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The Jim Riggleman Debate: My Take

We like debate. Sticky issues with compelling (and in some ways equally persuasive) arguments on both sides are juicy fodder. So, Jim Riggleman, we owe you a thank you. Your resignation today is at the very least a lightning bolt for discussion.

If you want to boil it down, Riggelman has been working on one-year deals as the man at the helm of the Washington Nationals since taking control as interim skip in 2009. Depending on who you believe, he had inquired with Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo about an extension for the 2012 season and didn’t get an affirmative. Riggelman, whose salary pales in comparison to most MLB managers and has been dangling on the end of short-term deals for three seasons, decided he was sick of the uncertainty. He didn’t get the answer he wanted. So, he quit.

The Internets, of course, did and have not. The opinions run the gamut. There are plenty who feel as if Riggleman’s act was selfish and unprofessional. Those in that camp even cite the “distraction” he’s caused the organization and a season that is somehow now jeopardized on account of his callousness. Others view the skipper’s abrupt departure as the ultimate take-this-job-and-shove-it story. To them, he’s a legend. A working man’s hero that stood up for his principles and grew tired of standing by idly with his keister blowing in the wind.

So, where do you we fall? Check that, where do I fall? (ES may have his own take). Shockingly, I land somewhere in between. And when in doubt on an issue, I always lean towards my initial reaction. My gut in this case took me towards the latter camp. I’d be more likely to offer him a slap on the ass than a public ripping.

Has Jim Riggleman proved his managerial chops to be able to demand a multi-year deal? Probably not. A .445 career winning percentage doesn’t guarantee you much. And I’ve admittedly not watched a whole lot of Nats games to be able to legitimately assess Riggy’s in-game moves. Maybe he’s doing it with smoke and mirrors.

The real question is whether he deserved the security of knowing he’d at least be in the dugout again in 2012. Some might refer to this as the desire for an idea of your career development path. What does the future hold, if I do what I’m supposed to do? If I excel? He had none. And I think the 58-year old skipper deserved at least that clarity and security.

Managing from year to year is a difficult spot for a Major League skipper. Sure, you can make the argument that life ain’t that hard for those making $600,000 year. But you need to put it in context of their profession and environment. Riggleman came to Washington in 2009 as an interim manager and really never “progressed” from that tenuous position. He steered the ship while earning on the lower end of the pay scale in a crappy baseball market with pretty shitty players.

The results were OK. This year in particular the standings indicate he’s done an above average job. He’s steered the Nationals to an above .500 mark and 11 of their last 12. The reality is that the organization hadn’t (and hasn’t) demonstrated faith in him. There is no firm vote of confidence. It seems they just don’t think he’s the man to take the team to the next level once their bigger talents come to the big leagues. And here’s the thing…that’s perfectly fine. There’s no blame to be had there. None at all.

It’s perfectly within Rizzo and Washington’s management to view Riggs as a temporary solution — an appropriate leader for a specific period of time — deserving of short-term contracts and extensions weighed heavily on performance.

It’s also appropriately within the bounds for an employee to determine what he needs to remain with an organization. There’s nothing wrong with making those desires known and expressing what it would take to keep them with said company. Riggleman’s timing might not have been the best, but one could argue there is no “right time” and enough of the season has transpired to provide a sample size.

I’ll certainly never know what conversations happened between Riggleman and Rizzo and neither will most of us regardless of the he-said, he-said that is sure to splash across the media over the coming days and weeks. I do know that it sometimes takes a lot more to take a stand for your principles and be ready to accept the consequences than grin and bear it. Jim Riggleman did that. It may cost him a shot at future managerial jobs. In my book, it scored him a few points. I think.


  1. JW

    June 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I'm with you on this somewhere in the middle. As I wrote on my page, this really is a lot of "it takes two to tango."

  2. Cecilio's Scribe

    June 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

    good stuff and thanks for reading. added you guys to blogroll, too.

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