- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Washington Nationals selected Jim Riggleman as their 2010 manager, promoting the former interim skipper to the full-time position.

Riggleman was informed of the decision Wednesday, according to multiple club sources. A news conference is scheduled for Thursday afternoon to announce the move.

Riggleman, who owns a career record of 555-694 with one playoff berth in parts of 10 seasons as a big league manager, appeared to be the front-runner for some time out of a pool of candidates that included former major league skippers Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin, plus former All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly.

The Rockville native, 57, was well-respected by Washington players and staff members after taking over for Manny Acta during the All-Star break and posting a 33-42 record the rest of the season. Though his contract expired Oct. 31, he didn’t pursue other jobs, and the Nationals recently supplied him with a new laptop and cell phone.

According to a club source, all of Washington’s coaches from this season were assured by general manager Mike Rizzo that they would be retained either on the big league staff or elsewhere in the organization, another sign that pointed toward Riggleman’s return. (Former bullpen coach Randy Knorr already had agreed to become manager at Class AA Harrisburg.)

The 59-year-old Valentine, who went 1,117-1,072 in parts of 15 seasons with Texas and the New York Mets and spent the past six years managing in Japan, likely would have wanted to hire several outsiders to his coaching staff.

The Nationals wanted to interview Mattingly for the job, but the Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach declined the request after his team was eliminated from the playoffs. Rizzo also spoke to Melvin, who previously managed Seattle and Arizona and could be in line to join Washington’s staff as bench coach.

Hired in October 2008 to be Acta’s bench coach, Riggleman was pegged as a potential replacement if the Nationals decided to make a change, though he wasn’t originally seen as a likely long-term solution.

After two fairly unimpressive stints managing San Diego from 1992 to 1994 and the Chicago Cubs from 1995 to 1999, Riggleman spent the next decade serving on several clubs’ coaching staffs. He was bench coach for Seattle in 2008 and became interim manager in midseason after John McLaren was fired. But after posting a 36-54 record, he was not selected as Seattle’s permanent manager.

Riggleman, a light-hitting utilityman who never made it to the majors as a player, understood the reality of his situation. He was an attractive fill-in skipper but would have to catch a break to retain a job long-term.

“Would I like to have something more long term? I think all managers would like to have your club in spring training, get it started in spring training and run with it,” he said upon taking over for Acta on July 15. “But I would have done that in 2000 if I didn’t lose enough in ‘99 [with the Cubs]. … Ultimately, you’ve got to win some ballgames and create your longevity the way some great managers have done.”

The Nationals improved under Riggleman, both in the win-loss column and in the field, with a renewed emphasis on defense and fundamentals.

“I think Jim’s done a really good job handling the ballclub since the All-Star break,” Rizzo said Sept. 30. “I think he put us on pace to really focus in and bear down on the fundamentals of the game, to play cleaner, more efficient ball. He’s got the guys playing at a high level of attention. I think he’s done the best job he could with the ability level he had on the field.”

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