Jim Riggleman’s greatest sin in leaving the Nationals abruptly yesterday was not in asking for more money or a longer contract. He is certainly within his rights to demand whatever he wants to as far as he feels he is owed commensurate with his skills and his abilities. No one begrudges him that. The problem with the way Riggleman left yesterday afternoon was that he turned a joyous occasion, and a really good moment in Nationals history (when there haven’t been a lot of good ones), and made himself the main story. No one cares about the Nationals being over .500 for the first time since Moses was throwing heaters on the Israelite pitching staff — the story is all Riggleman now. That, to me, is unforgivable.
Everyone knows the Nationals aren’t going to be competitive for very long this year, and probably won’t come close to making the playoffs. The guy that is second on their team in walks, Adam LaRoche, has been injured for the last month. They’re dead last in the NL in hits, next to last in average, fourth from last in OPS, and third from last in OBP. Their pitching is just about league-average. There is nothing “special” about this team despite the fact that they are going on a really good run (it’s not even the All-Star break yet). Stephen Strasburg won’t be back until next year, and the team with him and Bryce Harper together is still a faint dream at this point, if it ever happens. I’m sure older veterans like Jason Marquis and Ivan Rodriguez will both be dealt to contenders.
I know this. You know this. And Jim Riggleman knows this. He knew it coming into the season, and he knew he was working on the last year of his contract, yet he still came into this season as the manager of this ballclub. It’s not like he just woke up yesterday afternoon and discovered that he only had one year left on his deal. He had every opportunity to voice his displeasure and walk away before the season started, yet he chose to throw bombs on his way out the door in the middle of June right when the team is rolling and just got itself a winning record, if only for a short time. It was a cowardly, classless thing to do on his part, especially for a guy who considers himself “old school”.
So now we’re left with a franchise that, while used to being in some form of disarray, is now in disarray again. As hard as the Nationals have to work to attract free agents (which in layman’s terms means they have to pay someone like Jayson Werth $126 million to come play here), this isn’t going to make things any easier. Reputation and reality can be two vastly different things sometimes, and the former can stick with you for a long, long time, justified or not.