Jim Riggleman Resigns from the Nationals: Treason in Washington
Friday, June 24, 2011
MLB reports: June has apparently become the month in baseball to fire your coach if you are a MLB General Manager, or to quit your team if you are a manager. Follow along the coaching carousel:
June 8th: Texas Rangers fire hitting coach Thad Bosley and replace him with Scott Coolbaugh
June 9th: Florida Marlins fire hitting coach John Mallee and replace him with Eduardo Perez
June 10th: Oakland Athletics fire manager Bob Geren and replace him with Bob Melvin
June 14th: Houston Astros fire pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and replace with him Doug Brocail
June 17th: Cleveland Indians fire hitting coach John Nunnally and replace him with Bruce Fields
It looks like where there is smoke, there is fire. A lot of it apparently in the coaching ranks of baseball. Teams were getting nervous and to help jump-start their slumping players, several teams decided to change a coach rather than making wholesale roster moves, or let go of the manager and/or General Manager. On June 19th, the baseball world was stunned as manager Edwin Rodriguez of the Florida Marlins resigned and was replaced with 80-year old ex-Marlins manager Jack McKeon. Then yesterday, Jim Riggleman, manager of the Washington Nationals, got the same itch from the “quit bug” suffered by Rodriguez and announced that he was resigning his post. The captain jumped ship in Washington but unlike the Florida situation, Riggleman made his decision for all the wrong reasons. As a result, he may never coach again in baseball.
The inside story behind Riggleman leaving the Nationals was that he requested some sort of meeting from General Manager Mike Rizzo to discuss his long-term future in Washington. When Rizzo refused to discuss his contract status, Riggleman departed from the team and resigned his position as manager. Essentially Riggleman did not like the rules of the game, so in a childlike manner he took his ball and went home, so to speak.
“It’s been brewing for a while,” said Riggleman. “I know I’m not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what I’m doing. It’s not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a short leash.”
No Jim. You are certainly not Casey Stengel. Let’s take a look shall we, at Riggleman’s career managerial record:
|1992||39||San Diego Padres||NL||12||4||8||.333||3|
|1993||40||San Diego Padres||NL||162||61||101||.377||7|
|1994||41||San Diego Padres||NL||117||47||70||.402||4|
|San Diego Padres||291||112||179||.385|
Jim Riggleman in his twelve-year managerial career has a record of 661-824, .445 winning percentage. During his three years in Washington, Riggleman finished with a 139-172 record. Riggleman’s best year was 1998 with the Cubs, where he had a 90-73 record and his team finished second in their division. He had a 73-71 record in 1995 with the Cubs and was floating at .500 this year, with a Nationals team sitting at 37-37. The man is clearly no baseball Houdini. While some may argue that Riggleman was not given much to work with at each of his stops for the most part, the man clearly was not able to get much out of his teams at most stops. A great manager should be able to turn out something out of nothing. But alas, this was not one of Riggleman’s gifts as a manager.
The reality of baseball is that coaches and managers get let go by teams all the time, as evidenced by the amount of activity among teams this month. Managers and coaches also quit sometimes. Rodriguez left his position in Florida, as did Riggleman in Washington. But when a coach leaves a team, the intention and circumstances behind the resignation are crucial. For it is the story behind the announcement that will ultimately dictate if and when said manager receives another crack at a big league post. Gonzalez left his position for the better of his team. The Marlins were floundering and in the interests of having his team recover, Gonzalez felt that a change was needed. While that should have been up to the team to decide, at least Gonzalez acted in what he felt was best for his team. His compassion and sentiments to the organization means that Gonzalez should continue coaching in baseball. In the case of Jim Riggleman, that door has been shut close in my opinion.
The Nationals were not happy to say the least with the news. “I was always taught that one of the cardinal rules of baseball was that no individual can put his interests before those of the team,” was the sentiments expressed by Mike Rizzo. The GM is right in this case. Many MLB managers are on one-year contracts like Jim Riggleman was in 2011. Some have a chance at long careers with their teams, while others are seen as more temporary solutions. In Riggleman’s case, he was likely more of the temporary variety. But players, coaches and managers are in this position all the time. Many veteran players sign for one-year deals, knowing full well that they will not be with a team beyond the period. The same goes for managers, who can often be brought in to manage a young team and eventually be replaced with a fresh voice as the team looks to grow and change direction. That is the rules of the game and Jim Riggleman is not better than the system. If a player was to leave his team mid-season due to contractual issues, he would be seen as selfish. Jim Riggleman as manager is no different. He let his organization, players and fans down, by jumping ship. He put his own financial and security needs ahead of those of the people around him. So Riggleman wanted a long-term contract? The best way to do it was to right the ship and lead the Nationals to their strongest possible record this year. Instead, Riggleman has likely blacklisted himself from the game and lost the chance to manage again.
The 58-year old Riggleman does not have any excuses in my book. He was a bench coach for several years, including stints with the Dodgers and Mariners following his departure from the Cubs in 1999. He did not receive another managerial opportunity until 2008, where he was an interim manager with the Mariners. Again Riggleman received an interim managerial job with the Nationals the following year, but stayed on with the team until yesterday. Was he a lame-duck manager so to speak? Probably. But that had more to do with his managerial skills and overall record than anything else. Sure many people want job security, especially in baseball. But let’s keep this in perspective. There are only thirty MLB manager jobs out there. Period. Jim Riggleman had one but he threw it away. He wanted to be a long-term manager but yet was not prepared to do what it takes to get there. Nobody should be above the system. I would not expect the Nationals to give Riggleman a strong recommendation, or any sort of reference in that regard. Teams have long memories and will likely be very cautious with Riggleman, who is today seen as having acted as a “jilted lover.”
In looking to the future, it is interesting to read Riggleman’s take. “I’m not sure if I’ll get another opportunity,” Riggleman said. “But I’ll promise you I’ll never do a one-year deal again. I’m 58. I’m too old to be disrespected.” His comments show that he clearly does not get “it”. This is not a question of respect. There is no entitlement. The Nationals did not owe you a thing Jim. They named you manager by removing the interim label. You were working year-to-year. Your lifetime managerial record did not entitle you to more. You were very lucky to have a MLB manager’s position. Your actions were selfish and disrespectful. The truth is that the Nationals team and its fans are better off for this move. They did not want to have a manager in the dugout who did not want to be there. That would not benefit anyone and a fresh voice and style could prove to be beneficial in the long-term. There are rumors that team is looking at Davey Johnson for the position. Personally, I think that Bobby Valentine should be considered for the job. But no matter who the Nationals hire, the team will be heading in a new direction. Jim Riggleman has committed baseball treason. For that reason, it is time for him to walk the plank and plunge into the waters of baseball oblivion.
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