There were no winners in manager Jim Riggleman’s shocking resignation Thursday, coming just moments after another thrilling Washington victory capped an 8-1 homestand and made the Nationals victors in 11 of their last 12 games.
Talk about a major buzzkill.
One of the hottest teams in baseball just got doused with a bucket of cold water, bringing a jubilant clubhouse to a screeching, somber halt. Whether the good times resume in the near future — beginning Friday against the Chicago White Sox — Thursday felt like a death in the family.
Riggleman doesn’t look faultless here, abandoning his team because management refused to pick up his contract for next season. He certainly could’ve waited until the All-Star break in three weeks. Or he could’ve simply honored his pact to manage this season and seen what happened next.
But as the months passed and general manager Mike Rizzo refused to discuss the matter, Riggleman got an idea of what the future held. And he didn’t like the idea of being a lame-duck manager for a club that wasn’t committed to him. So he gave Rizzo one last chance and decided to walk when it wasn’t forthcoming.
“I’m not Casey Stengel, but I feel like I know what I’m doing,” Riggleman said after the Nats’ 1-0 victory against Seattle. “It’s not a situation where I felt like I could continue with such a short leash, where every little hill and valley is life and death in the game. The game’s not fun that way.”
Rizzo said they discussed Riggleman’s option being picked up “several times during the season but felt the time wasn’t right.” When Riggleman presented him with an ultimatum before Thursday’s game — saying he wouldn’t board the plane to Chicago without the promise of a conversation upon arrival — Rizzo said the timetable was unacceptable.
“You certainly can’t make that decision in a knee-jerk fashion,” he said, contending that Riggleman requested a signed deal, not simply a conversation.
Knee-jerk? After 73 games this year and a season-and-a-half before that? What was Rizzo looking for?
“We wanted to see where the season was going,” he said. “We wanted to see where the young players were going, how they were being developed and we were moving forward. Four weeks before the All-Star Game wasn’t the time to do it.”
It should’ve been done sooner if it was going to be done at all.
The fact that it didn’t happen told Riggleman he was done after this season.