In stunning move, Jim Riggleman resigns as Nationals manager.
No one can ever say Jim Riggleman is not a man of his word.
However, because of that, it’s no sure bet those people will be able to call him a major league manager again.
Riggleman, the Washington Nationals manager, unexpectedly resigned Thursday afternoon because he was displeased with his contract situation and the way the organization handled it.
Before the game, Riggleman told general manager Mike Rizzo that if his option for next year was not picked up by post-game Thursday, he would resign. Rizzo was not prepared to make that move, so Riggleman stood by his word and stepped down after the Nationals’ walk-off win moved them to one game above .500.
“Jim told me pregame today that if we didn’t pick up his option that he wouldn’t get on the team bus today,” Rizzo told reporters.
Rizzo also said Riggleman’s decision was “very disappointing to the players, fanbase, city and myself.”
“It’s been brewing for a while,” said Riggleman, who was not allowed to address players afterward. “I know I’m not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what I’m doing. It’s not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a short leash.”
Riggleman said he didn’t feel “totally committed” to do the job with the contract issue on his mind, but the team is in the midst of a pretty good stretch. Washington has won 11 of its last 12 games, and this is the latest the team has been above .500 since 2005. Riggleman’s selfish act now shakes up the team’s mojo.
He came on as interim manager in 2009 and later had that label removed and was given the job permanently. But the Nationals never wanted to commit long-term to Riggleman, and until now, it went without saying that Riggleman would only usher the Nationals into their next era, not lead them through it.
“I got to give it up then,” Riggleman said. “I’m obviously not the person that (the Nationals) want to go down the road with.
“I wanted a conversation about it. I didn’t say, ‘Pick up my option or else.’ I said I think it’s worthy of a conversation when we get to Chicago (to play the White Sox on Friday). And Mike said we’re not going to do that.”
That didn’t sit well with Riggleman, for obvious reasons, and it’s partly understandable why he’d lay down an ultimatum: Extend me or I’m walking, even though he’s playing it like that’s not what happened.
But there could be, and should be, negative repercussions for his actions. Riggleman’s agent already said he believes his client will manage again, but he’s supposed to say that. Reality might not be so forgiving.
Countless professional athletes, from Vince Carter to Manny Ramirez, have been lambasted for their perceived quitting on a team because they were unhappy with its direction or coaching or front office or contract situation. Riggleman essentially did the same thing and shouldn’t get a pass for his ill-timed decision.
He did it in the swing of one of the franchise’s best runs in recent memory, turning an excited, upbeat clubhouse into a somber one. How you erase that from a potential employer’s memory, or even ease it, is a public relations challenge.
How does Team X know Riggleman won’t quit on it if he’s unhappy with a situation later down the road?
“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 in a statement.
That sentence is as perfectly as anyone could sum it up. As a sports-loving society, we ask players to play as hard as they can no matter what. Personal issues are not an excuse in many fans’ eyes, and to complain about a contract that is already paying you at least six figures, well that’s just blasphemous when so many are out of work and struggling for the basics.
Sure, it’s admirable that Riggleman is a man of principle, but he quit on his team and gave up a chair he might not ever be able to sit in again.
“I’m not sure if I’ll get another opportunity,” Riggleman said. “But I’ll promise you I’ll never do a one-year deal again. I’m 58. I’m too old to be disrespected.”
Good thing none of his former players are 58. In Riggleman’s eyes, they’re still young enough.