Kind of a George Pickett moment from Jim Riggleman yesterday. Gutsy, but not terribly strategic. My initial reaction is to side with Riggleman. The Nationals were blatantly using the guy as a placeholder, but then again he was getting paid $600,000. That’s a pretty affordable rate for a major league manager, but not a sum Riggleman is likely to pick up in any other profession. The Nationals are in what they hope is a transition into respectability. I’m sure the plan was to let Riggleman do the dirty work, get them around .500, then when Strasburg is back and Harper is ready maybe they sign one more free agent and bring in a real manager. Let’s throw some money at Bobby Valentine! I’m sure this scenario was playing over and over in Riggleman’s head and he finally just snapped.
Riggleman had a team option for next season, also at $600,000, and from what it sounds like had been in near constant discussions about the Nats guaranteeing him 2012. But, the Nats aren’t ready to do that, because what if 2012 is the year for the push? After winning 11 of 12, Riggleman felt his bargaining power would never get any stronger so he threw down an ultimatum. His reasoning that if the Nats weren’t going to pick up the option now that they never would was probably accurate. If he was expecting to have his bluff called, well, that’s something only old Jimbo knows for himself.
Like I said, I see his side of the argument, but it’s tough to get behind the move in terms of the big picture. Riggleman was not a terribly successful manager in the first place (not that he’s been blessed with any good teams), but to go out this way probably isn’t the best method of getting your name on the short list for upcoming openings. Then you have the Nats GM throwing him under the bus that he refused to get on, dancing around the word, “quitter,” but implying it with some conviction. We also got the most Jayson Werth quote of all-time. Hard to believe a stand-up guy like Werth couldn’t even find a politically correct platitude to offer in the aftermath of Riggleman’s resignation. He said, “We’re the ones that have been making the pitches and hitting the balls and winning the ballgames, so we’re going to keep going.” To paraphrase, “Riggleman? Never heard of him.”
Riggleman’s extend me or I won’t get on the bus line will probably be the butt of some jokes over the next couple of days, because it is kind of funny/ballsy, but also because he didn’t get on that dang bus. If you know Riggleman, though, you’ll realize this is nothing new for him. He has an almost uncanny success rate with ultimatums. A sampling:
1960 Fort Dix, New Jersey: “If you don’t think it was a foul, fine. I’ll take my ball and go home.”
1987 Arkansas Travelers Team Bus: “We’re watching Top Gun again. Put in another movie and see what happens. I will throw a fit in the aisle all the way to Huntsville! Now, you can put the movie in, or you can just sit there and watch what happens!” (Later became the inspiration for the porch scene in Rain Man)
1998 NLDS: “If you don’t let me pitch Kerry Wood, I’m quitting. What’s the worst that could happen?”
1999 Phone Call with Bell Atlantic: “If you don’t take these damn roaming charges off my bill I’m switching to MCI!”
Outside of Disney World 2003: “Look, if I say the kid is under 10, he’s under 10. You want a birth certificate? Either you sell us a kid’s ticket or you sell us no tickets.”