By Jason Keidel
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Is Jim Riggleman a quitter?
Depends on your view, of course. Riggleman marched into his boss’s office and demanded that the club pick up his contract option for 2012, which would pay him $600,000. His boss balked and Riggleman walked.
(Actually, the spat occurred in Riggleman’s office, but my visual is far more meaningful.)
Mike Francesa, Omar Minaya, and Peter Gammons pondered Riggleman yesterday and regarded him as a good guy who had a bad day. A really bad day. Riggleman told his GM Mike Rizzo that if his option weren’t picked up immediately he wouldn’t board the team bus. And thus the bus bounced without the skipper.
What Riggleman, 58, didn’t consider that few men short of Phil Jackson garner the gravitas to make such demands. Also, don’t back your boss into a corner, making it not only a battle of wills but also a peeing match when you’re overmatched. Don’t look down on the dude higher than you on the food chain.
Riggleman’s tantrum (or senior moment) cost him not only his job as manager of the Washington Nationals, but perhaps his final job as a manager anywhere. According to my friend Bassam Oshama at STATS, LLC, the average age of an MLB manager is 55 years, 295 days. We like to think we’re past the age of ageism, but let’s be honest, clubs aren’t scanning Social Security recipients who have managed four teams to a woeful record (662-824) and never made the playoffs, particularly to lead young team, with Stephen Strasberg and Bryce Harper set to be the dual faces of the franchise for the next decade.
Riggleman overplayed his hand and is now an elderly unemployed man, with future employers certainly cynical about his ability to manage another team. If he quit on an 11-1 team, he’d quit on a 1-11 team.
Now two old Mets might manage the club, with Davey Johnson already in place for this year and, according to Peter Gammons, Bobby Valentine a sublime selection for next year.
Ignoring the interim hiring of two old timers in Johnson and Jack McKeon, Riggleman knew that without the security of a deal for 2012, the Nationals would yearn for a younger man to lead their young team.
And Jim Leyland aside (again, according to STATS, LLC), Riggleman was the only manager (not managing on an interim basis) who had no security for next year, besides Jim Leyland, who will get whatever he wants. (Terry Francona and Tony LaRussa have options yet they’re as secure as any managers in baseball.)
But I’m one of the few saps who’s sympathetic toward Riggleman.
Forgive the shameless pun, but why can the club cough up double Jayson Werth’s worth ($126 million) yet get gun-shy on tip money (600 grand)? Even if they decided to fire Riggleman next year all they eat is incidental.
As long ago as 2007, the average manager made $1.3 million (according to USA Today), which means Riggleman probably makes a third of today’s average skipper.
Welded to some abstract and abject machismo, Riggleman followed through on the threat. You wonder how he got home that night. You wonder how he and his GM feel now, having their quarrel dissected a thousand times.
Both men were silly, and the result is an older man in the clubhouse who has no interest in managing next year. Deep breathes, people. Deep breaths.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com