Jim Riggleman Resigns: But Why Now, Jim?
it's hot. You walk for what seems to be an eternity with no water of food or companionship. At times, you think about quitting and question why you even left that tree. As your canteen runs out and it seems that all hope is lost, you see what appears to be a small building in the distance. As you get closer, you realize that the building is a actually a small city. You continue to walk and finally, with your lips cracked, stomach empty and clothes soaked in sweat, you reach the gates of the city. The fee to enter the city- $0.25... so you turn around and walk the other direction to look for the next city.
Yeah, doesn't make much sense does it?
Yet, this is the journey that Jim Riggelman has decided to take. Over the course of his
middling twelve year managerial career, Riggleman has barely sniffed success. A no-holds-barred type of manager, the 58 year-old was given the reigns in some bad situations in the past; spending time in San Diego where the ace of his Padres was Andy Benes, and Chicago where his game one starter in his only postseason appearance (1998, when the 90 win Cubs were swept by the Braves) was Mark Clark. Then there was a barely worth mentioning half season in Seattle in 2008 and, most recently, in Washington, with the 'Natinals.' He took over the Washington gig midway through the 2009 season and improved the team's winning percentage in that season and slightly the next but admittedly, the team was looking forward to rebuilding and Riggleman was the guy asked to orchestrate the project.
2010 was a year of new beginnings- 2010 was the year that the fan base caught a glimpse of their prized top 2009 draft pick, Stephen Strasburg and subsequently drafted and signed Bryce Harper, the player dubbed the greatest prospect of all time (or at least since Stephen Strasburg was considered the greatest prospect of all-time... kidding, anyone close to baseball heard about and seen what he has done and there's no doubt that he's worthy of the label). In the off season, the Nationals went out and snagged prized free-agent, Jayson Werth. The formula was Riggleman, the Franchise (Ryan Zimmerman) and Werth plus the emergence of some young premium talent (Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Michael Morse) and some key 'role-playing' veterans (Jerry Hairston, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix) to compliment a veteran pitching staff (Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis and John Lannan). That formula, it seemed, was successful, although not quite enough to win a division. Riggleman's club was hovering around .500 last week, the winners of 11 out of 12 games and Morse had emerged as one of the hottest hitters in the National League eyeing the return of Ryan Zimmerman as the catalyst that could catapult them into contention. Then, shockingly, Riggleman quit citing the team's unwillingness to negotiate an extension mid season.
The two questions that immediately emerged from this announcement were "why" and "why now."
Why- because Riggleman felt disrespected by the Mike Rizzo's unwillingness to negotiate an extension mid season.
In my opinion, his feelings of disrespect were somewhat valid. I'm willing to go on record to say that Riggleman had coached well enough this season to earn an extension. Small sample size but I think that he clearly did a good job with very little.
Why now- because Riggleman was too old to worry about, blah, blah, blah...
Unfortunately, this question has not adequately been answered and the only explanation that I can ascertain is that this was a strategy to obtain leverage but for him to quit mid season with the team playing the way they were playing shows a distinct character flaw- a coach doesn't quit on his team unless he feels that he's not the right man for the job. Further, Riggleman really had no leverage in this case because the sample size was just too small. One half of a season of 'good' baseball is not enough to crown anyone worthy of being declared irreplaceable. If Riggleman wanted an extension, he was going to have to coach his way into one and the weird part is that is exactly what he was doing. By most accounts, Riggleman had won the vote of the Washington media and fan base and his players were seemingly reacting to his higher standard of accountability.
Outside looking in, the Nationals coaching job might be the dream job of all dream jobs. You've got a team playing well, a fan base looking for a reason to get excited, a front office willing to open their wallets and two of the greatest prospects ever to emerge... and Jim Riggleman walked away because he let his pride get in the way. He's not going to find a better job out there, in fact, he may have irreparably hurt his ability to find any another coaching job so, for his sake, I hope that he has thought about what it might feel like to watch the Nationals play their way into relevancy because he could have been the one at the helm- you rarely regret what you did, you often regret what you did not do.