WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Manager Jim Riggleman #5 of the Washington Nationals argues a call with home plate umpire Derryl Cousins #13 during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Nationals Park on June 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Jason Marquis had just thrown 8.0 scoreless against the Mariners. Tyler Clippard threw a scoreless ninth and in the bottom of the frame the Washington Nationals won 1-0 on a walk-off sac fly by Laynce Nix, sweeping the three-game Interleague Series with Seattle. The win was the Nats' eleventh in twelve games and it lifted them to a 38-37 record, a game over .500 later in the season than they'd been since the Nats' Inaugural campain in 2005 when they finished 81-81. And Jim Riggleman resigned.
Immediately after the game MLB.com writer Bill Ladson (@washingnats) reported the news via the Twitter, "I just learned that Jim Riggleman has resigned as manager of the Nats."
"I was told by Jim Riggleman [that he] felt that his option should have been picked sooner rather than later. The #Nats are on a hot streak right now," the MLB.com writer reported in a follow-up Tweet. Riggleman was on a one-year deal and he wanted to know that the he was a part of the organization's plans for the future. Asked, after he'd resigned, if he felt he'd been disrespected by the Nationals, Riggleman told reporters, "I think it's just the way that the ballclub wants to do business, and I'll tell you, I've been doing it ten years, and maybe I'll never get another opportunity, but I promise you I'll never do it on a one-year deal again."
RIggleman, who replaced Manny Acta on the bench in 2009, was brought back in 2010 and there was a clause in his contract that would have allowed the Nationals to buy the manager out after he'd led the Nationals to a 69-93 record that season, but he was brought back for the 2011 campaign as well and had an option for 2012. That wasn't enough stability for Riggleman, however, who was quoted in an interview after his resignation saying, as retold by Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg in an article entitled, "Jim Riggleman on his ‘ridiculous’ contract", that he'd been unhappy with his contract from the start:
"When I signed this contract a couple years ago, I made it very clear that we all know this is a ridiculous contract. I have no choice but to sign it, it’s unfair, it’s disrespectful, we know it’s not right. And I was told you’re right, it is a bad contract, and when the time is right we’ll fix it. And it just appeared that the time was never gonna be right, and the determination was made that we’ll get through this year and then you probably won’t be with us anyway."
"He felt hurt and disrespected,'" Riggleman's agent Burton Rocks told SI.com's Jon Heyman in an article entitled, "Why Jim Riggleman finally walked away as Nationals manager." "'They refused to have a meeting,'" Mr. Rocks continued, "'That spoke volumes to him about what they thought.'"
"I just wanted the option picked up," Riggleman went on to explain, "But I want to make one thing very clear. I wanted a conversation about it. I didn't say, 'Pick up my option or else.' And I want to make that very clear. I said, 'I think it's worthy of conversation when we get to Chicago,' and Mike said, 'Well, we're not going to do that.'"
When D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he'd felt he was given an ultimatum, he explained that, "Jim told me pregame today that if we wouldn't pick up his option then he wouldn't get on the team bus today." When the bus left Nats Park that afternoon, Jim Riggleman was not on it. Riggleman's bench coach John McLaren managed the Nationals during a three-game weekend series against the White Sox in Chicago, then stepped down, accepting another position within the organization. Davey Johnson took over on the bench on Monday in Los Angeles, four days after Jim Riggleman made the decision to resign.
Jim Riggleman finished his time in Washington with a 140-172 record. He accepted a job with the San Francisco Giants as a special assignment scout. Davey Johnson led the Nationals to an 80-81 record, going 40-43 after taking over from Riggleman and McLaren. The Nats are going to interview candidates again as they did at the end of the '09 season after Riggleman had replaced Manny Acta on the bench. That search ended with the Nationals deciding to keep the "in-house" candidate, Jim Riggleman. Davey Johnson is expected to be back on the bench in the nation's capital in 2012.
Was Johnson the manager the Nationals had in mind for 2012 if Riggleman was right and he wasn't in their plans? The Nats once again have a chance to choose the manager who'll guide them into a period in which they think they will finally be competitive in the NL East. Is Davey Johnson the skipper for the next three years? He's signed to a "consulting contract" that will keep him in the organization even if he's not on the bench. Will Johnson manage the team in 2012? Or will he end up having been another transitional figure helping set the Nats' roster up for the right manager to get them over the top and into the playoffs?