Friday, June 24, 2011

Riggleman Opted to Leave, but for What?

It sounds more like an escape hatch than protecting his name in its entirety, a plea for future arrangements that guarantees Jim Riggleman a stable job status. The gimmick here, for a man who abruptly resigned, is that Riggleman was disgruntled with his contract and basically became aloof over endless disputes concerning a deal, unsure of what the future beheld after the Nationals had sharpened mightily.

No, the Nationals weren't quite relevant to be described as a contending ballclub, but under his power, the club had shown the significance of rehabilitation. What happened so suddenly is the stunning development of Riggleman's resignation, as we never foreseen him fleeing quickly from a franchise that built a relationship with the skipper.


Before we are carried away, when the culture has changed instantly, when the Nationals are stunned in disbelief and when it seems befuddling after Riggleman left on great terms at the highest level of success while at the helm in the managerial role, he departed the club with a twinge of anxiety and uneasiness. At this point, after managing the Nationals to 1-0 walk-off victory over the Mariners Thursday afternoon, he looks exhausted and mentally tired of his disposition as manager, almost revealed with his stare even though the ballclub that represents the nation's capital won its 11th game in the last 12 games.

It might not sound like a huge deal, but in reality, it is an enormous deal when he was insecure and uneasy about his eventual plans in the future. The possibility of not reaching the postseason might have scared him off, and midway in the hysteria of a 162-game season, Riggleman stepped down in spite of his players listening to his demands, having tremendous respect for a manager with a telling track record.

The trend of departures is bizarre if someone resigns from the managerial role because of unanimous issues in discussions of a larger deal. It's very rare that a manager opts to leave in the middle of a prosperous season, but the stunning news came. That was shortly after Riggleman reportedly told general manager Mike Rizzo, perhaps his explanation for his withdrawal. It surely is flabbergasting and it was because he's been discontent about his imminent status.

"If you don't extend me, I'm not getting on the bus after the game," Riggleman said.

But there is something awkward about the whole ordeal. We simply can't tell whether or not he has a grudge with the executives or even a few players, just as much as we can't tell whether he was hiding personal issues from us. It could have been a strategy to keep his troubles veiling, or even it could have been a farewell to his bosses. It's no telling what happened behind close doors. And maybe, as a result, he is using a dogma for the lack of commitment.

"To do this job, you have to feel there's a commitment to you," Riggleman said. "I didn't feel that. I just wanted to have a meeting in Chicago [on Friday]. They wouldn't do that."

If this was a newfound upstart for Riggleman and progress for the Nationals, then he wouldn't have stepped down at this juncture of the season. Rather, now more than ever, it's strange to acknowledge that Riggleman is selfish and essentially refraining from the burden of leading a ballclub on the fringe of prosperity. Poorly mishandled, but wise for avoiding a distraction, he was disgusted as the team option had not been exercised. Yet the Nationals were, instinctively, content with Riggleman in which such an inconceivable departure as he leaves the post, he was responsible for the Nationals increasingly climbing one game above .500, even with a ruckus drawing too much turbulence.

"Look at how well I've done to manage this team of average talent to a winning record in one of baseball's tougher divisions," Riggleman said.

From what we can make out of this, arrogantly representing himself as if he's a pompous individual, Riggleman was stubborn-minded in a situation that was mishandled. Quite simply, as the midpoint of the season looms, he was solicitous about not receiving a long-term contract to protect his job security. It is quite possible, if he kept the managerial job and ended the season with an astonishing finish, that Riggleman would have solidified his long-term status.


This in turn, either way, would have had an impact on his next managerial campaign with a multitude of clubs seeking for Riggleman's availability. In short, all of this is puzzling. The real challenge came when he carried a helpless ballclub with a 26-61 record in July 2009, transformed the emotions in the clubhouse and demanded wholeness and adherence. The rebirth of cultivating the Nationals, as a result, saw an enhanced track record when Washington played 33-42 for the remainder of the season.

The thought was that he'd exactly be managing the Nationals, particularly when he was rewarded with a one-year deal for $650,000 for 2011, with a club option at $700,000 for 2012, but the Nationals were unprepared to pick up the option. So, he exactly was expected to be the manager for the upcoming seasons, but bailed out too soon, too quickly, and foolishly. Once realizing that he clearly saved the Nationals, capable of leading Washington to the postseason, it was just too bad that they allowed him to resign without negotiating or handling the situation maturely.

If Rizzo ever cared to resolve the misunderstanding, he would have scheduled a meeting with Riggleman in Chicago on Friday to rectify the friction, an alternative in avoiding distractions at a time of prosperity. For the rest of the season, the Nationals will name bench coach John McLaren, who'll serve as manager for a few days until Washington name an interim manager, someone like Davey Johnson or Bob Boone. They are both fitting for the job, former major league managers with much familiarity in the Nationals organization.

He was, truly, a respected manager in baseball, but felt disrespected in a foundation that became competitive. Such an unseemly abandonment would batter his reputation and erase the competence he installed in Washington.