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The Jim Riggleman Era

The Jim Riggleman Era -- Stan Kasten's words -- began today. At 5 p.m., he sat down for his first press conference, where he was introduced as the "third manager of the Washington Nationals." Riggleman, of course, was hired by the "second manager of the Washington Nationals," and still feels a strong loyalty to him. Riggleman is also well aware that Kasten will soon be looking for the "fourth manager of the Washington Nationals," and while Riggleman has a shot to get the gig, he's for now just an interim skipper guiding the worst team in the bigs. With 75 games to build his case.

In some respects, this was a somber day. Nobody took joy in Acta's departure. At best, Acta's firing will act as a wake-up call. (Several expressed such a hope.)

"No doubt about it," third base coach Pat Listach said. "Because I know these guys are better than that. I mean, we made some careless errors. Every team makes them, but we made more. And it reflected in our record. So, I take it personally. I hope everybody on this ballclub realizes that 61 losses, they weren't all Manny's fault. I hope players think, 'We just got someone fired.' And you know, it's a tough spot to be in. Because he's got kids, and a family, and bills to pay."

So what about Riggleman?

He spent plenty of time paying proper respects to Acta as well. There was no dynamite here. No promises for new lineups, new strategies. Riggleman called Acta a future managerial star and said, "Manny did all the right things." Speaking on behalf of everybody from the players to the parking attendants, Riggleman thanked Acta for everything he did. Riggleman's own tenure, the new manager explained, would simply try to build on the messages of the old manager, because "there's not a lot of change to make," even down to the lineup, because "Manny had them aligned was pretty much the best way."

A few other soundbites from the press conference:

Riggleman, describing his style: "I feel like I'm a bit of a softy. I think I'm pretty easy. I think I'm easy in the sense that if players are not playing well I understand that; it's a tough game. But if they're not playing hard, that irks me. If they're not respectful of the game, respectful of the uniform, respectful of the fans -- if they do that, that's a problem. Sometimes that has happened, and I've had some incidents with players where I've had to address that, and the cameras don't miss much so somebody thinks I'm fiery. I have no problem if you miss a ball, but if you don't chase it after you miss it there's a problem."

Riggleman, describing the hours and days after Acta was fired: "We came back from Houston Sunday late. I came back here, went home, and maybe around midnight I was contacted by Mike Rizzo, and Mike said we were gonna let Manny go, and would I be interested in running the ballclub. So Mike and I talked for a while. He asked me to come in on Monday, so I came in on Monday and talked to him and Stan Kasten. We just basically talked some baseball, really, for a couple hours. And yesterday was pretty much an offday, a lot of phone calls, and getting ready for today."

Riggleman, asked whether he thinks this team quit on Acta: "No. Quit is a strong word. I don't see that. But what I think can happen is, it just seeps into your psyche that, Here we go again. That's not quitting. It's just, you've been beaten down and up and you find a way to lose a ballgame. It can't help but affect some people."

Riggleman, reflecting on the process of serving as interim manager in '08 with Seattle, then taking a bench coach job with the Nats: "Well, when I was managing in Seattle I was hoping I would be retained there. The general manager was not retained, a new GM came in. That process took a while. During those interviews for the new GM, Manny called me and asked if I'd be interested in coming to Washington. And I said, 'Absolutely.' So that had to run its course, it had to play out, so finally when the GM was named I got a phone call saying I was not gonna be retained as manager, and yeah, I was disappointed. But they kind of cleaned house there ... and I got swept up in that."

By Chico Harlan  |  July 15, 2009; 8:27 PM ET
 
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Next: The Riggleman 'Did You Know?' Game

Comments

For the life of me, I don't understand the Bro-mance this organization had with Acta. Maybe Mall-Rats and Carni-Barkers just can't admit they made a mistake.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 15, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Mistakes start at the top.

It may start with Mark Lerner's continuing education on running a major league baseball franchise. Does he put the needs of the large real-estate empire before the major league team? Can he learn it takes to create a winning sports franchise both from a winning and a business perspective?

