Jim Riggleman: “You don’t keep the manager on a short leash. I thought after ten years in managing that I’d earned that.June 24, 2011 – 8:30 am by Steven Cuce
Another one bites the dust in the National League East managing rotation this season. This time around Jim Riggleman resigned from his position as manager of the Washington Nationals for the complete opposite reason as to why Edwin Rodriguez stepped down from his position with the Florida Marlins. The Riggleman resignation comes as surprise to all of us in the sporting world being that the Washington Nationals have won 11 of their last 12 games and appear to be pitching lights out with the third best team ERA entering this weekend’s action. The Nationals were 23-31 in April/May and riding a hot streak in June with a record of 15-6 before Riggleman’s resignation.
To simply put it: Jim Riggleman was tired of being left in what he felt was a bad situation in terms of his contract being up in the air. Riggleman was in managing limbo and felt he deserved better than what he was being treated by Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals upper management. The odd part of this whole deal is that since the inception of the Washington Nationals in 2005 the franchise has struggled to become relevant and after drafting young talents such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, Riggleman had the team playing better than it ever had before and these two players really hadn’t even established themselves as mainstays yet. The future of the Nationals seemed to be real bright in Washington and Riggleman felt after ten years of managing he had earned himself at least an extension rather than being a permanent interim manager. He cited his concerns about his fear of managing his best without a guarantee of his future and after Mike Rizzo continued to deny his request to even just talk about a contract extension Riggleman felt it was time to say sayonara! This act may seem juvenile to some baseball fans, but to not offer the man a contract extension shows Washington didn’t have Riggleman as part of their future plans. That’s for sure.
Jim Riggleman joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss what exactly happened between himself and the Washington Nationals front office that made him resign as manager all of a sudden, the Washington Nationals giving some kind of reason for why they wouldn’t make some kind of decision right now in terms of extending his contract, giving his decision to resign as manager of the Washington Nationals a lot of thought, letting the players of the Washington Nationals down by resigning all of a sudden, when did he tell the Washington Nationals that he was resigning, giving the Washington Nationals an ultimatum in terms of giving him the contract extension or he would resign and the idea that resigning from the Washington Nationals may hurt the future of his career as a manager.
What happened Jim?
“This has been brewing for awhile. I just felt a little uncomfortable that I’ve been on a short leash here from the day I was named the interim manager to the next couple of months where I was named the manager. I’ve spoken to them a couple of times about can we talk about my contract? [Mike] Rizzo said ‘No we’re not ready to do that.’ I spoke to him today and just mentioned that I thought it was worthy of a conversation, no ultimatums just worthy of a conversation to talk about, when we get to Chicago on this plane trip after our game today maybe we could meet and talk about it. If there was something I need to be doing different allow myself to continue on for next year and Mike [Rizzo] who I respect greatly basically said no I’m not ready to do that, so I said ‘Well I’m not going to be going on that trip to Chicago.’ I had told him some time ago that there was going to be a point where I do come in and say you know what if we are not going to address it then I am going to have to resign. Internally here in the office I don’t think this should catch anyone by surprise because I did mention this for some time to him.”
Did the Washington Nationals management give you some reason why they wouldn’t make some kind of decision in your favor to give you an extension on your contract being that you’ve lead this team to their best record and you have young players coming up the pipeline?
“Only that they were just not ready to make a commitment to me and the commitment to basically just pick up my option and the reason for that is look at Terry [Collins] who’s done a great job for the New York Mets. Terry’s [Collins] got this year and next year you know? That’s just all I’m looking for just pick up my option for next year, so that the players know you are going to be there, so what you say means something in that clubhouse. It’s just the way of the world in today’s major sports you don’t keep the manager on such a short leash. I thought after ten years in managing that I’d earned that even though my record isn’t pretty. It’s just not the way to do business. I gotta look at myself in the mirror too if I’m coming to work in a mood like that I can’t give my best effort to the ball club and they deserve the best effort.”
Did you give this a lot of thought? Your team is playing the best they have ever played. Is this something you gave a lot of thought to?
“Tremendous amount of thought since last October. I felt like since last October that to keep me on a one year contract is just not a good way to go into the season. It’s just not a good way to do it in any sport and I think you’ll notice it just doesn’t happen in today’s world. You are not going to hire a coach for the Mets or Knicks or Mets or Giants where you got one year?
Your team must have been shocked because you are playing so well with this news that you are resigning. Do you feel like you are letting the players on the Washington Nationals down?
“No. Let me tell you this Mike [Francesa] players they love to play. They’ll be some that probably feel like you know I wish Jim [Riggleman] is here and they’ll be some that don’t care one way or another. They’ll be some that are glad that I am gone. That’s the nature of it, but they are going to play baseball. That’s what they do. They play for many managers in their lives and they’ll play for many more when their careers goes, so this is strictly about…this has been eating away at me since last October when my option for this following season was not picked up. I just felt like this is just not the right way to do business and obviously I’m not the guy they want to move forward with. That’s the point. If they got through the season and we had a moderate amount of success and they picked up my option for next year then I’d be right back in the same situation.”
When did you tell your team you were resigning?
“Basically after the game Mike [Rizzo] spoke to the team. They asked me to not speak to the team, so I didn’t. I wanted to. They said they would rather do that, so Mike spoke to the team and after that I just went around and said goodbye to everybody.”
Did you give the Washington Nationals an ultimatum where you said if I don’t get this extension I am going to quit?
“Absolutely not. No. I said when we get to Chicago I would like to meet and talk about it and Mike [Rizzo] said ‘No we are not going to do that.’ I said ‘Well if it’s not even worthy of a conversation then obviously I am not your guy moving forward here there is something lacking in my management ability that’s not even worthy of a conversation.’ I certainly did not give an ultimatum.”
Do you think this is going to hurt your career moving forward?
“You know what if that’s the case that is the case. I gotta be able to look at myself in the mirror.”