After lobbying for a stronger commitment from ownership failed to improve Riggleman’s standing, he asked to speak to Rizzo in his office. Riggleman said he merely wanted the promise of a substantive conversation regarding his contract. Rizzo characterized it as more of an ultimatum: Pick up the 2012 option, or I quit.
Whatever the case, Rizzo said he was not prepared to make a “knee-jerk” decision. As the game played out, Rizzo resolved to accept Riggleman’s resignation, if in fact it was tendered — which, after a second brief meeting after the game, it was.
“I’m disappointed at the timing of it,” Rizzo said. “We’re playing so well. Coming off a homestand that we should be celebrating going into Chicago, coming off a great month of playing baseball. I think we’re starting to really hit our stride. And I’m disappointed that this is a distraction. This is not thinking of the team first. It’s thinking of personal goals and personal things first. And that’s probably what disappoints me most.”
Riggleman said he asked to address the players, but the request was denied. Several players, though, trickled into his office to say goodbye before boarding their buses. It was no simple matter, reconciling their respect for Riggleman’s principled stand with the realization he had abandoned them in midseason.
“I can see both sides of it,” closer Drew Storen said. “I understand he needs to take care of himself. . . . It’s going to test us, but I think we’re going to get through it, and in the end we might even come out better.”
At 5:09 p.m., two buses pulled out from the bowels of Nationals Park, pointed toward Reagan National Airport, then on to Chicago. The future appears bright for the Nationals, never more so than on this day — with an above-.500 record, promising top prospects and a fan base starved for a winner.
But when Jim Riggleman looked at that future, he didn’t see a place for himself in it, and so the Nationals’ traveling party Thursday night was one person short.
Staff writers Adam Kilgore and Shemar Woods contributed to this report.