07/13/09 2:35 PM ET
Zimmerman: Acta took fall for poor first half
All-Star third baseman reacts to manager's dismissal
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The news first filtered out late Sunday night that Manny Acta had been dismissed as manager of the Nationals. Jim Riggleman will take over in the interim.
As the Nationals' only All-Star representative, Zimmerman's thoughts on the switch carried weight.
"We're a lot better team than what we've done this year, and unfortunately Manny had to kind of take the fall for that," said Zimmerman. "I think he did a lot of things in Washington that will help us become a better team, and when it does happen, he'll be responsible for a lot of it. It's tough. Any time something like this happens, it's tough to pinpoint what went wrong where. It's always hard."
Whether or not it was Acta's fault, Zimmerman, a young leader for the Nationals, said that the culture of the team needs to change. Washington has a 26-61 record at the All-Star break, the worst in the Majors.
"I think there needs to be accountability and some responsibility taken," said Zimmerman. "We have the built-in excuse of being young, but I don't think we're really that young anymore. I think a lot of our starting pitchers have enough innings, and they have enough experience to kind of get past that point to where they're not young anymore.
"I think some accountability needs to be taken when things are done wrong. There needs to be a little bit more of a sense of urgency and wanting to win. I think some people there are so used to losing that they don't really have that fire to win, and I think that's the next step we need to take, and once we do that, we'll get to that next level and start being more competitive."
If Zimmerman hinted at one critique of Acta, it's that the manager could have shown a little more fire at times.
"Every player is different. Personally, I don't need that kind of stuff, but I think a lot of players do," Zimmerman said. "It's so different from a player-to-player basis, so it's hard for me to speak for everybody but there are some points -- some times -- where some people had said some stuff on our team, not to him obviously, but player-to-player, that they would have liked him to do more of that.
"He's not a very controversial person. He's more of a 'what is arguing going to do?' type. I think that sometimes you have to go out there and do that, not just because you're the manager, but because your players want you to stick up for them."
Not having talked yet to upper management about the switch, Zimmerman wasn't sure quite what Riggleman's role will be, or how long he will manage.
"He's been great all year as a bench coach," Zimmerman said. "I think hopefully he'll be the same person he's been all year, and I think we have a great team. We have a lot of talent, we have tremendous upside. We'll see what happens. I think he's obviously ready for the job, and he's had experience with it before. I think it will be good for us, and we'll see what happens from there. I don't know if he's the long-term answer that they're looking for. I have no clue, I haven't talked to anybody. For now, I think he'll be great."
Could the switch serve as a jolt for a team that badly needs it?
"Yeah, well I hope it is," said Zimmerman. "Like I was saying before, the only problem with our team is I think there's really not that sense of urgency. We're talented enough to win. I think if you look at our lineup, and you look at our young pitching, sure we have our spots that aren't as strong as other teams.
"But I think we're way better than what we've done. But as bad as it sounds -- and it shouldn't have to happen like this -- but something like this happening, maybe it will wake some people up and get them to realize that this isn't just about me, and it's about everyone."
Zimmerman emphasized repeatedly that the players are the ones who are most responsible with reversing the fortunes of the Nats.
"Sense of pride, I guess, is the biggest thing," Zimmerman said. "You have to go out there and want to do well and know that there are repercussions if you don't do well. I think that's the biggest thing. You can only do much in the clubhouse. Manny can only have so many talks or meetings. When it comes down to it, when you get in the box or it's your turn to come through, you have to do it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.