Washington Nationals Look to Replace Jim Riggleman

Matthew P. ParkerContributor IJune 24, 2011

Today just after the Washington Nationals swept the Seattle Mariners to win 11 of their last 12 ball games and rise to one game over .500, Manager Jim Riggleman resigned. 

All initial indications post the 1-0 curly W for the Nationals point to the fact that Riggleman and General Manager Mike Rizzo could not come to an agreement on solidifying a deal for Riggleman to continue being the Nationals Manager in 2012 and beyond.

Speculations from Riggleman about not being respected (Adam Kilgore’s article from the Washington Post) and fueling dissension over a nonexistent future for Riggleman came to a head today and Riggleman took what many call a knee-jerk reaction to not receiving the respect he felt he deserved. 

Riggleman resigned, and if panic is desired, leaves the Nationals in a tough spot heading into a six-game road trip to visit the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

Rizzo stated earlier today that the Nationals will move forward just as they have in the past when hard times came to the Nationals and that they will not miss a beat.

We will also see how great or small Riggleman’s impact was on this Nationals club when over the last month the Nationals went 15-and-6 through the 23rd of June to reach just one game over .500 baseball.

Many think that Jim Riggleman was just a piece of the rebuilding puzzle and it may turn out that way. 

With the ballclub that the Nationals have, now is not the time to be conservative.  Riggleman was a conservative hire by Mike Rizzo, thus meaning the Nationals are due for an aggressive win-now in the next couple of years coach, else it will be Rizzo’s head in the not so distant future.

This hire, whether it be in 2011 or after the interim coach and before the 2012 season, should vault the Nationals onto the road of being playoff contenders.

Let’s take an initial, very early look at two potential candidates Rizzo and the Nationals may be considering.

However, we should start in the interim.  Starting tomorrow, an interim coach will be named for the Nationals and it will come from within the organization.  My suspicion is that Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein will be named interim head coach and if not Eckstein then likely Bench Coach John McLaren.

McLaren has 23 seasons as a big league coach under his belt, is well experienced and has been with the Nationals since 2009.

Eckstein is in his third season as the Nationals hitting coach and helped establish the Nationals as one of the top offensive units over the past two seasons.

While the Nationals have struggled at the plate for the early part of the year their bats seem to now be alive—at least one hopes they are coming alive if not already.

Eckstein was kept from speaking to the media for an earlier portion of the year because Rizzo did not want Eckstein blaming himself for the Nationals offensive woes. Rizzo has a lot of faith in Eckstein and I bet that he gives him the shot during the interim. 

Now, on to the future to look at two possible candidates to manage the Washington Nationals.


Ron Wotus

Could Ron Wotus, longtime bench coach with the San Francisco Giants, be the answer? 

Wotus started with the Giants in 1998 as a third base coach and is the longest-tenured coach in San Francisco Giants history.  He coached under Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou and currently under Bruce Bochy.

Dusty Baker is a devoted supporter of Wotus and with his extensive success and experience Wotus’ name will no doubt come up for future management openings, whether with the Nationals or elsewhere.

Wotus takes his job seriously, is a staunch baseball guy and a savant among bench coaches. He is 51 years old and ready to be a manager.  He will be soon, somewhere.

Wotus should at least be considered by Rizzo and company.


Bobby Valentine

Currently Bobby Valentine is an analyst with ESPN and Director of Public Safety and Public Health for his hometown, Stamford, Connecticut, but that is not to say he wouldn’t leave his desk job (as Robert) and put on a uniform again. 

Does Valentine want one more shot? Possibly, if asked.

In an article by the New York Daily News in May of this year, Valentine was asked if he would ever wear a manager’s hat again.  His response, “You offering me a job? I love what I'm doing. I don't worry about the future, what I'm going to do later.” But he also doesn’t live in the past, stating later in the article “I don’t live in the past. […] It's not what happened or what's going to happen, but the moment.”

So why not jump at the moment and a shot to take a maturing ball club and mold them into playoff contenders?  I think he would love this job too.

After all, he was a finalist along with Riggleman for the manager position with the Nationals in 2009.  The nod, however, went to Riggleman.

Maybe that was because Riggleman was seen as piece of the rebuilding process.

Valentine only managed a team to one World Series, the 2000 campaign in which he and the New York Mets lost the Subway Series four games to one to the New York Yankees.

If the Nationals and Rizzo were to go with Valentine would it guarantee success to have a more mature, more talented ball club with a proven veteran manager?  No.

There are no guarantees.  Just ask Jim Riggleman.


What’s next for the remainder of the Nationals 2011 Season?

The Nationals must focus day to day right now.

They are on a hot streak and playing good baseball.  Their pitching has been tremendous and the fielding has been much improved since last season.

It will be important that whoever comes in as the interim keep the team focused and playing just as they are now, hopefully better.  The Nationals are playing confident baseball and that must remain true despite the latest bump in the road.

This untimely event will help the Nationals come together even more and as Tim Kurkjian captured in his recent article for ESPN the Magazine when talking with Ryan Zimmerman, Zimmerman stated that this Nationals ball club is made up of good baseball guys that care about winning and care about getting better.

This statement by Zimmerman is the key to the Nationals success.

Zimmerman and his company of eight will be the ones that keep the machine going until the right manager can be put into place and lead the Nationals as a competitive and growing ball club looking for their first playoff berth.


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