Who's the Biggest Clown in Nats Town?

Farid RushdiAnalyst IJune 3, 2009

WASHINGTON - MARCH 29:  Stan Kasten, President of the Washington Nationals, talks to fans before the exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park March 29, 2008 in Washington DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

A few nights ago, I caught my 17-year-old son sneaking into my house at two in the morning. He was repeatedly warned about breaking curfew and this was the last straw.

To teach him a lesson once and for all, I ran downstairs, threw open my 12-year-old daughter's bedroom door and woke her up out of a sound sleep. "You're grounded for a month!" I shouted.

Boy, I sure taught him a lesson.

What's that you say? It didn't make sense to punish the innocent while letting the guilty go free?

Well, change "son" to Manny Acta and "daughter" to Randy St. Claire and you get the gist of the latest drama emanating from Nats Town.

Manny Acta has lost control of his team. He sits in the dugout and remains stoic and silent, unmoved and unfazed while doubles turn into home runs and outs at home magically disappear into the realm of mulligans and do-overs.

I would say that his team does a great impression of the Keystone Cops, but that would be doing a grave disservice to that comedy troop of the silent era.

Manny Acta is Nero watching Rome burn. He's Hitler planning a new offensive while Berlin is surrounded by the Russian and American armies. Acta is Richard Nixon, trying to convince the Washington press corps that he's not a crook.

But unlike those other guys who eventually saw the writing on the wall, Manny Acta continues to dismiss the obvious and refuses to try something new, something different.

And the Nationals, for a reason that both escapes me and defies logic, fired the one coach on the staff that is generally well regarded throughout the baseball world.

Don't believe me?

Remember all those bruised and beaten pitchers that Jim Bowden brought in every spring?

From Esteban Loiaza to Daniel Cabrera-and including a cast of thousands in between-former general manager Jim Bowden would announce the signing of a pitcher who was but a shell of his former self and say, "Randy St. Claire is one of the premier pitching coaches in all of baseball. We believe he can help (fill in name here) regain his ability.

And he often did just that.

And now, St. Claire is the reason the Nationals have embarrassed both themselves and their fans for the second year in a row?


Part of the fault lies with the Lerner family, owners of the Nationals, for the way in which they built their franchise. And part of the fault lies with Stan Kasten, who needed to be more forceful with his vision as to how the team should have been put together.

And part of the fault lies with Jim Bowden, though to be fair he was just playing the hand he was dealt.

And in other situations, Manny Acta might have-probably could have-succeeded as a thoroughly competent manager. It's just in this situation, he's dragging the team down with him.

But why would the front office fire Randy St. Claire? I mean, Mark Lerner must know that his team's starting staff is the youngest in the major leagues and has the fewest number of wins as well.

If the Lerners, or the team president, or its general manager believed that John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Shairon Martis, Craig Stammen and Ross Detwiler should be pitching better then they are, then they have even less baseball acumen than we thought.

Again, why Randy St. Claire?

Because either the big-shots are fools, or they think we are.

They hope-maybe they believe-that by sacrificing St. Claire to the baseball gods, the rioting citizens of Nats Town would settle down and buy them more time to field a winner.

But they are oh so wrong.

Every last Nationals fan who still cares about the team-I think there are about 20,000 or so of us left-can see this act as a canard, a prevarication, a lie. The fans aren't stupid enough to think Randy St. Claire was the problem and see this move on the part of the Nationals like a Michael Jordan pump-fake.

The problem is, we're not biting.

If the Nationals don't do some serious introspection and then dance the mea culpa (and fire Manny Acta), they will have lost what little good will remains for baseball in Washington.

By firing St. Claire, they are telling us that they aren't going to fire Manny Acta this year. I mean, if things aren't bad enough to fire him now, what will it take to make that change?

It's a dark day for baseball in our nation's capital. If the Nationals can somehow extricate themselves from this very bad decision, the fans will kiss and make up.

But if they don't ...


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