Managers really earn their money directing bullpens when teams have weak rotations, and many Nationals starters lacked big league caliber stuff. Riggleman deftly handled the team’s relief corps, mixing and matching in one of the best performances I’ve seen from a manager.
Washington relievers led the majors with 5452
3 innings and tied for fourth with a 3.33 earned run average. Among bullpens that totaled at least 540 innings, the Nationals had the seventh-best ERA ever.
Riggleman would rather not work the bullpen so hard. Maximizing the strength of ballclubs, however, is a big part of being an effective manager. That’s one of the things Nationals senior adviser Davey Johnson often used to tell me when he managed the Dodgers.
Riggleman also worked with bad teams during his previous three managing stints in San Diego, Chicago and Seattle. The Cubs did have two winning records under Riggleman and earned the 1998 National League wild-card berth.
In 237 games with the Nationals, Riggleman’s record is 102-135. In the 237 games before Riggleman led them, the Nationals were 82-155.
In October, General Manager Mike Rizzo received a contract extension through 2015 and also was given the title of executive vice president of baseball operations. Rizzo’s strong support from the Lerners, at least in part, stems from what Riggleman has done while working with the least talent in the NL East.
Rizzo promoted Riggleman to interim manager at the 2009 all-star break and gave him the permanent job after that season. Obviously, those moves were signs of Rizzo’s confidence in Riggleman. Then again, the past doesn’t matter now.
The Nationals believe they’re on the right path to becoming a winning team. They’re confident their commitment to building through the draft and farm system will produce successful results, possibly as early as the 2012 season.
If Rizzo and the Lerners are sure about Riggleman, convinced that he’s the right man to lead them as their prospects mature, then they should publicly exercise his option before the season begins.
Doing so would send a message throughout the organization and to the fan base about Riggleman’s importance to the future. And silence about Riggleman’s situation would speak loudly as well.