Riggleman’s Ultimatum To Nats Leaves Him Unemployed
Every controversy always has two sides. Last week’s fiasco involving the resignation of Washington Nationals’ manager Jim Riggleman before the 2011 major league season even reached the halfway mark stunned the baseball world.
Riggleman apparently thought he had become a permanent interim manager, after taking over for the fired Washington manager Manny Acta mid-way through the 2009 season. He had been hired as bench coach at the start of the 2009 season.
He managed the Nationals during the 2010 season and the team’s front office picked up his option for the 2011 season.
The Nats haven’t had a winning record this late in the season for six years, but they caught fire during June and won a 1-0 game over Seattle last Thursday which was their 11th victory in their last 12 games. The victory gave Washington a 38-37 record for the season.
Riggleman asked General Manager Mike Rizzo before the game if they could meet to discuss his future with the team on Friday, when the Nats arrived in Chicago for the start of their interleague series with the White Sox.
Rizzo declined his request to discuss the option on his contract for 2012, saying that a decision about Riggleman didn’t fit into the team’s timing. Actually Riggleman had asked Rizzo to discuss the matter during spring training, and again when the regular season began, but was turned down both times.
Riggleman told Rizzo that he wasn’t getting on the team bus, after the Seattle victory, if Rizzo refused to talk to him, and then he resigned.
Several hours after Riggleman stunned the team, his agent Burton Rocks said that Riggleman had made his own decision.
“He felt hurt and disrespected,” Rocks explained. “They refused to have a meeting. That spoke volumes to him about what they thought,” Rocks continued. “Riggleman was in a situation where he felt he was not wanted. And he had to make a change. They were forcing his hand.”
“It wasn’t too much to ask that Riggleman’s option be exercised under the circumstances,” wrote Jon Heyman of SI.com. “His team certainly was out-performing expectations. Unlike in the case of players’ options, managerial options are picked up months or even years before the deadline all the time, in part because they are usually for a lot less money than player contracts, and managers don’t carry the same injury risks.
“Managerial options also provide another benefit. They send a message to the players that their manager isn’t merely a short-timer, which sends a message to high-priced players that he is here to stay,” Heyman’s article concluded.
The Monday Washington Times wrote, “Riggleman has come in for the brunt of the criticism and in the minds of many, he didn’t live up to the terms of his agreement. Besides, it’s always easier to bash the guy who left than to take a long, hard look at the one who remains.”
It must be pointed out that Rizzo confronted the Lerner Family, which owns the Washington Nationals, about his future as general manager, and the family finally committed a five-year extension on his contract last year.
Riggleman was working for $600,000 this year and the option for 2012 was only for $700,000. By comparison, the best umpires in the major leagues earn about half of Riggleman’s salary, around $300,000.
“It’s been brewing for a while,” the 58-year-old Riggleman told ESPN.com. “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.”
Riggleman said Thursday that he was fully aware he was leaving one of the precious 30 managerial jobs in the majors, but for him it was a matter of principle.
“It’s about me,” Riggleman said. “It’s about looking in the mirror and feeling like I’ve got to answer to myself. In today’s world in major sports, it’s not a good environment to work when the manager or head coach in football, or whatever, is on a short leash.
“Too many negatives can come out of it. You’re walking on egg shells too often. You can’t think out of the box as much. I thought after 10 years I’d earned the right to have a little bit longer leash,” he continued.
“It’s like saying I’m not going to get married until I have a steady job. You’ll never get married. You make the decision you feel is right and Mike felt the decision was to not move forward with me,” Riggleman concluded.
It didn’t take Rizzo long to fill Riggleman’s shoes. The 68-year-old Davey Johnson is being brought out of the cedar chest to manage the Nationals for the remainder of the season, and perhaps beyond.
Johnson has worked under some interesting owners—Marge Schott in Cincinnati, Peter Angelos in Baltimore, Rupert Murdoch in Los Angeles—so there shouldn’t be much about the Nationals that throws him.
And as far as Jim Riggleman is concerned, when he walked out on the Washington Nationals last Thursday, he may have walked out of major league baseball, too. After all, nobody wants to hire a man who has the reputation of being a quitter.
Ironically, San Francisco Giants’ manager, Bruce Bochy, had chosen Riggleman along with Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson as bench coaches for this year’s All-Star game. Bochy was searching for a replacement for Riggleman at this writing.
KWICKIES…The Houston Astros scored 10 runs and pounded out 10 extra-base hits but still fell 14-10 to the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The two most reliable hands in the bullpen—Wilton Lopez and closer Mark Melancon—who came into the game with a collective 2.12 ERA in 68 innings spread over 69 appearances, allowed a combined nine runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings and failed to prevent a sweep by the red-hot Rays. The Astros have lost 17 of their last 22 games and are by far the worst team in the major leagues with a 28-51 record through Sunday’s action. After an off-day Monday the Astros swung back into action with a three-game series with the Texas Rangers that began Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, followed by a visit by the mighty Boston Red Sox for three games this weekend.
There’s a movie being made by Warner Bros. about a strange trade that took place during spring training in 1973 when New York Yankees pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich called a news conference to say they had swapped families—including wives, children and pets. Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will play the two pitchers.
After being retired from the NFL for four years to start a TV career, Tiki Barber wants to play pro football again. “I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something,” Barber explained on HBO’s Real Sports. “I know I’m going to be successful as a football player.” He suggests he simply was a failure at NBC. “Once you try and fail, it’s hard to keep trying,” Barber concluded.
The College World Series championship has come down to two Southeast Conference rivals—defending champion South Carolina (53-14) and Florida (53-17). The best-of-three series began Monday in Omaha and continued Tuesday with a rubber game set for Wednesday if necessary. The Gamecocks have won a record 14 straight NCAA tournament games and are favored to repeat. But the Gators will have something to say about it.
JUST BETWEEN US…There’s a membership drive going on right now and through the entire month of July at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange where the usual initiation fee is being waived during the membership drive. Despite the unusually dry weather we’ve had for the past month, the course is in excellent shape for the golfers. Social memberships also are available for non-golfers with access to the swimming pool, tennis courts and for all the delicious food served in the clubhouse. Come out and take a look at what’s being offered or call the office at 409-883-9392.