The Nationals are expected to name their manager in the next week, and after Don Mattingly removed himself from consideration, it appears Jim Riggleman has an inside track toward retaining the job he held on an interim basis during the second half of the season.
General manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten have intended all along to conduct a quiet search that would include only a handful of candidates, including Riggleman, who posted a 33-42 record after taking over for Manny Acta at the All-Star break.
They hoped Mattingly would be one of those candidates and asked the Dodgers for permission to speak to the hitting coach once they were eliminated from the postseason. Mattingly, though, declined to interview with the Nationals, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said today through a team spokesman. The 48-year-old former All-Star first baseman is a possible heir apparent in Los Angeles once Joe Torre retires, and he prefers to remain with the defending NL West champions.
Washington ownership also is reluctant to spend top dollar on its manager, according to club sources, which would likely eliminate any high-profile candidates like Bobby Valentine or Buck Showalter, despite interest from both former managers in the job.
Besides Riggleman, the only other known candidate is former Mariners and Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who has spoken to Rizzo in recent weeks but could be more attractive as a bench coach.
Within the Nationals organization, the move seems to be toward the status quo. Club sources expect a decision to come shortly after the World Series, and one said none of the coaches from last season’s staff are pursuing other openings, having been told by Rizzo they were all assured of jobs somewhere within the organization.
All members of the coaching staff, including Riggleman, were without contracts as of Oct. 31. But the team recently supplied Riggleman with new electronic equipment, and club sources also said Riggleman has identified potential staff members who, combined with holdovers from last season, could fill out a coaching staff relatively soon.
The Nationals’ major league coaching decisions could affect some remaining openings in their farm system. Trent Jewett has been promoted to manager at Class AAA Syracuse after managing at Class A Potomac this season. Class AA Harrisburg manager John Stearns was not retained and is in discussions with the New York Mets for a coaching position. A possible replacement at Harrisburg is Randy Knorr, who was Washington’s bullpen coach this year.
In other news…
Rizzo has hired former White Sox general manager Ron Schueler as a special advisor and also promoted Bill Singer to director of pro scouting.
Schueler, who served as White Sox GM from 1990-2000 and has 42 years of experience in baseball, spent the last two seasons as senior advisor of player personnel with the Giants.
Singer, who joined the Nationals in 2006 and served as a special assignment scout and coordinator of Pacific Rim operations, will now be administering all of the club’s major league, minor league and winter league scouting operations.
— Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling