The Washington Nationals all but announced this weekend that Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman would be back on the bench in 2011, which is odd considering they all but announced the same news back in late July, but as DC GM Mike Rizzo told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore on Saturday, as quoted in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Jim Riggleman likely to remain Nationals manager in 2011", though, '"[The Nationals] haven't announced a final call...we've made a definite decision.'" MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article on the non-announcement entitled, "Riggleman receives praise from front office", quotes the Nats' GM explaining what he thinks Riggleman has done well:
"He has worked hard during trying circumstance. He has managed young players who are getting better and learning on the Major League level and have shown improvement on the Major League level. That is a positive."
Even last year, when he took over the managerial duties from the much-maligned Manny Acta, I assumed Jim Riggleman was merely a placeholder, who would get, to coin a phrase, "Wakamatsu-ed" at the end of the '09 season as he had in Seattle after taking over on the bench in June of '08 when his current Bench Coach (then the M's Manager) John McLaren had been unseated as the Mariners' field general. Though Riggleman was under consideration, the Mariners' search for a skipper ended when Don Wakamatsu was offered and accepted the job while Riggleman moved on to become the Nats' Bench Coach and eventually their manager. The Nationals reportedly expressed some interest in other candidates throughout the winter following the '09 season, but ultimately decided to retain Riggleman, who had guided the Nats (thanks to a late-season seven-game win streak) to a 33-42 record over the last 75 games following their 26-61 start to the year under Mr. Acta.
Riggleman led the Nats to a somewhat surprising 20-15 start through the middle of May this season, but the team lost 5-straight after that and remained around .500 through the end of the month before the losses began to pile up to the point that Washington was 11 games under .500 at 34-45 when the month of June ended and 14 games under at the end of July. In spite of the losing, however, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported, in a July 24, 2010 article entitled, "Nats' Rizzo happy with Riggleman's work", that the DC GM had stated clearly at the time, "'Yes, he [Riggleman] will be back next season. He has done a terrific job.'" Adam Dunn was quoted in that article in July saying he believed Mr. Riggleman had put up with the bad times and deserved to be on the bench when the good times arrived:
"'I think Jim deserves it. ... He definitely deserves the opportunity to manage the club when it's healthy.'"
The Face of the Nats' Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, is quoted in the more recent Washington Post piece by Adam Kilgore supporting the idea of Riggleman's return while explaining that it's one of those things over which players have no control. But in Zim's mind, as explained to Mr. Kilgore, the third baseman, who's signed through 2013 and has had three skippers in 5 years since his '05 debut, thinks it might do the team good to have a more permanent figure in control on the bench:
"'All the good teams usually have one guy that's there for a long time. Having consistency in that position definitely helps.'"
The only mystery here is why the Nationals chose to announce that a decision had been made again while still not making it offiicial. Perhaps they want to avoid the situation that's arisen in New York with Jerry Manuel's future reportedly in doubt and Joe Torre's name being thrown out every day in the news. Perhaps, following the rise and fall of Stephen Strasburg and the media firestorm that surrounded Riggleman's public spat with Nats' center fielder Nyjer Morgan, which ultimately ended with both player and manager being suspended following the on-field brawl in Florida, the Nats' GM just thought it might be wise to remind Riggleman that his job was secure. Either way, it appears Jim Riggleman will be back next season, for better or worse. According to Riggleman's contract, and sources quoted in Mr. Kilgore's article, the Nationals will have to inform the Skipper of their decision by the day after the World Series. Why they've chosen to twice inform the press of their intentions without making an official announcement is unclear, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt this time around.