Monday, July 13, 2009

Manuel Elias Acta
November 14, 2006 - July 13, 2009

This truly is one of the darkest days since this blog’s inception two-plus years ago. The Master, one of our key inspirations and mentors (two fleeting encounters count as mentorship), Man-Act, Chairmanny, is no more.

His philosophy was a guiding principle of this blog, from the first interview I heard him give on the radio, in which he was asked what he would bring to the team. “Positive energy” he replied with no hesitation. It’s what the Nats needed. While we loved Frank and mourned his passing from the manager’s perch, his old-fashioned brand of crusty, occasionally hard-ass (and, to be fair, occasional tear-shedding at the mid-inning pulling of a catcher) style might have better fit an underachieving fully built veteran squad. Occasional lover of ‘tism Mike Wise recently opined that Frank deserved better in his dismissal from DC, and had a point. Maybe he can write the same about Manny. As most everyone admits, the Nats growing pains are far too great at the moment to be cured by the firing of a manager, or even by the (wise) ditching of Joel Hanrahan and Jesue Colome.

And so, in fond, fond remembrance of Acta and his ‘tism-soaked tenure in DC, including that idyllic summer of ’07 with its resultant single Manager of the Year vote, we present some of our fondest Manny Moments as chronicled in this blog, in no particular order:

September 23, 2007

Final Nats home game of the season, and final Nats’ game ever at RFK (my first wedding anniversary as well). Closing out the home portion of the season in which his team bucked all predictions of the historical awfulness that would befall them, ChairManny addresses the crowd afterwards, stating confidently, “I am positive and optimistic [about this team].”

DCO post from that day

April 13, 2007

Ah, the early days of the blog, when posts flowed as easily as an encouraging word from Manny’s mouth to the ears of a young team told by all others they were en route to 125 losses. On this Friday in April, we inaugurated a weekly award, the Manny Acta Optimist of the Week (MAO of the Week, a moniker which begat one of Bobtimist Prime’s most clever posts/logos), given each Friday to the figure in Washington sports we felt most personified Manny’s spirit of positivity for the preceding week. The first winner was then-hitting-coach Mitchell Page, who, in the face of daunting statistical evidence to the contrary, expressed complete faith in the abilities of the Nats’ offense, and predicted their bats would yet come alive. Two years and many hitters later, he is almost vindicated.

Manny himself would go on to capture several of these awards in the time when we still gave them out, a testament to how often he alone was the voice of ‘tism in this town (oh, and our blog too).

DCO post from that day


June 13, 2007

Still just a little over two months into his first major league season as manager, Manny really started to hit his stride on this night against the Baltimore Orioles. Game 2 of what would be a stunning Nats’ series sweep at Camden Yards (a series win that would put the cost-cutting, rebuilding Nationals at the same record as the heavy-spending, maybe kind of trying to win now Orioles) went to 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, struggling hitter and not-long-for-a-Nats-uniform Felipe Lopez, 0-5 thus far that night, got into a little tiff at home plate over balls and strikes. Manny, knowing the consequences of his thinned bench losing even this light hitting infielder, strode confidently to the batter’s box and talked Felipe down, keeping what would have been an imminent ejection at bay and re-focusing his second baseman with a little Spanish pep talk.

Mere moments later, Lopez’s base-clearing triple provided the eventual 9-6 winning margin (remember when a relief pitcher could hold down a late- or extra-inning lead like that?). ‘Tism triumphs again.

DCO post from that day


June 6, 2007

The first meeting of a member of this blog and one of its prime sources of inspiration. Mrs. DCO and I were fortunate enough to briefly chat with the Master prior to our being ushered away from the seats near the dugout and back to our plebian perches. It was a short conversation, but one that featured optimism as its primary subject. At the very mention of the word, Manny’s demeanor switched from the typical fan meet-and-greet to that of Master of Philosophy, as he expounded on the need to live a life rooted in optimism, and to eschew the easy but ultimately unrewarding path of the pessimist.

The autographed ball from that night sits above my right shoulder as I type this, and will remind me of the first time I met this future Manager of the Year and World Series champion.

DCO post from that day

May 30, 2007

An interesting day, as it followed a humbling 10-0 Nats’ loss at the hands of the Dodgers and saw the team similarly fall 5-0 that night. But in the big picture, this day came
as the Nats were wrapping up a 13-7 run in May after the oft-referenced 9-25 start that had the wolves circling, salivating, howling, etc. Bobtimist’s post from that morning will no doubt someday be credited as being the first prescient reference to Manny as the greatest manager in the history of baseball.

This was the day, at the end of almost three weeks of solid, winning Nats baseball, that we felt our seldom-credited guarantee of a non-100-loss season from May 9 might not have been a product of over-zealous homerism, but might have been steeped in something else. Yeah, optimism. Almost tangible in those days.

DCO post from that day

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My own personal witness to the power Manny had in that blissful summer (undocumented in DCO as far as I know) came late in a game vs. Florida that May. It was towards the end of what were to be two extended rain delays, and only a few hundred fans remained at RFK, most of whom had made their way to the seats near the field. I was sitting not far down the first base line and suddenly a dozen or so fans behind home plate erupted into a boisterous standing ovation. There was the Master, walking past, quickly acknowledging the cheer with an “I’m not worthy”-type bow in return.

We may visit some more Manny Memories in the coming days, even as we (painfully) move on and hope that Jim Riggleman can be Bruce Boudreau to Manny’s Glen Hanlon (yet again drawing parallels between the Caps and Nats. When will it end? The answer is never).

In the end he’s the sacrifice that a 26-61 record demanded. It’s still depressing to see him go, especially feeling as strongly as we do that he will land elsewhere and that his unquenchable positivity will lead someone else to glory. In a way it's as hard to read about this dismissal as it was to read about that whole Caps Game 7 thing vs. Pittsburgh. But, as with that sordid affair, we can get through this.

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