There is Stan Kasten who appears to be more interested in doing whatever it takes to get more fans, mostly the fans of any and all other teams through the turnstiles. Becoming mostly just a song-and-dance man front for the micromanaging of Mark Lerner.

Then it moves down to a roster built by Jim Bowden who still appeared to manage this club as if he was still an owner-less refugee from the Cincinnati Reds. How many key deals were made with the Reds? How many ex-Reds players were acquired just for that reason alone? His choice of players often with less than stellar character who needed not just second, but third and fourth chances.

Rizzo, Acta are true baseball men. As is Riggleman. As was Frank Robinson. There is a difference.

Posted by: periculum | July 15, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

"Riggleman, describing his style: 'I feel like I'm a bit of a softy. I think I'm pretty easy. I think I'm easy in the sense that if players are not playing well I understand that; it's a tough game.'"

That's just great.

Posted by: joemktg1 | July 15, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

will ya'll please just shut up the grousing for a single second and just realize these are real men here with loyalties and connections and alliances and that no matter what, they're trying to get through an ugly time the best they can?

my gawd, what in the world are you trying to prove with your nasty comments? how smart you are? cuz let me tell you, it's not working.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 15, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Chico, I think you captured this presser beautifully. Thank you.

Here's to an uphill climb folks.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 15, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

So, NN, if you're right, and Riggleman is just being polite in saying Manny did everything right and had everything aligned the right way, then we should see, fairly soon--I'd guess a couple of weeks at the most--some significant changes in lineups, policies, handling players, and that sort of thing.
If, OTOH, he *means* that, then either

he's right, and this team won't get any better no matter what, which means they are *not*, in fact, "better than that," and will lose between 110 and 120 games, and none of this was ever Manny's fault, or

he's wrong, but he's not going to do things differently, which means this team *is*, in fact, "better than that," but they're going to lose between 110 and 120 games anyway.

Or am I just being half-empty?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 15, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Don't say it.

I can hear you thinking it. Just don't.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 15, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I think there is enough evidence at this point to know that hard ass managers and coaches are not successful anymore - even Lou Pinella, Dusty Baker, and Charlie Manual have adapted. Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox are the role models. Riggleman is in that tradition.

Paraphrasing Riggleman said I hold people accountable but I don't yell at them for being below average players. Good thing. If he got mad at players for being below average it would be a long 75 games for a bunch of Nats.

As for the lineup, I agree that there are not many combinations better than the ones Acta used given the roster. He stuck with Kearns a little too long and realized too late that Gonzalez might (might) be the best 2B on the team. With Bernadina and Flores hurt; Dukes, Kearns, and Belliard nnot producing; and Dunn unable to field a position it makes the whole lineup thing a bit of a challenge.

I am hopeful Riggleman can handle the pitchers better though.

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 15, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

sofa, you put a lot of words into my mouth (fingers?). i'm not saying ANYTHING. That's the point. do we have to start b****ing and second guessing already? let the man catch his breath for a second and figure it out.

He's probably got some parsing to do himself as to what of manny's should stay and what should go.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 15, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

NN, apologies. I misinterpreted what you wrote. Leaving you out of it, then, ... not much else of it changes.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 15, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

NN = riggleman's mom.

Posted by: surly_w | July 15, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Are there any other of the few remaining season ticket holders out there who think it is kind of ridiculous that the Nats scheduled this year's season ticket holder picnic for August 22? Seriously?

Overheard in the Nats' marketing department:

"Hey, when should we schedule that picnic event for our remaining season ticket holders?"

"Gee, I don't know, maybe we should just cancel it, I think a lot of them are really pissed off. But if we do that, they might get even more angry. Ummm, I don't know. What would the Bobcats do?"

"Hey, here's an idea, let's schedule it for when most of them are on vacation, so not too many of them will show up. That way, we'll save some money, too!"

"Brilliant!"

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 15, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

and apologies on my part for getting nasty too. like i said before, i've got bad news fatigue.

surly, that's pretty funny. especially since i watched the presser *just now* and thought "hey! riggleman's cuter than i thought!"

the king is dead! long live the king!

