There was no Don Wakamatsu this time. Jim Riggleman, (who had served as the Seattle Mariners' interim Manager in 2008 only to be passed up for the full-time job in favor of Mr. Wakamatsu once the season ended), was introduced this afternoon by permanent DC GM Mike Rizzo as the Nats' new skipper after a weeks-long search in which Mr. Rizzo and Nationals' team President Stan Kasten "vetted" some and interviewed others (leaving at least one candidate perplexed as to what sort of "search" they'd conducted) before deciding on Mr. Riggleman as the third field manager in the team's five-year history.
DC GM Mike Rizzo referred to Jim Riggleman as the "permanent field manager" in officially announcing his promotion from "interim" status during a press conference today, joking to the press, "You know how much I love those 'interim' titles," in a sly nod to the time he'd spent as the "Acting" DC GM after replacing former GM Jim Bowden and before he himself was given the full-time gig as the franchise's second general manager. "We went through a disappointing season in 2009," Mr. Rizzo continued:
"...halfway through the season we turned to Jim Riggleman for some stability, to right the ship, and he did what I thought was a masterful job in very trying circumstances, he gave us a sense of balance, not only in the dugout, but also in the clubhouse. We went back to the roots of the game, the fundamentals of efficient play, with a big focus on pitching, defense and playing the game the right way. We thought that we had a...I thought that we had a very efficient, talented manager in-house...After the season, we felt it was our duty to the ballclub, to the fans of Washington, DC to do our due diligence, and look in all venues for a permanent field manager. We did an extensive search and came back to the realization that the best guy for the job we had in-house in Jim Riggleman. It's my pleasure to introduce the 2010 Manager of the Washington Nationals, Jim Riggleman."
"This has been a dream of mine to land right here," Jim Riggleman...
"This has been a dream of mine to land right here," Jim Riggleman told the gathered members of the media in his acceptance speech after thanking all those in baseball who'd given him the help he needed to reach this place:
"...this is the team that I grew up watching, the Washington Senators, to me it's still the Nationals-Senators, it's all in the same, it's Washington baseball, and it's the dream of a lifetime to grow up watching a ballclub and then end up playing or managing for that very ballclub. It just, it couldn't be better for me."
While Mr. Riggleman was thrilled with the opportunity the Nationals had given him, however, at least one candidate, who was supposedly one of two finalists for the job along with Mr. Riggleman, expressed surprise when informed that he had been passed on in favor of the "in-house" candidate. Bobby Valentine, in an article by MLB.com's Barry Bloom entitled, "Valentine moving on after Nats' decision", was quoted as stating that he'd, "...had a great interview with Mike (Rizzo) about two weeks ago and we really hit it off," but after the meeting, which Mr. Rizzo later confirms, Mr. Valentine continued:
"...I never heard anything. There has been no contact or explanations. I'm pretty sure they had Jim (Riggleman) in their back pockets the whole time."
It wasn't that Mr. Valentine had failed to impress either, as reports following his interview with the Cleveland Indians had alleged, as Mr. Rizzo explained to MLB.com's Mr. Bloom:
"'Bobby Valentine was extremely impressive... He was very [vocal] and is baseball knowledgeable. He is an extremely bright person in general. He has great baseball acumen.
"...He was a very attractive candidate. I just felt he wasn't the right guy for me at this time. I just felt that Jim was the right guy for the job.'"
Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin wrote this morning, in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "As we await the Riggleman presser", that, "Bo Porter, the former Marlins third base coach...was in the running for the Nationals' managing job until this week," (ed. note - "Taunting me with the mysteries of possessive apostrophe use."), while Washington Times' writers Ben Goessling and Mark Zuckerman, in a co-authored November 4th report on Don Mattingly removing himself from consideration for the DC job entitled, "Riggleman could stay with Nationals", wrote that Mr. Valentine and Buck Showalter had expressed interest in the job but would be passed up because the Nationals' ownership, according to an unnamed source, "...(was) reluctant to spend top dollar on its manager." According to the Times' reporters, the Nationals also spoke to former Mariners' and D-Backs' manager Bob Melvin, but thought he was, "...more attractive as a bench coach." Only Valentine spoke up about the Nationals' decision to go with Mr. Riggleman though, so maybe reports that Valentine was the only other candidate under consideration explains the interest Mr. Valentine had felt the team and Mr. Rizzo, in particular, had expressed, as he told MLB.com's Mr. Bloom:
"'He came to me,' Valentine said. 'This whole thing is pretty amazing, as far as I'm concerned. I don't even know if it's amazing. I can't figure it out. Maybe he just wanted to talk. ... I loved the guy [Rizzo]. I think Mike has done a very fine job. I know his family. I wanted to see if there's a fit there and if I could help him out.
"'But the deeper you get into it, maybe it wasn't the right place for me after all. It's more than a rebuilding job there. They're going to need a lot of help. I truly hope it works out for them, because Mike is a really good person.'"
(ed. note - "That last paragraph sounds a little bitter...")
Mr. Riggleman knows what lies in store for the Nationals, and knows that the team will need help, but as he thanked the fans for their attentions late last year even while the Nationals struggled, he told the gathered press this morning, when asked how much momentum the team was carrying into this season, that it might be the fans who make the difference:
"I think there's some momentum. You know, uh, smarter people than me have said, uh, momentum's as good as your next day's starter, you know. And, uh, I kind of believe that. I think the positive vibes that were flowing around the ballpark, that again, stimulates from our fans getting excited about what was happening and our players sending that energy back into the stands, it all worked together and that kinda results in momentum. It's just a good feeling. I think a lot of our players felt it, and I think that they feel we can take that momentum to the next season. It'll be a great challenge. It's a tough division. It's certainly something you want to have on your side if you can have it...meaning, uh momentum..."
The Nationals' 2010 season is now officially underway...