Jim Riggleman likely to remain Nationals manager in 2011
The Nationals have yet to make a public declaration about Manager Jim Riggleman's status for 2011, but there are strong indications emerging from the organization that Riggleman, 95-127 since taking over midway through last season, will return for his second full season as Nationals manager.
"We haven't announced a final call, but we've made a definite decision," General Manager Mike Rizzo said tonight. "We haven't made an announcement to him or to the public."
Rizzo was asked if the fact that Riggleman remained the manager at this point could be read into. "Yeah," Rizzo said. "That's something you could read into."
Riggleman signed a two-year contract this offseason in a strict legal sense, but in reality his contract is more tenuous. Riggleman made $600,000 this season. The Nationals can buy him out of that contract at the end of the season for $100,000, and even $700,000 - the total of Riggleman's 2010 salary and a potential buyout - is less than a typical major league manager makes in a season.
The Nationals would need to inform Riggleman they are buying him out of his contract by the day after the finish of the World Series, according to a source with knowledge of Riggleman's agreement. But it appears almost certain the Nationals will not exercise the option and instead keep Riggleman.
"I think he's done a good job," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think we've all had a good time playing for him. It's not one of those things that's up to us. Whatever happens, happens. I think Jim's done a really good job with what he's been asked to do with what he's got here. I've got nothing bad to say about him.
"All the good teams usually have one guy that's there for a long time. Having consistency in that position definitely helps."
Riggleman has managed through a tumultuous season, especially for his pitching staff. The Nationals have used 14 starting pitchers, most in the major leagues. The No. 1 opening day starter, John Lannan, spent six weeks in Class AA. Their No. 2 opening day starter, Jason Marquis, compiled an ERA over 20 in three starts then spent most of the year the disabled list.
Stephen Strasburg, a temporary staff savior, made only 12 starts because of injury. Even before Strasburg pitched, Riggleman impressed the Nationals with how he handled everything surrounding his immensely hyped arrival in the majors.
"The whole circus of Strasburg leading up throughout the season, that was management," Rizzo said. "There was a lot of management that he had to do to get through that. I think he kept everybody at their best while that was going on."
Rizzo also praised Riggleman's work during games.
"What we've always liked about, as in-game strategist, he's really good about that," Rizzo said. "He's as good as anybody. We've gone through some trials and tribulations this year, some real highs and some lows - both extremes."
The Nationals hope next season, unlike this one, brings more highs than low. If it does, Riggleman, it seems, will be there for it. Riggleman has spent this season with a lack of security, which Rizzo believes did not change the manager's approach.
"I don't think it affects the way he does his job one way or the other," Rizzo said. "The way he goes about his business, he's managing and preparing like he would if he had a long-term contract or with no contract. That's just his personality."
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