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Jim Riggleman: paying the price for quitting

Mar 29, 2013, 8:23 AM EDT

riggleman head reuters Getty Images

Jorge Arangure of Sports on Earth caught up with Jim Riggleman recently. Riggleman is entering his second straight season as a minor league manager. And the reason he’s in the minor leagues is because he quit on the Washington Nationals in 2011, and as Arangure notes, baseball will forgive anything but someone who just ups and quits. Ask Mike Hargrove.

Riggleman, however, doesn’t sound like he regrets much:

“As I’ve told many people, it wasn’t the smart thing to do,” Riggleman said. “But it was thought out and it had been going for awhile, but it wasn’t the smart decision. But I thought it was the right decision. That’s the consequences sometimes. Things don’t work out perfectly as you hope. I got to live with my decision.”

I wonder if Riggleman’s fate would have been all that different if he had done the smart thing and let his contract run out with the Nationals where, no, I don’t think anyone was going to renew it. As the article notes, Riggleman was never seen by anyone as the guy to take a team to the next level. And while he has always done admirable service as a guy to take a team that is down its luck and be, well, a placeholder until it is better, those jobs don’t keep coming forever.  How many managers who fill that role get more than four chances to do it? We’re in an age now where teams are taking chances on ex-players with virtually no high-level managing or coaching experience like Mike Redmond and Walt Weiss. It’s possible that Riggleman’s path would have played out exactly like this had he not quit.

All that aside, it’s a good article about a — by all reports — good guy who made one strange and unexpected decision a couple of years ago.

  1. largebill - Mar 29, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Only recent instance I can recall of a manager quitting and later getting another managerial gig is Charlie Manuel. That was fairly similar situation. He wanted to know what his contract situation would be for next year and team wanted to wait until off season to discuss. He knew Shapiro wasn’t going to bring him back so he forced the issue.

    • kyzslew77 - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      Jim Leyland quit on the Rockies in 1999. Baseball managed to forgive him, probably because he’s been successful in Detroit.

      • tuberippin - Mar 29, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Also because it’s the Rockies.

  2. Paul White - Mar 29, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    I sort of feel bad for Riggleman. Not because he is a blameless victim here or anything, because he isn’t. As he admits, he didn’t make the smart choice. That said, all he did was the same thing most people do at some point…overvalue their worth. There simply aren’t many managers who are worth extending long-term, paying huge dollars, etc. They are fairly interchangeable, just like most of us are in our respective careers. And, like most of us, Riggleman wasn’t really a fair judge of that because he was too close to the situation. Most of us are guilty of the same thing at some point (albeit maybe not to the point of just quitting), but we don’t have to do it in a public forum where our mistaken impression of our true worth can be hashed and re-hashed for, in this case, a couple of years or more.

    • 18thstreet - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:08 AM

      I think part of what was offensive about Riggleman’s actions was the moment that he chose to draw a line in the sand. The Nationals had been pretty lousy under his tenure — roughly a 70-win team for the prior year and a half. And then the team goes on a nice winning streak, tops .500 halfway through the season, and he demands an extension.

      It struck me as childish. If he had stuck through the rest of the year, and finished with 75-80 wins, the Nats probably still would have let him go — Davey Johnson was waiting in the wings. And someone else would have hired him for the very contract he sought in DC. I can’t speak for what “baseball” cares about, but I would never want to hire a guy like that in whatever it is I do.

      • paperlions - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        Eh, they were pretty lousy because they didn’t have any talent, they started to get better because of that talent…which is the entire reason they are a great team now. If Riggleman was still around, the Nationals still would have won the division last year and would still be thought of as the best team in the majors.

        The next MLB manager that is capable of “taking a team to the next level” will be the first.

  3. jfian24 - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    I think the media went pretty easy on Riggleman. Can you imagine the reaction if a player did something similar? Quit on the team mid-season because his contract hadn’t been extended? The player would have faced an absolute shit storm. Public enemy number one. The face of all that is wrong with the modern professional athlete.

    Riggleman, on the other hand, was treated like some noble guy who was mistreated by the team and had no choice but to quit in order to preserve his dignity. Boo hoo.

