Rizzo’s Managerial Choice Fails To Work Out


If I was Jim Riggleman, I would be laughing at the Nationals’ misfortunes. The team has never been the same since he quit after they did not want to discuss about his contract with him.

That’s not Riggleman’s nature. He is hurting when he sees the losses by his old team. He played a role in the development of the players that are playing for the Nationals. He hates to see how everything has fallen apart under Davey Johnson, who replaced him.

For those like myself that blame Riggleman for this season falling apart, it’s understandable.  He bailed out on the Nationals after not getting what he wanted, and eventually, the team was going to take a step back with him leaving. It would be hard for the Nationals to pick up where they left off under a new manager who had to learn his players.

That said, most of the outrage should go to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. He is as much to blame for Riggleman quitting. He either should have talked about the contract or he should have not brought him back last offseason.

Riggleman wanted his extension going back in the offseason. He felt the team had to make a commitment to him or the players would start quitting on him. He never received it, and he was brooding all season long to the point it got ugly in June.

Rizzo was right in not giving the former Nationals manager an extension, but he was wrong in bringing him back to start the season. Deep down, Rizzo wanted Johnson to replace Riggleman to start the 2011 season, but the current Nationals manager wanted to get a good look of the team before he was committed to the job. With the team playing well, Johnson was sold, so that made it easy for Rizzo to let Riggleman walk.

There’s no question what the former Nationals manager did was selfish, but he showed self-respect. How many times would a manager or a coach have this opportunity to stick it to his bosses? Not many. This was Riggleman’s chance. He will not manage again, but he wasn’t going to be disrespected, so he did what he had to do.

The Nationals should have not been in that position. They should have hired Clint Hurdle or Eric Wedge in the offseason instead of waiting for Johnson to step in.

Rizzo had his wish with getting his guy to mange, but this hasn’t worked out. The Nationals have played terrible since the managerial change, and the way things are going, they could finish the year in  last place.

If that’s the case, how is this organization making any progress? This was a team that was playing at a high level under Riggleman, and the Nationals want the public to be happy even if the team finished in last place.

Sorry, but no one should be. This team should be good enough to win at least 76 games, but who knows? The hitting has been terrible all season, and the pitching has become a mess all of a sudden. That does not bode well in September. Not even Stephen Strasburg can save this team.

If Nationals took care of Riggleman, he was going to stay, and this team could have had a winning season or make the playoffs.  He had this team playing well, which he would have the guys work extensively on defense and spend lot of time on hitting. He knew how to lead and get the most of his players, which is something Johnson has failed to do.

It’s a good bet Rizzo knew if Riggleman had success, it would spoil his plans to bring Johnson to manage. That’s why he probably wasn’t in a rush to give him that extension. It’s a shame, and the Nationals are paying for all this.

Johnson is going to manage the Nationals next year. Not even a 20-game losing streak will convince Rizzo to change his mind on his manager.  That would be a mistake. This young team needs a young manager who can grow with the young players. They need a guy who can manage for the next six or seven years, which is not what the 68-year old current manager is going to do.

Johnson showed the Nationals nothing. He has done an okay job in the last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean he is the right guy for next year and beyond.

It’s remarkable Nationals fans give Johnson a free pass, yet they continue to blame Riggleman for not just what happened earlier this year, but what’s going on now.

They should be appreciating Johnson’s predecessor for putting this team is in a position to have success in a few years. Being angry at him is short-sighted when in reality, the anger should be at Rizzo’s direction.

If the Nationals general manager  wants to make it right, he should apologize to Riggleman and bring him back with a four-year contract extension. It makes sense, and it’s the right move he can make.

Too bad Rizzo’s ego is too big for this, so he will continue to insist on keeping Johnson just so he can go crow about his decision when it works.