“I’ve supported him through the media, personally and in the clubhouse every step of the way,” Rizzo said. “He obviously didn’t take to it and was not persuaded by it.”
Rizzo addressed the team following the 1-0 victory over the Mariners, where Laynce Nix’s sacrifice fly brought home the lone run in the bottom of the ninth inning and ignited an on-field celebration. All that seemed far away.
Reaction to the move was muted. Surprise hung on the faces of most players as they quietly dressed or sat in fat leather recliners and watched television. The celebration evaporated.
“Whether I agree or disagree with it, I respect Jim’s decision. He’s moving on and I’m moving on,” said right fielder Jayson Werth, who noted he spent much of his career on one-year contracts. “I’m disappointed, for sure. … But this really has nothing to do with me. It’s a personal decision.”
The clubhouse factored into the decision, Riggleman said. Though he didn’t feel undermined by any players, he felt the extension was needed to reinforce his authority as manager.
Looking back, Riggleman felt he signed a bad contract in 2009 with the option being in the team’s hands. But he didn’t feel as if he could say no to the job. He described the Nationals’ decision to retain a manager on a one-year contract as “not a good way to do business.” In the latter part of the interview, Riggleman implied he could lose the clubhouse if the option wasn’t exercised.
“It’s a relatively small commitment by today’s standards to make a statement to the players, ‘Hey, Jim’s going to be here.’ I think that’s a message that needed to be delivered. You’ve got to send a message to professional ballplayers that this manager is their manager.”
Watched by three Nationals public relations staffers who edged closer as time ticked on, Riggleman continued unabated.
“I know I’m not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what I’m doing,” Riggleman said. “It’s not a situation where I felt like I should continue on with such a short leash, where every little hill and valley is life and death in the game. The game is not fun that way.”
And for the Nationals, en route to Chicago with a 38-37 record and no manager, Thursday wasn’t fun, either.
- Amanda Comak, Paulina Berkovich and Rich Campbell contributed.
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