That crackling sound you hear across Major League Baseball is the sound of Jim Riggleman’s bridges being burned. The Washington Nationals manager, fed up that he hadn’t been able to discuss the option year of his contract, ostensibly, committed career suicide yesterday by issuing an ultimatum to GM Mike Rizzo: either talk to me about the contract extension now, or I’m resigning. Don’t expect me on the flight after the game to Chicago where the Nats play the White Sox in interleague beginning today.
The details around the conversation depend on who you’re hearing it from. Riggleman’s agent said that all the former manager wanted was a chance to talk about the option. According to Ken Rosenthal, Rizzo isn’t the greatest communicator – barely taking to his manager at all over the course of the last month.
Not taking the meeting was the last straw.
In talking to those that cover the Nationals beat over the years, the culture in the front office isn’t always the best. I tried to pin down Stan Kasten on this matter during the Winter Meetings last December, but Stan being Stan didn’t take the bait. The former Nationals president left the organization just as soon as his contract allowed for it. Ever the exec, he left without any acrimonious fallout.
Riggleman’s departure boils down to respect, something he never really fully got with the Nationals, and something his resume may not have warranted. His pay ($650,000 annually) isn’t the lowest managerial pay, but it’s certainly in the lower third. He was brought in as an interim solution, given the job outright in the off-season, but has never been seen as the long-term manager the club is seeking when/if the young talent and signings such as Jayson Werth all begin to click.
Maybe Riggleman got full of himself. Maybe, he saw that his stock was never going to be higher after winning 11 of the last 12 games.
Riggleman’s actions can’t be condoned any more than a player whining about a contract extension in the middle of the season goes down with most any manager. Rizzo said it right in his statement when Riggleman flew the coup after the 1-0 win over the Mariners.
“I believe, and I told Jim, decisions as important as this must be made thoroughly and methodically,” Rizzo said. “I was not willing to make judgments of that magnitude in the course of a nine inning game.”
Why Riggleman couldn’t take a page from his boss (Rizzo) is unknown. Heaven knows, Rizzo was in this position prior when Jim Bowden resigned. Rizzo went heads down, did his job in an interim role, and his work paid off. Riggleman’s season is a mixed bag, and not fully complete. Even though Riggleman had been threatening to leave if he didn’t get the extension, going out in a managerial blaze of glory with your middle finger extended isn’t going to work in Major League Baseball. The fraternity in MLB is exceptionally small, has unwritten rules and “codes”, all of which Riggleman broke. Highlighting all of that, Rizzo twisted the knife.
“I was always taught that one of the cardinal rules of baseball was that no individual can put his interests before those of the team,” Rizzo said.
Riggleman seems to have opted for the (career) suicide solution, instead. If he doesn’t regret it today, he’s going to at some point.
Everyone has probably been in Jim Riggleman’s position. That feeling that your bosses don’t fully respect you. Before you pull the trigger and head for the door, always remember to look yourself closely in the mirror. No one is perfect. Jim Riggleman, in a move that sent a loud message, is probably in a career-move hangover today. The Nationals aren’t blameless. But, it’s hard not to say, “Riggleman blew it.”
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