The Nationals are the hottest team in the major leagues. They just came off of an epic sweep of the Seattle Mariners that included two walk-offs to decide games. They have won 11 out of their last 12 and are now a game over .500 with only 4.5 games separating them from the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves. The only thing they are missing now is a manager, as Jim Riggleman has resigned after he was told that the team was not ready to pick up his option for next season.
This just strikes me as unprofessional. I understand his point of view. The team managed to hold on without their best position player and best pitcher and now that Zimmerman is back, they are unstoppable. Riggleman is certainly a great manager and has done great things for the Washington franchise to guide them toward being successful. As much as those things are great, he also led them to a last place finish in the NL East for the last two seasons.
Riggleman has been around the game for a while and probably deserves better, but this isn't the time to desert the team. The young team needs a good leader and Riggleman was that guy. If he had finished the year strong, he would almost definitely have had his option picked up and maybe he would have been offered an extension. Instead, he left and the Nationals are forced to go on a road trip uncertain of their future.
One of the reasons Riggleman gave for leaving was that he didn't want to have his job hanging on the streaks that the team goes through. Every manager in the game has the same standards and it's not fair for Riggleman to expect to be treated differently. Even Mike Rizzo is judged by the performance of the team. That is the only gauge of Riggleman's success, so he should just go out there and try to prove that he deserves his job. Both sides had reasons for feeling the way they did, but Riggleman wasn't in a great situation to be making demands.
Riggleman should have finished the year with the Nationals. If he was truly deserving of the job, he would have kept it and could have seen his arsenal improve as he begins to get a healthy team again. If he felt like he wasn't respected, they could have just gone their separate ways after he fulfilled his end of the contract that they signed. Leaving unexpectedly in the middle of a hot streak just wasn't the right thing to do.
The two sides are now uncertain of the future. The Nationals have some good candidates internally that could take over as interim manager and Bo Porter comes to mind as a good guy to take the reins. John McLaren is another candidate internally.
Riggleman's situation could be good. Oakland and Florida just had positions open up and while the A's may stick with Bob Melvin, the Marlins will be looking for someone for the future after 2011. Mike Quade of the Cubs and Brad Mills of the Astros seem to be on pretty thin ice and could lead to openings. Riggleman managed the Cubs from 1995-1999. He is considered a great baseball mind, but this abrupt exit brings his business ethics into question. Jim Riggleman may have just burned all of his bridges by quitting right now. It's a job and his lack of notice is just rude and unprofessional.