Comparing and contrasting Buck Showalter, Jim Riggleman

By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 16, 2010; 12:12 AM

"Buck Showalter Jersey Night" came to Baltimore on Tuesday. To honor their new manager, the O's clubbed the Blue Jays, 11-3, to improve under Showalter to an almost unbelievable 25-15. Weren't the Birds the worst team in baseball when he arrived?

"Have you ever had your jersey given away before?" someone asked Showalter, who has, over a full quarter of a season, gotten the Orioles to play at a 100-win pace.

"Yeah, [every time] I got fired," said Showalter, who's gotten the boot three times. "But a lot of people didn't want it."

Two days earlier on Sunday in Washington, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman called a 30-minute meeting after his team looked flat in a fifth straight loss. He "addressed the team." So did every coach. A half-hour chew-out is about 30 seconds less than "eternity" to a big leaguer: And now, a few words from our third base coach.

"Got to make them aware - this is what I see, this is what the coaches see, this is what [General Manager] Mike [Rizzo] sees, this is what the fans see," Riggleman said. "If anybody in the room thought that was acceptable, they need to be aware we certainly don't think it's acceptable.

"It don't go under the radar when you have lost 100 a couple years in a row. We're going to figure out who the keepers are and who is going to be a part of this club in the future that's going to help us get out of these doldrums."

The Nats responded, just as they did last September to a snap of the whip from Riggleman, by winning 6-0 and 4-2 on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon to take a series in Atlanta from the best home team in baseball.

Unless the Nats suffer a total collapse, Riggleman will keep his dugout seat in '11. He worries about his job, but shouldn't. The team is on pace to win 10 more games than '09 and, after being last in run differential the past two years, has actually moved ahead of nine teams in that basic stat, which often gauges basic progress.

"We've had to use 14 starting pitchers this year. You never want to lead the majors in that stat," said President Stan Kasten Wednesday. "That means you've had to use nine starters who weren't one of your five best. That's a big hurdle [for a manager]. I keep saying I'm surprised we've won 62 games."

Of 80 men since 1900 who've managed for at least 10 seasons, Riggleman has the worst career winning percentage (.442). But he's also managed the Pads, Cubs, Mariners and Nats. That may define "mitigating circumstances."

As the Nats face a Stephen Strasburg-less '11, they want stability and more of the solid development of rookies that Riggleman has overseen thus far. So, get used to the contrast, in personalities and baseball theories, on display 40 miles apart in Camden Yards and Nationals Park.

Showalter continues a baseball tradition of light-a-fire-under-'em managers from Leo Durocher to Davey Johnson to Bobby Valentine. They come in full of energy, brains, quips and opinions, and aren't afraid to step on toes. Twice, Showalter has won AL manager of the year. The first time, he lasted one more season. The second time, he stuck around two more years. Just one season after 100 wins in Arizona, he was gone. That's tough to do.

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