- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

One way or another, Jim Riggleman will serve his final game as interim manager of the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Will the Rockville native and childhood Senators fan be back next season as permanent manager? He may not have to wait long to find out.

General manager Mike Rizzo suggested Wednesday that the process of naming a manager will be quick, not nearly the six-week affair that landed Manny Acta out of a pool of at least a dozen candidates three years ago.

“I think we’re going to begin as soon as the regular season ends and get it done as quickly as possible,” Rizzo said before the Nationals’ home finale against the New York Mets.

So expect fewer serious candidates for the job this time around, and expect Riggleman to get strong consideration.

“Jim is a definite candidate to stay on,” Rizzo said. “Like I said, he’s done a great job. I would say he’s a legitimate candidate to be the manager in 2010.”

Promoted from bench coach to interim manager after Acta was fired July 12, Riggleman has posted a 29-42 record. This is familiar territory for the 56-year-old, who took over the Seattle Mariners in midseason 2008 and was told he’d be considered for the full-time job, only to lose out to Don Wakamatsu.

“I can only say I want to come back and manage,” he said. “But you’ve got to respect the decisions that are made, and there are different criteria that go into why these decisions are made. So I don’t even know what the criteria is, but you hope you get the call.”

Rizzo said decisions about the rest of the coaching staff won’t be made until the manager is named so that whoever is hired can have input in those positions.

Dwindling support

Wednesday’s game, featuring a rare 4:35 p.m. starting time, drew a crowd of 23,944, leaving the final season attendance total at 1,817,256.

That represents the lowest season attendance in the Nationals’ five-year history and a 22 percent drop from 2008, when the club drew 2.32 million fans in the ballpark’s inaugural season.

Team officials have pointed to Washington’s back-to-back 100-loss seasons and the nation’s overall economic problems as factors in the decrease.

“I think it’s a terrific fan base,” Rizzo said. “I think they’re going to really, really support the club when we become good. The support that we’ve gotten for the record we have and the product we’ve put on the field has been terrific. When we start winning, they’re going to come out.”

First replay

The final home game of the season featured a first-time event: a home run at Nationals Park reviewed by replay.

With a man on first in the top of the second, the Mets’ David Wright hit a towering drive to left that bounced off the top of the fence and back onto the field. Wright held up at second base with a double, but New York manager Jerry Manuel came out of the dugout to dispute the call and persuaded the umpiring crew to review the play.

Crew chief Wally Bell, along with mates Brian Runge and Rob Drake, disappeared under the stands for four minutes before re-emerging and upholding the original call.

It was the first borderline home run reviewed at Nationals Park since Major League Baseball instituted the system in late 2008. The Nationals have been involved in several replays on the road.

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