NEW YORK -- Phil Garner managed three big-league teams. He was fired by three big-league teams.
He knows how it goes. He can see when it’s going to happen. He also knows when it’s done wrong.
The Nationals are doing this one with Manny Acta all wrong.
“Manny’s hung out to dry,” Garner said Tuesday. “The only way they could keep him now is if they gave him a three-year contract.”
The Nationals obviously aren’t giving Acta a three-year deal. They aren’t even giving him a three-month deal, or a three-week deal.
In fact, when acting general manager Mike Rizzo was asked Tuesday afternoon about Acta’s status, he first said, “We’re supportive of everyone in the organization,” and then quickly followed it up with “The success we have on the field is going to dictate the moves that we make.”
The Nationals are 16-45. You do the math.
We all know how these managerial firings work. Once there’s serious talk that the manager is getting canned -- in this case a report from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com that the Nationals never really denied -- in nine out of 10 cases the press conference is no more than a few days away.
That’s why Garner always said that he had just one request for his general manager: If you’re thinking of firing me, do it right away.
“Don’t string me out,” Garner said. “The players know it. The press knows it. Everyone knows it. The players know it before everyone else does.
“When it gets like this, they might as well go ahead and fire you.”
And yet, time after time, teams mess this one up.
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Mets’ botched Willie Randolph firing. They let Randolph get on a plane to California, remember, then fired him in the middle of the night, after a win.
That was bad. What the Diamondbacks did to Bob Melvin this year might have been worse, as they actually had him manage two more games after admitting to him that he was about to get canned.
Now we have the Nationals. There’s no indication they’ve told Acta he’s gone, but at the same time they’ve done nothing to suggest that they plan to keep him.
So the uncomfortable questions continue, day after day.
To his credit, Acta seems to be dealing with all this very well. People around him said he hasn’t changed the way he does things, and Tuesday he sat in his office and calmly answered a series of questions about his job status.
“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t worry about rumors. When your number’s up, your number’s up.”
Asked if he had received any reassurances from Rizzo or club president Stan Kasten, Acta said, “I’m the type who doesn’t need to be patted on the back.”
That’s nice of him to say, but it really doesn’t matter.
This isn’t about a pat on the back. It’s about an organization, and about choosing to do things the right way or the wrong way.
One more time, the Nationals are wrong.