Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can Riggs Take Nats to Next Level?

When Jim Riggleman took over managerial duties for the Nats in 2009 after now-Indians Manager Manny Acta was fired, there wasn't a whole lot to be hopeful about, besides Ryan Zimmerman's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards at 3rd base. Only 3 of the 10 listed infielders from 2009 remain on the 2011 roster (Zimmerman, Desmond, Morse); only 6 of the 30 pitchers that appeared on the Nats roster that year have appeared on the 25-man roster this season. Most have long been dismissed from the organization entirely.

The Nats were in bad shape and had posted the 2nd-worst winning percentage in the franchise's history: the 1969 Montreal Expos were worse. Last season, the Nats and Riggleman were able to right the ship a bit more. They flirted with .500 through most of May, and finished the season 10-wins better than the disastrous 2009 season; the team still failed to break even 70 wins for the 3rd consecutive season.

There seems to be a reverberating frustration across NatsTown, even earlier than in past years. The biggest question mark for the Nats coming in to 2011 was it's starting pitching, which has been good enough to get them the 11th best ERA in baseball. Everything else, though, has been fairly disappointing. The bulllpen has been good, but not great, and nothing compared with last season. The offense has essentially not existed. The entire team is hitting for a .226 batting average, good for 29th in baseball.

So all this being said, can Jim Riggleman take the Nats to the next phase: winning?

Unfortunately, history says no. Managers across baseball, including Manager of the defending World Champion Giants Bruce Bochy, consider Jim Riggleman to be a brilliant managerial mind, and he shows signs of that from time to time. But records don't lie, and Riggleman's record as a major league manager is a dismal 638-803. In his 11 years of managing (not including this season), he's finished above .500 just twice, and one was in 1995 with a shortened season due to the 1994 labor strike. He did take the Cubs to the playoffs in 1998, but got swept in the NLDS.

He'll still be the manager that makes infuriating double switches in weird situations and leaves starting pitchers in for too long at times. He still, as the MASN commercials say, believes in the players and not the numbers.

However, Riggleman is a player's coach and is probably the right guy to help pull a team out of the gutter. He seems to have unwaivering support of his players in a good clubhouse. While I can't imagine that Riggleman will be the Nats' manager when the team finally reaches the playoffs for the first time, he will be seen as an important figure in the building of young talent in the organization.

According to his contract, Riggleman has a contract-option for 2012. Do you see him filling the managerial role next season? If so, do you think it's a good idea? Sound off in the comments.


  1. Let's hope he's not back for 2012. He ought to managing baseball celebrity golf tournaments. Not major league baseball teams.

  2. Look up Joe Torre's pre-New York managerial record. Look up Terry Francona's pre-Boston managerial record. Look up Charlie Manual's pre-Philadelphia managerial record.

    Casey Stengel was an inept manager for years before the Yankees hired him. From 1949 to 1960, he won pennants in the following years: 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, and 60.

    Then he took over the expansion Mets in 1962 and was so bad that he remarked, "I win, with this team, what I used to lose."

  3. I really think his niche is developing young players - he is a teacher at heart. Hard to say if it's the players he has been given or his managerial style that causes the problems. There have been times when the players are executing that he seems brilliant. Manny Acta looks pretty good right now - is he a different manager or is it his team? I think when ( not "if") this team starts winning , they will need someone else that is able to make the harder decisions and put relationships aside in order to win. In real life it's not a character flaw to put people first, ahead of winning - in baseball it is.

  4. Riggleman seems to be a great guy that the clubhouse honestly likes and respects. This doesn't mean he should be enshrined forever, but it isn't trivial either.

    I think two things are important in making the decision;

    1. Who are you looking at as a replacement? Don't compare him to a "replacement value" manager, compare him one at a time to particular candidates.

    2. Have a strategy for the transition that will work for everybody. A front office job that can mean something if he makes it mean something is one good option. DO NOT put unrealistic goals out for him and let him twist in the wind till you cut the rope. That WILL offend the clubhouse unnecessarily.