless, he restated his faith in the team, his closer, and hoped for the exact same situation in the very next game. Perhaps showing a scientific correlation between ‘tism and premonition, Manny was rewarded for his faith, as the Nats did face the exact same situation against the Indians. ChairManny stuck to his word and his plan and the Nats came away with a win.
July 26 vs. Philadelphia. Manny is ejected by an evil, and possibly drunk (on power or otherwise), umpire. Why? For defending the honor of future (DCO) Hall of Famer John Lannan and his misunderstood Phillies-seeking fastballs. While the ejection was missing the hissy-fit-inspired spectacle favored by the Lou Pinellas of the world, it nevertheless riled the Nats enough to rack up five late-inning runs en route to perhaps their most stirring victory of the year in front of a typically hostile Philly crowd.
It’s been the same theme all year long: avoiding disaster and pulling out unexpected victories, fending off the naysayers and optimism-haters just when they were most ready to pounce. The team was 1-8 and 9-25, so they went on a month and a half winning binge (followed by a brief June lull, followed by more winning). They were supposed to be the silent side act to someone else’s night, so they stole a win, never minding that nobody would ever remember it. Even as recently as Sunday afternoon they showed their logic-defying resilience, putting up 7 runs in two innings on the red-hot Diamondbacks to avoid a sweep. It all goes back to the manager.
More than any specific instance, though, we should be talking about the Disabled List. Look at this thing. Look at all the pitchers! It’s been like that for months. In a real world, Alleged Awful Team + Injury-Riddled Pitching Staff = 130 losses. In Manny’s world, such things = Legitimate Shot at .500. Who else could possibly be worthy of the newly refurbished Manny of the Year Award? This temper-tantrum-throwing idiot with his incredibly novel kick-dirt-on-the-umpire routine? Get lost. If Man Act doesn’t end up as a nominee, it would be MLB’s greatest travesty since Bud Selig, steroids, the Montreal/San Juan Expos, a tied All-Star game, a cancelled World Series, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.