Jim Riggleman Shouldn’t Have Quit…

…he should’ve waited for the Nationals to fire him.

When the news first broke that Riggleman had resigned, it was obvious that it was contract-related. I immediately thought back to two similar situations in which managers wanted their status defined one way or the other and wound up issuing ultimatums that cost them their jobs.

Don Zimmer won a shocking NL East title in 1989 with the Cubs and was named Manager of the Year. In 1990, the Cubs fell to 77-85 and spent a lot of money that winter for outfielder George Bell, closer Dave Smith and starter Danny Jackson to join Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston for a club that was expected to contend.

Struggling at 18-19 and with Zimmer angry about his uncertain contract status, Zimmer was fired. Apart from a stint running the Yankees while Joe Torre was recovering from prostate cancer, Zimmer never managed in the big leagues again.

Charlie Manuel also wanted his contract addressed by the Indians in 2002.

Having won 181 games in 2000-2001 and making the playoffs once, Manuel had a case for an extension. But the Indians were transitioning from their years of contention. Mired in 3rd place with a 39-47 record and heading in a different direction, they fired Manuel.

In a sense, you can say that Zimmer was better off having been fired by the Cubs. Had he remained as their manager, would he have eventually become Torre’s right-hand man in the Yankees dugout during their dynasty? Doubtful. His lovable reputation belies the feisty and fearless competitor he’s always been; it was Zimmer’s public rebuking of George Steinbrenner that sowed the seeds of his Yankees departure.

Manuel got the Phillies job because he was an agreeable choice for their veterans. His personality—on the surface—is the opposite of the manager he replaced, the fiery and intense Larry Bowa. Manuel’s success as Phillies manager speaks for itself. He comes off as laid back until you cross him. That’s when you discover that Cholly’s in Charge.

In short, Zimmer and Manuel landed on their feet.

Riggleman won’t.

Resigning because his option for 2012 had yet to be exercised was an act of self-immolation from which there’s no recovery.

For all his faults as a GM, Mike Rizzo was under no obligation to deal with Riggleman’s contract now.

The spinning by Riggleman and his agent, Burton Rocks (Burton Rocks?) borders on the farcical. Riggleman said he didn’t issue an ultimatum, but if he didn’t issue an ultimatum, then why’d he leave so abruptly with the team streaking and playing well? Riggleman’s agent said his client “will manage again”. Unless said agent pulls a Moorad and purchases a club of his own and hires Riggleman, that’s not happening. Even Rocks might look at Riggleman and say, “Jim, you quit on the Nats.”

It was always known that Riggleman was a caretaker whose job it was to rein in an out-of-control clubhouse, enact club edicts on the use of Stephen Strasburg, deal with the media and be the “veteran baseball guy” to bridge the gap from rebuilding to contention.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Worst-case scenario, if he did a good job and was fired, he’d be in the mix for another big league job as manager. Now he won’t. Not only does it look terrible for him to throw this brand of tantrum, but there’s a very good chance of him being blackballed for this ill-advised, not-entirely-thought-out fit of pique.

In a lukewarm defense of Riggleman, there was never a clear mandate as to what the Nationals are; what his job description was.

Did they want to win immediately? The signings of players like Jayson Werth indicate that was the goal.

Did they want to develop young players with winning secondary? Letting Drew Storen close and the rules enacted to protect Strasburg (they worked really well) implied otherwise.

It’s difficult to function without a stated objective.

Had he let this play out and gotten fired, Riggleman would’ve been on the side of right and possibly gotten another managing job. He’s not a great manager, but he is a good baseball man and a respected person. There are worse managers in baseball than Jim Riggleman.

Being fired is better than detonating bridges and setting oneself on fire.

He had no leverage, but he did have the perception of fairness to support him.

This was a colossal blunder.

Riggleman wanted security and he sure got it.

He’s secure in the fact that he’s never going to manage in the big leagues again.

And he’s got no one to blame but himself and whoever gave him the lamebrained advice to quit.

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  1. #1 by Jeff on June 24, 2011 - 3:37 pm

    Totally agree. What was he thinking? Goes to show that it’s not just young and dumb NBA superstars (*ahem, LeBron*) making completely stupid choices regarding their careers. Who would’ve said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, Jim.”? Seriously.

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