Friday, June 24, 2011

Bixler's dream is over -- Riggleman resigns

Well, perhaps Jim Riggleman's just been overcome with guilt for continuing as a manager after I excoriated him <A HREF=>here</A>, or maybe Jim Riggleman's resignation is just another sign of the Nationals trying desperately to get their plot to move the team to Las Vegas back on track. In any event, it's one of the most fascinating train wrecks I've experienced, definitely one of the weirdest managerial situations. Edwin Rodriguez resigned earlier this week, to be sure, but he resigned on a day when I looked at the standings, saw the Marlins had fallen to last and wondered how he hadn't been fired already.  Mike Hargrove suddenly quitting on the Mariners was odd, but the team's only real player didn't like Hargrove and was vowing to leave if Hargrove remained as manager (leading to articles like <A HREF=>this</A>. 

But the Riggleman situation is a real black eye for everyone associated with it. Mike Rizzo looks like a jerk for not offering to have a conversation (at which point he'd have refused to exercise the option, triggering Riggleman's resignation then) and the franchise looks cheap because they could have bought peace for the remainder of the season by coughing up $600,000.  For a team that signed Jayson Werth to an average annual value contract of $18 million, that's really stingy.

Then there's Jim Riggleman.  The Nationals job has already lasted longer than two of his three managerial stints even though his winning percentage hasn't shown much reason to keep him around. The 2011 Nationals are a team that's managed to win a lot of games without ever looking particularly good. They've got some solid pieces and have recovered well from losing two players who were supposed to serve as the heart of the lineup with Zimmerman out for nearly two months and Adam LaRoche out for the season. Despite his truly mind-boggling moves and the complete lack of depth on the team, the Nationals were respectable and seemed to be actually drawing some interest from fans (the attendance numbers don't reflect this, though the Nationals have been hampered because they haven't had any of their big draw promotional games yet, any weekend series against the Phillies, and haven't had the sellouts that came from Stephen Strasburg showing up to pitch.)  In any event, the team was at least looking likely to survive and still have a few fans in the seats in September.  So, despite the fact that he's been a questionable manager, he deserved to get the lame duck option picked up, because he hadn't done anything fire-able in the standings (again, tactically, I don't see how he could possibly have held his job in the first instance and a manager who didn't make such moves might well have had this team three or four games over .500 -- the Giants game would have been firmly in the win column).  But insisting that the conversations had to happen in June is, as Mike Rizzo said, not what baseball is about. He had a contract. He wasn't getting fired. If he was going to get fired at the end of the season, he'd have lost nothing -- he's not going to generate any interest as a Major League manager ever again now, and that would make him an unlikely bench coach as well.  If things really work out for Riggleman, he'll be managing the Camden Riversharks next year.

I don't think the Nationals will finish at .500. They wouldn't have with Riggleman, they won't under McLaren. I don't know what effect it will have on the team or their performance. I don't know how McLaren's performance will compare to Riggleman's. But I do know this much -- everyone in the scenario looks like they weren't suited for the jobs they held, and that doesn't bode well for the future of baseball in D.C.

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