Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, June 23, 2011 | , , , , | 5 comments »

Moments after the Washington Nationals stunning 1-0 walk-off win over the Seattle Mariners, NatsTown was stunned again:  Jim Riggleman resigned as manager, effective immediately.

The news (via MLB.com's Bill Ladson's tweet) came mere seconds before GM Mike Rizzo entered the main press conference room at Nats Park instead of Riggleman for the standard manager's press conference.

"Following the game, manager Jim Riggleman has resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals effective immediately," Rizzo explained. "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 he was going to resign after the game."

"We accepted his resignation."

Rizzo expressed the quick nature of the proceedings.  "As you can see, it's taken us a little by surprise.  We don't have immediate plans for a successor as manager.  By Monday, we will have an answer."

When asked about the mood of the organization about the sudden resignation, Rizzo said, "Very disappointing.  Disappointing to the players in the clubhouse, to the fan base of Washington, to the city of Washington, D.C., and personally, to myself.  But we will move on."

Riggleman was managing in the final year of his contract, with the team having an option to retain his services for next season.  According to Rizzo, Riggleman made the team an ultimatum to pick up that option or he would resign.

"We have discussed his option being picked up several times during the season," Rizzo said.  "I felt like 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 into that position, and it was a decision I was -- [with ]Jim's timetable -- was prepared to make and I was not."

Asked if it really was that dire of an ultimatum, Rizzo responded: "Jim told me pre-game today that if we wouldn't pick up his option that he wouldn't get on the team bus today."

Rizzo explained that the reasons he did not acquiesce to Riggleman's demands had not changed since spring training; that this entire team is in an evaluative process with the young players and having not even reached the all-star break yet, he needed more time for the evaluative process.

The players were unaware that these discussions took place before the game, and Rizzo made the announcement to the players following the game.  Rizzo described the clubhouse mood as "somber" following the announcement.

Considering the way the Nationals have played in the last two weeks, winning 11 of their last 12 games, the timing of this decision by Riggleman is curious at best.  Rizzo actually said of Riggleman's decision that "It's not thinking of team first; it's thinking of personal goals first," something that Rizzo said "disappoints me most."

Riggleman addressed reporters from the Nats clubhouse, which was carried on MASNSports.com.

"I didn't feel like I should continue on with such a short leash, where every little hill and valley is life and death in the game," Riggleman said. "The game's not fun that way. I just wanted to have a conversation when we got to Chicago about it, and Mike said he's not ready to have that conversation. I respect his decision, and I said, 'Well, I've got to give it up, then. I'm obviously not the person you all want to go down the road with.' And I get that. That's OK. But I love it here, and I'll miss it."

Riggleman was asked about his original contract status and accepting the provision for the option.  "I made it very clear that, 'You know I can't say no to this, but this is a bad contract for a manager. There's no option for Jim Riggleman - it's a one-year option that the club decides on. That's not a good way to do business.' I made it very clear that I didn't like that, but you know I can't say no to it. So there I am, and two years later, I'm realizing, 'You know what? I was right. That's not a good way to do business.'"

"It's just the way the ballclub wants to do business. Maybe I'll never get [another] opportunity, but I'll never do it on a one-year deal again," Riggleman said.

This situation will now serve as a distraction for at least the next few days as the team travels to Chicago to start a three-game series with the White Sox, then to Anaheim to face the Los Angeles Angels the beginning of next week.

On a day when the organization, players, coaches and fans should be celebrating an 8-1 homestand and breaking the elusive .500 mark to embark on the road trip with a winning record, this will definitely go down as one of the most bizarre days in the history of this franchise.


  1. bdrube // June 23, 2011 at 6:09 PM  

    What an utterly classless move by Riggleman to quit on the team just as it was accomplishing something. It's the sort of thing that can get you blackballed, and if that happens he has only himself to blame.

  2. Chris G // June 23, 2011 at 6:47 PM  

    Riggleman did what was best for him and the Nats did what was best for them. Sometimes the view of the future doesn't dovetail for employees and employers. It's better to need a short term fix than have a long term disgruntled employee.

    I doubt the Nats would have shown any loyalty to Riggleman at the end of the year if his performance failed to meet their expectations. And the Nats didn't show any loyalty to Riggleman by refusing to have a conversation (Riggleman's expectations) about his contract.

    Everyone likes to assign blame, but there isn't any here. The employee was unhappy, told his boss, his boss told him there was nothing he could do about it, the employee quit. It's a business; that's how business works.

    Each party has to take the potential consequences - Riggleman looks like he's selfish or he quit on the team. The Nats look small and petty because they wouldn't have a conversation with an employee about his contract. Rizzo looks like he's in over his head as a general manager because he failed to understand the depth of the employee's problem.

  3. Dave Nichols // June 23, 2011 at 9:49 PM  

    I'll agree taht it was the worst possible timing on Riggleman's part, but if he felt he'd already lost the clubhouse, his hands were tied. There's really much more to this story though...the guy gave up his dream job, an all-star appointment on his resume, and possibly his career over this. Just very bizarre, all of it.

  4. Griff // June 24, 2011 at 12:06 PM  

    Why are the Lerners so cheap? Riggleman was only making $600k and they had an option on him for $100k. They didn't want to commit to him for that? Please.

    To put it in perspective, Riggleman's entire salary and buyout number are what Jayson Werth makes in a week ($111,111 per game)!

  5. Anonymous // June 24, 2011 at 12:07 PM  

    Riggleman is old school. The Lerners are new money.