(Photo courtesy RedStateBlueState)
Nats fans tend to have conflicting memories of manager Manny Acta's tenure with the organization. It's easy to remember the the 2008 season when Acta's Nationals finished the season with just 59 wins. Or the 2009 season when Acta was fired in favor of Jim Riggleman after having a winning percentage below .300 at the All-Star Break. Ouch.
But what's easy to forget is the type of talent that Acta had to work with. The starting pitching during Acta's tenure were the likes of Matt Chico, Mike Bacsik, Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, Garrett Mock, and Joel Hanrahan. As good as Hanrahan has been as a closer in Pittsburgh (and he's been great), he didn't cut it as a starter. The offensive powerhouses were Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard, FLop, Ryan Church, Nook Logan, Josh Bard, Elijah Dukes, and Austin Kearns. Sure, Ryan Zimmerman was in there, but he was still developing in Acta's early years.
All of that was to set up this point: how could the poor winning percentages possibly be Manny Acta's fault? He had basically nothing to work with.
To compound the issue, to start the 2009 season, the Nats fired then-GM Jim Bowden after he was named in an FBI investigation for skimming money from Latin American players and for the Smiley Gonzelez controversy. The 2009 season started under a cloud of problems, and it showed in the team's performance. None of this should be seen as Manny Acta's fault. He was a young manager, in a questionably managed organization, with endless past-their-prime players. I'm sure Manny wouldn't make any of these excuses, but I'm making them for him.
Finally, the last and most significant reason that you should cheer for Manny Acta and the Cleveland Indians: if the Indians can win, so can the Nats. Coming into this season, most talking baseball heads had the Indians barely above the Royals in the basement of the AL Central. Currently, Cleveland sits at the top of the division by a large margin over the predicted favorites: Chicago and Minnesota.
None of this means the season will end this way, but we should all hope it does. The Indians would be the perfect example of building up talent over time and taking a division by surprise with a random great season. This type of Cinderella story is good for small markets, and it's good for baseball, and it's really good for the Nationals. Good luck, Manny.