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Boswell: A Stronger Link Than Most Think

Stan Kasten, above, has not pulled the trigger on Manager Manny Acta as of yet. The Nats fell to 16-46 following their loss to the Yankees last night.
Stan Kasten, above, has not pulled the trigger on Manager Manny Acta as of yet. The Nats fell to 16-46 following their loss to the Yankees last night. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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"Stan and Mike are supportive," Acta said. "Stan says, 'Just win a few games so I can stop answering these questions.' "

If that trio does not support each other, who will? Asked about the status of his contract, Rizzo said: "I haven't asked and don't intend to. Since I got the job on March 1st, I've worked 24-7. I've never felt 'interim.' Joe Torre said, when they made him interim manager that he'd moved his furniture in and somebody would have to move it out. I've moved my symbolic furniture in."

Instead of worrying about whether Acta should be fired, the Nationals might want to focus their attention on getting Rizzo fully hired -- not just as "interim." Kasten never comments on the GM situation. But he's not going to do better than Rizzo, whose '07 draft class already has produced starters Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. As soon as Rizzo took his new job, he identified Problem 1 -- the bullpen of children -- before it ever blew up. He signed Beimel as a free agent, then (for about $5 each) picked up veterans Ron Villone, Julián Taváres, Kip Wells and Mike MacDougal. Bowden's kids imploded. The patchwork vets have had a bullpen ERA around 3.00 for almost a month.

Beimel saw both bullpen groups. "The young guys had a kind of deer-in-the-headlights look. I don't want to say they were scared, but they looked nervous warming up," Beimel said. "A lot of them were being put in situations -- one-run game, late-inning, middle-of-the-order up -- that they'd never faced in the big leagues."

As the Nats face 11 more games in a row with the tough AL East, more predictions of Acta's demise may continue. Someday, one may be accurate. The bill of particulars against him always comes down to one issue: Acta never gets angry. Aren't umps, who know he won't cause a flap, influenced by the angry voices from the other dugout? Won't Nats players, seldom if ever read the riot act by Acta, likely to take advantage, too?

The Nats have talked to Acta about showing more emotion. He could do it so easily. Any fool can fake a fit. But he won't. Even for his job. "He's very stubborn in his beliefs," one executive said. On the other hand, that's because they actually are beliefs.

As the Nationals continue to lose, and Acta leans on the dugout railing studying the field, showing nothing, enduring all, contesting nothing, feel free to view his utter calm as a fatal managerial flaw, especially on a team that comes up a crucial play or two shy of victory so often. And it may well be.

But on a team so young, so destabilized in such a short time, do the Nats really want to replace Acta with an unknown or unfamiliar quantity? Who else is so committed to sticking with this dubious ship? The Nats' predicament may be far more complex than it appears. How much stability and continuity can you throw overboard on the knee-jerk logic that, "It can't get worse."

Maybe those who build this sinking bucket, and still run it, suspect that it can.

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