AP sources: Riggleman staying as Nationals manager
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Washington Nationals are sticking with Jim Riggleman, dropping his interim tag and making him their manager for 2010, two people in baseball familiar with the team’s plans told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The team was planning a news conference for Thursday.
Riggleman was promoted from bench coach to interim manager in July, replacing the fired Manny Acta. The Nationals were 26-61 (a .299 winning percentage) at the time and went 33-42 (.440) under Riggleman, finishing with a major league-worst record of 59-103.
Clearly, this is a rebuilding – or as general manager Mike Rizzo prefers to say, “building” – team, and the Nationals apparently appreciated the signs of progress that came in the second half of 2009.
From the outset of Washington’s managerial search, Rizzo made clear that Riggleman had a strong shot at the permanent job, calling him a “legitimate candidate” in late September.
“He put us on pace to really focus in and bear down on the fundamentals of the game, to play cleaner, more efficient ball. He’s got the guys playing at a high level of attention. I think he’s done the best job he could with the ability level he had on the field,” Rizzo said then.
“Jim is a definite candidate to stay on,” Rizzo added at the time. “Like I said, he’s done a great job.”
Riggleman also made it known he wanted the job.
He found himself in a similar situation a year ago with the Seattle Mariners, who fired their manager during the season and gave Riggleman the position on an interim basis. He was a candidate to stay on there, too, but didn’t get the job.
In addition to his brief stint in Seattle, Riggleman managed in the majors with the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
He has a losing record in his career and only one finish as high as second place. His best season came with the 1998 Cubs, who were led by NL MVP Sammy Sosa’s 66 homers and went 90-73 to make the playoffs as a wild card.
But Chicago went 67-95 to finish last in 1999, Riggleman’s final year there. Next season will be his first since then with a full-fledged managing job from spring training.
Riggleman is the Nationals’ third manager since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington. He follows Frank Robinson, who guided the Nationals in 2005 and 2006, and Acta, who recently was hired to manage the Cleveland Indians.
NOTES: Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman won his first Gold Glove on Wednesday. He led major league third basemen with 325 assists. … RHP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in June’s amateur draft, is slated to return to the mound in the Arizona Fall League on Saturday. He missed his previous scheduled start, in an All-Star game, last weekend because of a strained neck.