ACTA ANOTHER "RIGHT CHOICE" BY NATIONALS
[November 15th] -- First off, I'd like to thank Al Gore for inventing the internet. Without him, I'd never have been able to watch the press conference that introduced Manny Acta to the Nationals' Nation.
First reaction: I love the guy.
Let me first tell you my greatest fear heading into this process (PC police: hold off attacking me until I finish). I was worried that the Nationals were going to hire a Latino player in the mold of Ozzie Guillen, a person who is vile, profane, and barely speaks English (funny, his curse words come out the clearest). That's not to say that all Latino's are like Ozzie; rather, I was worried that our Latino was going to be like Ozzie. I'm not one of those Americans who demands that all living here learn English -- I just think that speaking English makes living here much easier.
It took about five seconds to calm my fears. Acta is as articulate with the English language as I am. His vivaciousness and preciousness, personality traits that don't often transcend a language barrier, were obvious in every spoken word. He has a subtle sense of humor, and doesn't take himself too seriously.
Here are some things that impressed me during his thirty-minute presser:
"I'd like to thank God, ...." Again, don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that being a religious man makes him a better manager. But I am drawn to people who don't give themselves all the credit for getting ahead in life. Whether you attribute personal success to God, or your parents, or your wife, this type of selfless act says a lot about the person.
"God Bless America ... I've been an American since 1999." Though he spoke glowingly of his years in the Dominican Republic, Acta took a step that few Latino athletes do: become naturalized citizens. Acta said, "I came from a poor country, came to America, worked hard, kept my nose clean, and made something of myself. Only in America." Not only does he believe in the American dream, he's living it.
"The first phone call I got after the news reports was from Alfonso Soriano." That indicates that Soriano holds no animosity towards Acta for benching him during the WBC series. Acta also said that not only are the two men Dominicans, but they come from the same region, separated by "just two sugar cane fields." When asked if his presence in D.C. would help bring Soriano back, he said "Sure, that will help, but there other reasons he'll need to return too," meaning about $17 million dollars a year. It sounded like he didn't seem hopeful that Soriano would return.
"I was 20 when someone in the Astros organization told me to my face that I couldn't play baseball very well." They did tell him, however, that he'd make a good coach, and began that career at the age of 22 helping Bobby Abreu as a special coach teaching him English. By the time he was 24, he was a manager in the minor leagues. When he told the Astros' GM that he wasn't any older than the players he was to manage, the reply was, "So don't tell them how old you are."
Acta said that, although he interviewed with the Rangers and Giants, it was this job in this city that he wanted the most. Normally, I'd say that was politically correct speak -- obviously, you don't want to "diss" the other teams you talked with. But you know what? I really believed him. His facial expressions, that lilt in his voice, made me believe that he wanted to manage my team. How cool is that?
As I had previously written, I was afraid the Nationals were going to hire a Latino manager because they wanted to hire a "Latino manager." I couldn't have been more wrong. The Washington Nationals hired the best man available -- a man who just happens to be Latino. With the ever increasing Hispanic population in and around the District, having a manager who can converse fluently with everybody makes total sense. And, really, they didn't hire a Latino after all; they hired an American.
Slowly, the remnants of the Expos debacle are slowly falling away, being replaced with people, programs and policies that will bring the Washington Nationals to the forefront of major league baseball. When asked of the team's short-term future, Acta said that the Nationals have the position players to compete for a playoff birth now; it's the starting rotation that is making this a non-competitive team. And he's so right. So when he says the Nationals can start winning sooner, and not later, I believe him.
The honeymoon has begun. I hope he is given every opportunity to succeed, and I pray that Jim Bowden does nothing to screw up his chances for that success. I have been saying since the day that Frank Robinson got fired that who ever the new manager was wouldn't last more than a few years, that he would be a "throw away" manager -- someone to keep the seat warm until a much better Nationals' team could draw much better candidates.
Again, it seems that I was wrong. This guy seems to be the "real deal," and I couldn't be happier.
By the way, head over to Nats 320 for a first hand report of the press conference. Our good friend was there and provides a wonderful report on the goings-on.
BOWDEN-ISM: I've decided that Jim Bowden should stop trying to be funny. As he introduced the Nationals' new manager to the crowd, he said, "Now let's Acta-vate, baby!"
I can think of two transactions where Jim Bowden could have used us as a barometer of how the fans would react. First was the last day of Spring Training this year when he demoted Ryan Church to New Orleans. that was my highest traffic day, far surpassing the Soriano trade (it was more than five times higher than the average day). Every blog ripped the move. Second, the reaction to the Lopez/Kearns trade, which was universally loved and appreciated.
A quick check of the blogs gives the team an instant reading of the fan's temperature.
Hopefully, they'll treat us like real journalists, or at least something close to it.
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