Posted by: NatsNut | July 15, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

NN


lol! you're a pushover for a man wearing a curly (not surly) w!

Posted by: surly_w | July 15, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

indeed

Posted by: NatsNut | July 15, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Last comments about Manny.

I liked him as a person, he was pleasant and friendly. He was living the dream being a major league manage before he was ready. That's why he was always "super fantastic" - his phrase.

He didn't do what the team needed in disciplining the team or sticking up for them with the umpires. Zim made that clear.

He had no strategy. Never bunted the runner over (except the pitchers). Not one squeeze bunt in 2 and 1/2 years. Lots of inning ending double plays but never a safety of squeeze bunt. Very few hit-and-run plays. Did the infield ever use the wheel play on a bunt? It was always the same. The only trick he used was the studid bunt-position, pull the bat back then bunt by the pitchers. But even that was wrong-headed since so many of our pitchers had a hard time bunting, that fancy move made it harded. How many times did they actually swing away?

StanK compared him to Bobby Cox. What a joke. I hate bobby cox but I remember when he yanked Andrew Jones from center field because of sloppy play. Cox lets the umpires know that he will argue for his team if he thinks the umpires made a mistake. Frank one-upped Cox and got a homerun called a foul ball and we won the game because of that.

His press conferences were pathetic, no analysis no nothing but inane remarkes about his "kids."

His handeling of the pitchers showed him inexperience. Until the last few weeks, how many times did he pull a pitcher who was doing well with less than 85 pitches for a pinch hitter - sometimes Kearnes? Why pitch the relievers 2 innings when time and again they give up runs in the second inning? He ruined Milledge by naming him center fielder and leadoff. Milledge is a corner outfielder suited to bat low in the order. He should have known that. He never set a line-up and stuck with it. We didn't have a veteran team that needed to have players kept fresh. Why play Kearns for so long and sit Willingham? Dunn is a liability but why put him in 3 different positions? Why sit Dunn when Zim is on a 30-game hitting streak.

Why, why, why? Because he was inexperienced and just plain trying stuff.
Good luck Manny, But I don't see him ever managing again in the majors.

Posted by: alm1000 | July 15, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

CiL, I actually think the scheduling of the picnic is fairly good (with the exception of it being a Saturday, even though that is the only day of the week that they can do it). The other available Saturday dates were Sept. 5th (Labor Day Weekend) and Sept. 26th. If they did it the final home weekend of the season, then folks would say that they scheduled it then because they really didn't want to do it and put it on the final date that they could. As for folks being away, most families that I have spoken to have to be back by that point as school starts up before Labor Day. Even though I don't have kids, I can't be going on a vacation that late in the summer.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | July 15, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman's a caretaker, and he knows it. The goal in these remaining 75 games is evaluate what you have for 2010, when a permananet GM and manager are hired. Some of the deadwood will be let go, for whatever spare parts they can get in exchange. I'll be happy just to avoid 110 losses -- not much of a goal, to be sure, but beggars can't be choosers.

Attention, Lerners: It's going to take both time and (lots of) money to fix this mess, especially considering Washington's reputation as a baseball graveyard that makes it a place of last resort for both players and front-office talent. If you're not willing to make the financial commitment, then sell the franchise to someone who can. CHANGE THE CULTURE!

Posted by: VPaterno | July 15, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

It looks to me like Rizzo has already "CHANGED THE CULTURE" to a degree. Part of that was acquiring Morgan and Burnett, while sending Dukes to Syracuse and Tim Foli. Replacing guys like Langerhans with Mike Morse. Sending down Martis and Detwiler and bringing back a revitalized Mock. Pushing Guzman and Belliard back, moving Gonzalez and Hernandez forward.

Unfortunately, the big step, (and many pundits and baseball experts appear to agree), is to sign Strasberg as soon as possible before the August deadline. That I think would push the entire organization out of the negative and into a positive frame of mind. Not that Strasberg is any sort of savior mind you. Its the message sent: that the ownership will allow Kasten, Rizzo to do what they need to build a respectable baseball organization and franchise.

