Immediately following today's 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners, after a game which saw Jason Marquis and Michael Pineda try to outdo each other one scoreless inning after another until it was decided by team's bullpens in the ninth, Washington Nationals' Skipper Jim Riggleman stunned the baseball-following population of the nation's capital when he announced that he had resigned, effective immediately, as the manager of the 38-37 Washington Nationals, who'd just completed a three-game sweep of the Mariners, and won the eleven of their last twelve to get themselves a game over .500 later in the season they've been since the Nats' Inaugural campain in 2005.
"It's been something that...If you're going to do this job you have to be totally committed to it," Riggleman said, "and you have to feel like there's a committment to you and I just didn't feel that way."
"I've talked to Mike [Rizzo] in the past about addressing my situation and you know, it wasn't the right time to talk, I understand that, and I just felt that it's worthy of a conversation. So, it's been brewing for a while, but I just felt that, I know I'm not Casey Stengle but I do feel like I know what I'm doing and it's not a situation where I felt like I should continue on with such a short leash where every little hill and valley is life and death in the game, and the game's not fun that way. So, I just wanted to have a conversation [about it] when we got to Chicago. And Mike said he's not ready to have that conversation, I respect his decision and so I said, 'I've got to give it up then. If I'm obviously not the person that you all want to go down the road with...and I get that, that's okay, you know, but I love it here and I'll miss it."
"Jim and I had a discussion before the game today and he told me of his displeasure of his contract situation and told me that if there wasn't something done about the contract that he was going to resign after the game so, we accepted his resignation," Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo explained to the press when he turned up for the post game press conference instead of the Nats' manager.
"As you can see it's taken us a little bit by surprise," Rizzo continued. "We don't have immediate plans for a successor as manager. By Monday we will have an answer and we will have somebody managing the team. But, by no means is there no leadership and a person in charge of the organization. We feel that we're going in the right direction. We continue to feel that way. The leadership is very, very strong and committed to put a winner on the field, a championship caliber organization and we will continue to be committed to that."
Riggleman met with the press in the team's clubhouse shortly after the GM's press conference. Asked about making the decision to leave right now, when the team had finally started to really turn it around, Riggleman said, "It's tough at any time. I mentioned to Mike a long time ago that I'd like to talk about the situation and Mike didn't think it was the right time. So, as we get to this point in the year I mentioned it to Mike again and he said he's not ready to talk about it and so I just feel that that's like saying, 'You know what, you're not the guy." So..."
"It's a personal conversation," Rizzo said when asked about how the discussion with Riggleman had gone."It's was a conversation that we've had several times as we discussed it. I told him that I thought he was doing a great job as the manager of this club. I'm the guy who hired him as the manager of this club, I've supported him through the media personally and in the clubhouse every step of the way, and he certainly, he obviously, didn't take to it and wasn't persuaded by it."
"We have discussed...," Rizzo said, pausing mid-thought, "..his option being picked up is what we've been discussing. Several times during the season, I felt that the time wasn't right for me to pick up the option as of this time and certainly today's conversation put to me in the way it was put to me, you certainly can't make that decision in a knee-jerk reaction, it's too big of a decision to be put in that position, and it was a decision Jim's timetable was prepared to make and I was not."
"I just wanted the option picked up," Riggleman explained. "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 the general manager was asked if he'd felt it was an ultimatum, Rizzo responded, "Jim told me pregame today that if we wouldn't pick up his option then he wouldn't get on the team bus today."
Was it the first time he was presented an ultimatum? "Yes it was the first time."
The Nationals' manager was asked if he felt disrespected, to which he responded, "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."
In explaining the fact that the Nationals had thus far neglected to pick up the manager's option, Rizzo told reporters, "The thought process behind that process [was that] I wanted to see where the season was going, it hasn't changed from the Spring Training speech. The same reasons and rationale I had back then. I wanted to see where our young players were going, how they were being developed and how we were moving forward and being four weeks before the All-Star game I felt it wasn't the time to make that decision yet."
"Very disappointing," Rizzo said when asked for his reaction to Riggleman's decision. "Very disappointing and disappointing to the players in the clubhouse to the fanbase of Washington, to the city of Washington, D.C., and personally to myself. But we will move on, we will move on from this as we have from the Stephen Strasburg injury, from the Ryan Zimmerman injury, we will move on from this and we will go forward and we will not miss a beat. We are committed like I said to put together a championship caliber organization and that is what we're going to do."
"Players love to play," Riggleman said when asked about the team's reaction. "They'll shower it off and get after it tomorrow, you know there's probably some of them, it's the best news they could've got today and others probably feel [like], 'C'mon, Jim. Don't do that,' But it's about me, it's about looking in the mirror and feeling like I've got to answer to myself and I was coming to work feeling like in today's world, in major sports, it's not a good environment to work when a manager or head coach in football, basketball, whatever is on a short leash. Too many negatives can come out of it. You're walking on eggshells too often. You can't think out of the box as much and so forth, and I thought after ten years I'd earned the right to have a little bit longer leash."
"I think everyone's a little shocked," Ryan Zimmerman said in a post game interview on MASN, "It's a business, it's baseball and crazy things happen. I mean, we don't know too much yet, but we've just got to continue to play hard and do what we're doing. When it comes down to it, we're the guys on the field, and we have to continue to get better everyday and work hard. And no matter who, I guess the manager is, or who you want to say is leading us, I think we have a good core group of players that are going in the right direction and I don't think we need to lose sight of that."
The Nationals, who won today's game in the ninth on a bases loaded sac fly, didn't know they were playing what is more than likely the last game under Riggleman's guidance. "They were not aware of it going into the game," RIzzo explained, they were notified by me directly after the game was over. I addressed the team, then addressed the coaching staff."
Had their been animosity in the past? "No, I felt no animosity towards him whatsoever," Rizzo said, "I was very taken aback by it and very surprised by it." Had tried to talk to Riggleman after the game? "Yes I did," Rizzo said, "I spoke to Jim immediately after the game, and before addressing the team. Nothing had changed."
Riggleman ends his time as the Washington Nationals' manager with a 140-172 record.
• D.C. GM Mike Rizzo released the following statement shortly after the press conferences took place:
STATEMENT FROM NATIONALS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF BASEBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER MIKE RIZZO
The Washington Nationals have announced the resignation of Manager Jim Riggleman effective immediately after today’s 1-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
"I learned of Jim’s decision just prior to today’s game. He told me that unless his current contract was extended for another season by the end of today’s game he intended to immediately resign as manager and would not be accompanying the team on the scheduled road trip to play the Chicago White Sox.
"I believe, and I told Jim, decisions as important as this must be made thoughtfully and methodically. I was not willing to make judgments of that magnitude in the course of a nine inning game.
"I talked to Jim before the season and have emphasized since that no decision would be made on his extension until after the end of the season. I am surprised and disappointed, personally, and am even more disappointed for our players and fans. I was always taught that one of the cardinal rules of baseball was that no individual can put his interests before those of the team.
"Obviously, his resignation comes when all our attentions should be directed toward the field and the impressive performances of our players over the past two weeks, winning 11 of the last 12 games. I met with players immediately after the game and asked that they not allow Jim’s decision to distract them from goals we established before the season.
"Given the short notice, final decisions about who will be interim field manager have not been made. I did assure our players those decisions would be made before they take the field in Chicago.
"Again, I am disappointed in Jim’s decision and its timing. I would like to assure all of our players and fans that we stand behind this team, are proud of its performance, and will act decisively to fill Jim’s position as soon as possible.
"We intend to build the Washington Nationals into a championship contender. Today’s actions will not in any way deter us from those efforts."