Jim Riggleman said something in March 2010, on a raw, windy spring training morning in Viera, Fla., that, on some level, probably applies to his stunning resignation yesterday. He was talking about perception and about what it is like to put so much thought into a baseball decision and then watch it backfire and get questioned for making it. This is what he said:
“For the most part, because they’ve earned that reputation and that right – the Leylands, the La Russas, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, other great managers – there’s an assumption he knows what he’s doing. Until you’ve won, there’s an almost an assumption, ‘We’ve got to see if this guy knows what he’s doing.’ You have people who are putting not nearly the thought into this that you do, creating an aura of doubt around what you’re doing. That can get under your skin a little bit. Because you know how much you’re putting into this. You like have to people trust you do know what you’re doing.”
Maybe this a reach, but maybe it sheds some insight into why Riggleman decided he would walk away from his dream job. Riggleman was good at what he did, but he managed a lot of bad baseball teams, and so he got very little credit for being good at what he does. He managed 1,485 games and had a .445 winning percentage, which, famously, is the worst since 1900. You can’t manage that bad – that’s the players. A baseball manager exerts only so much influence over the game, but a record like that will make it a battle to make people trust you do know what you’re doing.
Yesterday, then, Riggleman got tired of fighting that battle. He’s 58. He wanted the Nationals to let him know they trusted him. When they did not – at least not in the manner he wanted, a discussion about his contract in Chicago – he walked away.
Without question, there were issues of business and professional decorum – the lack of authority he perceived he had in the clubhouse, his growing belief the Nationals were using him as a place-holder, the gnawing resentment that he should have had his 2012 option exercised back in October.
But he still loved his job to the point he should have been able to compartmentalize all those things and plug away. The underlying message Riggleman received from his bosses, in his view, was that they wanted someone else. That’s tougher to rise above. You could call it insecurity, maybe, but Riggleman was also not given great reason to feel secure. He thought he was the right man for the job. It seems to me like he got tired of no one else believing.
He leaves behind team that just won for the 11th time in 12 games, that’s 38-37 and, by the way, 4 ½ games out of the wild card race. The Nationals have proven themselves not to be a fluke, and any team that can face the starting pitching they faced the past three games and win all three has got something going right.
Shocking as it is, Riggleman’s resignation should not really affect the Nationals. It’s not like there are new plays to learn. Some players liked playing for Riggleman more than others, but the prevailing sentiment – and I would guess this is true in most clubhouses – was probably indifference.
“It’s not going to change anything in here,” Werth said. “We’re the ones that have been making pitches and hitting balls and winning ballgames. So we’re going to keep going. I feel good about the guys in here and this ballclub and the direction of this franchise. I think there’s a lot of positives and a lot of good things to come from this team. We’re going to keep moving forward.
“I thought he [Riggleman] had been doing a good job. We were playing good baseball. The timing is surprising, I’d say. I don’t really know enough details. I don’t really know why the decision came now. The decision has nothing to do with me. It’s a personal decision and like I said, I respect it. And we’ll go to Chicago and play a ballgame tomorrow.”
FROM THE POST
Dave Sheinin leads off the coverage with the juxtaposition of a hot Nationals team and Jim Riggleman’s stunning resignation yesterday.
I contribute a story on Riggleman’s brewing frustration and some of his final moments in his office.
In case you forgot, the Nationals beat the Mariners 1-0, Shemar Woods writes.
From opening day last season, here’s a profile of Riggleman.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Gwinnett 2: Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 5 with a double. Chris Marrero went 3 for 3 with two walks. Craig Stammen allowed no earned runs in 8 1/3 innings on five hits and a walk, striking out nine.
Harrisburg 3, Richmond 2: Derek Norris went 1 for 3 with a home run. Josh Johnson went 1 for 3 with a home run. Erik Davis allowed one earned run in six innings on six hits and two walks, striking out three.
Potomac 6, Myrtle Beach 5: Jeff Kobernus went 1 for 4 with a double.
Hagerstown 6, Greensboro 3: Bryce Harper went 1 for 5. Michael Taylor went 3 for 4 with a double, a triple and a home run.
Auburn 7, Mahoning Valley 2: Matt Skole went 2 for 4.