Trades won't do it. He won't get much for Nick Johnson. On the 320 blog I note that apparently there are some who agree that Johnson should be resigned to a 1-2 year contract rather than traded. You just wouldn't get good value.

In the end even if you trade a Dunn to the AL so that he can be a DH, or even Ryan Zimmerman the return is going to likely be more young prospects. The question asked will be, at least until he plays some, you have the best prospect available under your control, why didn't you sign him?

Posted by: periculum | July 15, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Lurker, looking at the schedule, you're right that they didn't have that many dates to choose from if they were going to do it towards the end of the season, especially since on the last weekend, Saturday and Sunday are both day games. It just seems to me that scheduling it in late August is a tone-deaf move, as the District usually is pretty much dead that time of year.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 16, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, but mebbe NN and JennX are wannabe sports groupies? Seem to seem them a lot on players' blogs, asking how to introduce themselves
~smiles~

So, wouldn't they want to want to keep things positive, upbeat, and pleasant?

Its hard to be pleasant given the Nats current record: 26 and 61. Believe me Riggleman understands this as well as any of us "fans". The guy remembers when the Griffin laughed at DC on the way to Minneapolis. Because its DC, then considered the capital of the world, there had to be a baseball team so an expansion franchise was quickly thrown together and put in place to play in reasonably new DC Stadium. They were of course pathetic ... but they were all that there was all that anyone had ... (NO, no one liked the stoopid Boids.)

NN, believe me Riggleman understands this perhaps better than most ... and so I am hoping he takes this latest venture kind of personal like ... I know I would it I were him. This city has already been through this nightmare ... poor owners who won once with the "Big Train" in 1924. Followed by even poorer ownership that was eventually replaced when that team moved to Texas.

DC's baseball team deserves better than to be "peed upon" by Dirk Obama.

Posted by: periculum | July 16, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Dunno, but mebbe NN and JennX are wannabe sports groupies? Seem to seem them a lot on players' blogs, asking how to introduce themselves
~smiles~

+++++++++++

quit being a pig, periculum. i think you're smarter than this.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 16, 2009 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Hello, newbie here. What are we talking about this morning?

Posted by: Ringle | July 16, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Lannan vs Harden tonight. Harden is a good pitcher having a rough year. I think we can beat him with hitting, pitching, and defense (doh). I'm going with Morgan, Gonzalez, Johnson, Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham, Guzman, Bard, and Lannan. I'm pushing Lannan to the seventh or eith before giving them the old 1-2 punch of the setup man and the closer.

Umm, which one is the setup man and which one is the closer?

How long until Storen is ready?

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 16, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Thrilledge hit two homers against the P-Nats last night.

Posted by: edr04 | July 16, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Thanks goodness the All Star Break is over. It's a sad reminder of what the winter is like..

Posted by: Intrudr | July 16, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Hey everybody what happens if by some twist of fate(a miracle) Riggleman finishes above .500 for the second half does that mean he becomes the frontrunner for manager next season personally i would like to see Tim Foli get the job.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 16, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Guess MacDougal is still the closer. Olsen for setup?

Posted by: Ringle | July 16, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Possible candidate for funny quote of the second half, courtesty of Riggleman (and worthy of Yogi, IMO):

"You can lose and just accept it. But that's unacceptable."

Good to see the players stepping up and taking responsibility for having gotten Acta fired. Too bad they couldn't have stepped up on the field a few months ago.

Re. the culture of losing, Stan and the Lerners laid the groundwork for that after they took over the team, and they valued Manny's patience and even-keeled approach at that point. We heard about rebuilding, it's going to be a long haul, root for Teddy (even though he never wins), you gotta be patient, yada yada yada.

p.s. Don't take the bait, NatsNut.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 16, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Re. my comments on player accountability, I guess you'll have to see the OP and Dunn's MASN blog for background, because the Post doesn't seem to have picked up on those quotes.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 16, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Periculum, your comments towards our female posters offend me. Cease.