    • 18thstreet - Mar 29, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      I don’t think the media was soft on the guy. It didn’t feel to me like the Post was.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Hey, at least he didn’t get a cushy gig on Fox News out of it.

  4. yankeefanincolo - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Baseball certainly had no problem forgiving Jim Leyland when he quit on the Rockies after the 1999 season. Maybe he’s the exception to the rule.

    • sportsfanjay - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Key word….”after.” Not “during.”

    • zzalapski - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Leyland was out of managing for six years after leaving the Rockies. I don’t know if I’d call that a “no-problem” forgiveness.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Leyland also had a World Series ring. That tends to lead people to be more forgiving. And even still, as zzalapski noted, it took 6 years.

    • yahmule - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Leyland paid a price and Riggleman is paying a price. Nobody likes a quitter. When you’re being paid to be the leader and you make the decision to quit, you should definitely be prepared for some blowback.

  5. jdouble777 - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Let’s be honest, he never had a chance given we were doing what any great team outside a massivr market does and losing as best s possible to stay in full rebuild mode. He endured that, then when wanting to be a part of what he saw coming to fruition he pushed his luck. I do not blame him one bit. I thought he did a nice job of handling players and game management. I hope he gets a legit shot to see if he might have what it takes. I am grateful for the time and effort he put in and wish him the best.

  6. Detroit Michael - Mar 29, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Mike Hargrove quit during a season and hasn’t been rehired since.

    • tuberippin - Mar 29, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Are we just re-stating facts from the article now?

      Jim Riggleman quit on the Nationals and is now paying the price.

  7. ryanrockzzz - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    I think with this situation, a lof of it was about career fustrations for Riggleman. Here’s a guy who for years, was just the placeholder, or the guy who wasn’t a valued manager. He was stuck in the same situation in Washington, and part of me feels like that just got to him one day. You can only get passed over in the workplace so many times for a promotion before you either quit, or get a new job somewhere else.

    I don’t think he’s a great manager, but he’s much better then someone like Manny Acta or even Ozzie Guillen, both of whom got multiple chances and multiyear deals. Riggleman was probably sitting there thinking the same thing, getting more and more pissed that he was being asked to manage a team simply becuase they needed someone to tide the ship for a few more months. That does not justify quitting on the players, becuase i’m sure at least a few of them played hard for him, but it also does not completly throw it out of the realm of thought to me either.

  8. jhorton83 - Mar 29, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Ozzie Guillen has a career winning percentage above .500 (even with the Marlins disaster last year), two division titles, and a World Series win. He has plenty of flaws as a manger obviously, but claiming that Riggleman is “much better” with zero evidence supporting that is a bit stupid.

    • jhorton83 - Mar 29, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      Meant to reply to the above post.

  9. thebadguyswon - Mar 29, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    LOSER

  10. xpensivewinos - Mar 29, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    For some bizarre reason, this guy who has never accomplished anything, let his ego got in the way. He was just an employee and based on his career performance, a totally replaceable one. He showed what he was made of by quitting. With all of the managerial candidates out there, I wouldn’t hire him again under any circumstances. He’s just a guy…..

  11. Todd Boss - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    You have to remember the context of the Nats at the point when Riggleman had quit. He had taken over for Acta in mid-2009, and the exact same team that Acta guided to a record of 26-61 Riggleman guided to 33-42. Then, at the point where he quit in 2011 the team was at .500 despite not having basically his 3 best players Strasburg, Zimmerman (for 6 weeks) or LaRoche due to injury. I’d call that being a miracle worker. And he thought he deserved better treatment than he was getting from his management (aka the GM Rizzo).

    Rizzo wouldn’t return his calls, wouldn’t discuss his contract status, basically wouldn’t talk to him. How would you feel if you were in the last year of your contract at your job and your boss not only wouldn’t let you know where you stood but wouldn’t even pick up the phone to talk to you about it? You’d probably quit too. Clearly Riggleman wasn’t Rizzo’s choice to lead the team going forward (Davey Johnson was a “special advisor” and was the clear heir-apparent) so Riggleman gave Rizzo the ultimatum “extend me or I quit” and Rizzo called his bluff.

    While I don’t hold Riggleman entirely blameless here, I also don’t think it was entirely on him. I think Rizzo owed it to his employee to treat him like a man and have a conversation with him.

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