Acta discusses Nats' present, future
Manager addresses disappointing start in Q&A with MLB.com
Manager Manny Acta had every reason to believe the Nationals were going to play better baseball in 2009.
Acta received the power hitter he was looking for, as the team signed outfielder Adam Dunn to a two-year, $20 million contract last February.
Acta wanted an eighth-inning reliever. No problem. The Nationals signed left-hander Joe Beimel to a one-year deal.
But it hasn't gone the Nationals' way this season. Entering Friday's action against the Phillies, the Nationals are 13-33, the worst record in baseball. Bullpen and defensive woes are the reason for the record.
MLB.com caught up with Acta on Thursday afternoon to talk about why the Nationals are not winning and his future with the club.
MLB.com: A lot of people, including yourself, were expecting major improvements from the Nationals, but it's turning out to be a disappointing season. What's going on?
Manny Acta: We obviously had higher expectations for this club. I think we were counting too much on our bullpen and we never saw what was coming there. That put us in a big hole early. We have a big hole to climb out of now.
MLB.com: What has been the biggest disappointment to you?
Acta: It has been our defense and our bullpen -- both of them. We knew we were going to miss Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch -- big time. But we never [thought this group would struggle] the way it has. I never thought our defense was going to play this poorly.
MLB.com: We know that Dunn is a below-average defensive player, but the rest of the team is above average. So it must be shocking to know the team is last in the Majors in defense.
Acta: It has been a disappointment the way we have played defense. That being said, we have been rotating outfielders. We haven't had a steady center fielder the whole season. Some of the guys we felt could play better defense in the infield haven't. It has been tough on that side.
MLB.com: Moving forward, how can you fix some of the problems that you have right now?
Acta: There are some contracts coming off the books. The team will have the opportunity to correct some stuff that is going on right now. We'll have more experience on our pitching staff. We are going to address the bullpen in a more methodical, serious manner.
MLB.com: If there is anything positive about the team, you have a nice, young rotation with Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, Shairon Martis, Craig Stammen and Jordan Zimmermann. They have not embarrassed you.
Acta: I am happy by the fact that we have those early-20s guys, who are in our starting rotation. So far, so good. They haven't embarrassed themselves. We know, here and there, they are going to have bad outings. They are going to get their lumps in the big leagues. Hopefully, we can get a few of those guys to be stable in the rotation for years to come.
MLB.com: Of the starters you have right now, who is your most pleasant surprise?
Acta: The biggest surprise is Ross Detwiler because of the way he looked in Spring Training. He was erratic when he was on the mound. Going back to what I saw in Spring Training, I didn't think I would see him this quick at the big league level. But we all knew he had the potential because you don't get picked in the first round based on a coincidence.
MLB.com: Based on how the young pitchers have performed, do you think it's time to use younger players at the position spots?
Acta: That's something we have been trying to do. That's why we have given an opportunity to Anderson Hernandez. We are trying to see if we could get a second baseman for the long term. Those situations are going to work themselves out next year when some of those contracts expire. And then the team will have enough money to get out there and make the moves required to get us younger at certain positions.
MLB.com: For the first time since you arrived in Washington, the fans are not on your side. They want to see a new manager. When you hear stuff like that, what is your reaction?
Acta: My reaction is, I can't control what people think or say. The bottom line is: they want to see the team win. Everybody is on board with the rebuilding. But that being said, not too many people are patient enough to lose while rebuilding. I have to respect their opinion, but I just prepare myself to go out there every single day and give this team the best possible chance to win.
MLB.com: How have you kept your composure this season?
Acta: I control it by not allowing any negative stuff to come to me. I'm not searching for news. I'm not that type of guy.
MLB.com: Do you think you will be back as manager of the Nationals next year?
Acta: That's out of my hands. I can't answer that question because I'm not going to be making that decision. I want to be here for a long time. That's all I can say. I came here through the rough times. I would like to be here when things turn out for the best.
MLB.com: What's next for you and the team? You play the Phillies starting Friday.
Acta: We need to win more often. Winning one and losing four will not help us at all. We need to get into a winning streak pretty quick here. We are waiting for our winning streak. We need to get better. Our defense has improved a little bit and our bullpen has improved. Now, let's put it all together and have a good stretch.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.