One year ago yesterday the Washington Nationals organization was completely caught off guard when Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned as manager of the team just minutes after the team’s 1-0 walkoff win against the Seattle Mariners. What’s amazing is how far the team has come in that year’s span, as James Wagner of The Washington Post reminds us.
Washington’s contract with their manager was set to expire at the end of the 2011 season, and Riggleman was unhappy with the uncertainty surrounding his future. Prior to the team’s June 23rd game he approached GM Mike Rizzo, demanding that his contract be situation be addressed or else he’d tender his resignation. When the issue was not addressed by the end of the game, Riggleman quit, leaving the celebrating clubhouse to wonder what the future would bring.
Riggleman’s resignation was taken poorly across most outlets, with many questioning his professionalism and wondering aloud if he’d ever work in baseball again (though he’s currently managing the Reds’ Double-A team). His actions were viewed as cowardly, as if he’d simply given up on the team and his players. Riggleman walked away on his own principles, but did so without dignity. In the end, it may have been the best thing that could have happened for this team.
Since Davey Johnson took over the Washington organization is a combined 82-71 (80-71 under Johnson). The team finished the 2011 season strong and currently sits atop the NL East with a 3.5 game lead.
Johnson also takes a much different approach towards managing the team. He originally was employed by the organization as a special advisor and is under contract through the 2013 season. He doesn’t concern himself with his long term future or having a contract in place beyond next season. Johnson’s focused on the next game on the schedule and nothing more:
I keep all my energy on today with an eye on tomorrow. That doesn’t go any farther than that. That’s the way I basically live my life. I’m very comfortable living in the short term … For me to think about what challenges I’m going to face six months from now is a useless exercise. Who cares? I hope they still like me today and I hope they still like me tomorrow.