Lessons In Motivation From Washington Nationals' Manager Jim Riggleman And Bench Coach John McLaren.

As another 100+ loss season came to a close in September '09, Jim Riggleman, on two occasions, attempted to motivate the Washington Nationals through the press, as he had once earlier last season behind closed doors. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in an 9.3.09 article entitled, "Nats Slip Against Padres, Fall For Sixth Straight", quoted Mr. Riggleman expressing his belief that the team, which had just dropped seven of nine, including six in a row on a west coast road trip, needed to motivate itself:

"'We did this once earlier. I think our guys said, 'Enough is enough.' And I think we've got to do that now. At some point you just have to say, 'We're not going to get beat.' You have to will yourself to a win and not accept it. I know sometimes we think of down the road. We've got a lot of good parts for the future and all that, but when you're playing tonight, people pay to get into that ballgame, never mind next year. You've got to win that ballgame tonight.'"

The Nationals responded by going 5-10 in the next 15 games...

The Nationals responded by going 5-10 in the next 15 games...and after what Mr. Riggleman described to MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Riggleman not satified after Nats' loss", as a "lackluster performance" in the fifteenth game of that stretch, a 6-2 9.20.09 loss to the NY Mets, the Nationals' manager again challenged his players, questioning the effort they had given on the field that day:

"'We were flat, and it's just not acceptable. We were down a run and it was almost like, 'Let's see what we can do here to get through it.' I just wasn't pleased with the overall intensity of the game.""

DC slugger Adam Dunn, who struggled mightily in September, hitting just .212 with 3 doubles, 3 HR's and 14 RBI's in his last 99 at bats, might have taken what Jim Riggleman said personally, but instead, in one of the many signs of the leadership role the first-year National assumed in 2009, Dunn defended his own effort along with that of his teammates, telling Washington Post writer Chico Harlan, as quoted in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Riggleman Says Nats Were Flat In 6-2 Loss", that he didn't necessarily agree with the DC Skipper's assessment:

"I was in the game; I'm not going to sit here and say I was flat because I don't think I was and I can only speak for myself. As far as the team -- I don't think we came out... I'm gonna say no, I don't think we were flat. I don't. I just think that we ran into some guys that pitched pretty good, we weren't swinging the bats really well, and I think that's the problem...

"...We've playing one-hundred-and-X amount of games. Why would we decide on Sunday whatever-the-day-is to not play hard? That's bulls---. That's one thing we do. Winning or losing, we do play hard."

The Nationals would respond by losing five of the next six games before going on a season-ending, seven-game-win-streak, their second-longest of the season. The longest streak came earlier in the '09 campaign, back in July. The Nationals, who'd lost 7 of 9 after Mr. Riggleman replaced Manny Acta, were coming off a 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres in which they'd committed 4 errors, when MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote, in an article entitled, "Pair of homers not enough for the Nationals", that Mr. Riggleman, "...was not happy after the game," and was once again, "...frustrated with his players' effort." 

This time, however, the manager kept the conversation between himself and his players. MLB.com's Mr. Ladson held this first intervention by the new Nationals' manager as the prime example of "What Went Right" in 2009 in an season-ending article entitled, "Late burst doesn't benefit Nationals" where Mr. Ladson writes that:

"Unlike past years in Nationals history, Riggleman is one skipper who held players accountable for mistakes they made on the field. Case in point: on July 24, Riggleman was not happy after a 6-2 loss to the Padres, frustrated with his players' effort. It didn't help that Washington made four errors and committed a passed ball in the outcome. He reamed them out, and the Nats went on to win 12 out of their next 14 games."

When Mr. Riggleman addressed his conversation with the players, back in Mr. Ladson's article entitled, "Pair of homers not enough for the Nationals", the manager told the MLB.com's writer that he couldn't go into detail about what he'd said to the team:

"'Children listen to [the postgame show], so I can't tell you what I said to them,' Riggleman said. 'It was just a bad effort. You hate to even try to look for the silver lining. It was particularly bad early. We just weren't ready, and that's on me. I can't accept that. ... I had a lot to say to them, but that's beside the point.'"

The Nationals certainly got the message behind Mr. Riggleman's reaming, as DC backstop Josh Bard told reporters, including Mr. Ladson, who quoted the catcher stating:

The fans don't deserve to see us play sloppy like that...We played one of our worst games. ... We have to get better...You have to play the game the right way and control what you can control. It's not a quick fix.'"

Just as important as the Nationals getting Riggleman's point, was the fact that Mr. Riggleman, himself, had clearly learned a lesson from his last managing gig. If Riggleman's reaming of the Nationals was anything like that which former Seattle Mariners' manager John McLaren, (who'd employed Riggleman as his bench coach), shared with the Seattle media just a year earlier, two weeks before he was replaced by Riggleman, it's probably a good thing he decided to spare the children who might have been listening the shock, but at least it's good to know that if Mr. Riggleman needs someone on his coaching staff to let the players have it this season, he'll know where to turn...

(ed. note - "What follows is a link to June 5, 2008 press conference Mr. McLaren conducted two weeks before he was relieved of his duties as the Mariners' manager and replaced by Mr. Riggleman...It is definitely rated NC-17 and NSFW, so I've included a humorously edited transcript, but feel free to enjoy the pure anger and frustration one more time as you get a look at the sort of fire Mr. McLaren will be bringing to the Nationals' bench in twenty-ten:

• LINK - YouTube - "McLaren loses it."

Transcript:

"McLaren: "We're playing our [expletive deleted] off every day, and got nothing to show for it. I'm tired of [expletive deleted] losing, and i'm tired of getting my [expletive deleted] beat and so are those guys. We're going to change this [expletive delete] [expletive deleted] around and get after it, and only we can do it. The fans are [expletive deleted] off, and I'm [expletive deleted] off and the players are [expletive deleted] off, and that's the way it is. There's no [expletive deleted] easy way out of this, can't feel sorry for ourselves, gotta [expletive deleted] buckle it up and get after it. Tired of [expletive deleted] losing this [expletive deleted] game every night, and we bust our [expletive deleted], it's gotta be a total team [expletive deleted] effort to turn this thing around and that's it...")

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