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Can’t say I blame him for reaching that conclusion. Even though Rizzo stressed his role in hiring Riggleman — first as interim manager and then in the permanent role — not picking up the option spoke louder. “Now” is the right time when you believe in the manager and respect his work, especially if you appreciate the difficult position you’ve placed him in by not ensuring his return.

“I just wanted the option picked up,” Riggleman said. “I didn’t say pick up my option or else. I want to make that clear. I thought it was worthy of a conversation when we got to Chicago, and Mike said we’re not going to do that.”

If now — after one of the hottest streaks in Nats history — isn’t the right time to pull the trigger, or even discuss pulling the trigger, I doubt that Rizzo ever intended to do so. But how do you tell your manager, in the middle of the season, you don’t want him back next season?

Rizzo could’ve tried honesty and let Riggleman know the option wouldn’t be picked up. The general manager isn’t obligated to re-sign anyone whose contract is expiring; if he wanted a different manager at the helm in 2012, so be it.

But such an announcement would’ve robbed Riggleman of all his credibility in the clubhouse. As it was, Riggleman said he felt restricted in working without a contract for next year. “Too many negatives come out of it,” he said. “You’re walking on eggshells too often and can’t think out of the box. I felt after 10 years I earned the right to have a little bit longer leash.”

The conversation Riggleman wanted in Chicago wouldn’t have led to his desired outcome. For whatever reason, Rizzo didn’t picture Riggleman as the manager going forward, but wanted to keep him — perhaps — for the entire season.

Rizzo might as well have fired Riggleman and spared everyone of this ordeal.