Posted by: Section506 | July 16, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Basically Riggles said:

"If you play hard every night, but you just flat out suck, then it is what it is. But if you suck, and your lazy and don't play hard despite the fact that you suck, then we have a problem."

and I'm good with that mentality. for now.

I'd like to see some changes though, in the way the team is managed. no, I'm not talking about throwing chairs and temper tantrums and yelling at players, for your MannyFanboys. I'm talking about things like Bullpen usage and lineup construction.

and the fact that he says that there isn't much to change worries me.

Posted by: MrMadison | July 16, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Other than maybe trading or DFA'ing Tavarez, what changes would you suggest, Mr. M?

Posted by: Ringle | July 16, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Riggleman, new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 16, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I think the Nats goal should be to get as many opposing managers fired as possible down the stretch. Remember we swept the Mariners and got riggleman his first interim shtick? Maybe we can sweep the Cubs, send the north side into depression, get Lou canned, and have the Cubbie fans saying "maybe we should trade Soriano for Milledge?"

With apologies to 506.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | July 16, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Theo Epstein is a fine GM. He picked up Jason Bay in a trade. He signed expensive free agents (like JD Drew for $70 million). He signed Matzuzaka for $100 million, counting compensation to Japan team (OK, he's been hurt but was 18-3 last season). Epstein made many such moves, building up a $122.6 payroll.

Questions for Bowden bashers: How would Epstein have done with the Nats' payroll level of $61.5 million? What if Epstein could only trade for guys only if they made $3 million a year or less (Willingham is the biggest salary guy the Nats have ever traded for under the Lerners at $2.95 million). What if Epstein could not go out and get international stars like Dice-K or Okajima? What if he had to sign under-slot guys in the draft?

Given all of these restrictions, what would Theo Epstein's results have been with the Red Sox? What could Theo have done if Theo had been the Nats' GM with the nats' minuscule budgets? And what results would JimBo have achieved if he had Epstein's budget as the Nats' GM?


Conversely,

Posted by: EdDC | July 16, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

My wish list for the 2nd half and beyond:

I would like to see some inspired fundamentally sound baseball, defensively and offensively. Get the guy to third with no outs. Work the count and stop hacking at first pitches all the time (that is for Zim and Guz). And for God sakes judge a fly ball properly for a change.

I would like to see our manager hit and run more and mix in a bunt every now and then. I would also like to see him show a little fire and rip an ump at least once in the 2nd half.

And lastly, I would like the Lerner's to open up the damn checkbook and spend some friggin’ money in the offseason. Produce a payroll worthy of a top 8 market, for Pete’s sake.

Oh, and sign Strasburg...soon.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

EdDC,

Theo would have a hard time with the conditions in DC. It's hard to run a MLB team with the budget of a WNBA team.

Jimbo I think would do better in Boston but, he's always worked with cheapskate owners, I wonder if he could make solid decisions with a much larger budget. He would be a like a drunk in a bar on payday. "5 tool players for everybody!"

Posted by: Section505203 | July 16, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

505203

When you say: "5 tool players for everybody!"
Do you mean like Jason Bay, or do you mean like the low-budget version (Lastings Miledge).

Bowden needs adult supervision whether Kasten with the Nats or Stan's counterpart elsewhere. But he tried hard and was creative with extraordinarily low budgets.

Posted by: EdDC | July 16, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

EdDC,

I was never a big Jimbo basher. Being a Reds fan before the Nats came to town, I was happy that he got the GM job.

He's a bargin bin scrounger and he did what he could with the budget he had.

The problem here is the Lerner's. If they would've opened the checkbook like they should've after the 2006 season and beyond, we wouldn't be this bad and we would have a much better minor league system right now.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 16, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

>For the life of me, I don't understand the Bro-mance this organization had with Acta. Maybe Mall-Rats and Carni-Barkers just can't admit they made a mistake.

Posted by: TippyCanoe

Bingo

Posted by: Brue | July 16, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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