Manager… Jim Riggleman
Jim Riggleman returned to his roots this winter when he was hired as the bench coach and now he has his dream job, managing his hometown team. Riggleman grew up in nearby Rockville, MD and watched Frank Howard and the Senators as a kid. He graduated from Richard Montgomery (MD) High School and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the 1974 First-Year Player Draft out of Frostburg State (MD) University. He has always said that if baseball ever returned to the Nation’s Capitol, he wanted to be the manager.
He is in a familiar position as he begins the second half of the season as the Nats interim manager. He was named the interim manager last year by the Seattle Mariners on June 19th. The Mariners were 25-47 (.347) when John McLaren was fired. Riggleman led them to a slightly better 36-54 (.400) mark the rest of the season. Before Riggleman: the Mariners batted .252 with a .308 on-base percentage and scored 3.9 runs per game. With Riggleman: the Mariners batted .276 with a .326 on-base percentage and scored 4.4 runs per game.
Jim Riggleman took about a half hour yesterday to meet with the media. Here are some excerpts…
On being back in Washington:
“Growing up here, we just had the Senators and we loved the Senators. But we didn’t win enough and support them enough and we lost them. For years, as I was in baseball, I felt you gotta have baseball in Washington. It’s the Nation’s Capital, it’s America, it’s baseball, you gotta have it in the Nation’s Capital. So I was thrilled when the ballclub was brought here and felt that it would be nice someday to work for the Washington ballclub because it’s home and that’s who I grew up watching, Frank Howard and Fred Valentine, Danny O’Connell, those guys. They were in last place but everyone stuck around to see Frank Howard hit in the eighth inning because he might hit a homerun. It was just a great thing to have and when we lost it, it was terrible. We have to now take advantage of this opportunity to have it back here in Washington.”
”He is an outstanding manager. I know really good days are ahead for Manny managing in the Major Leagues and anybody would be fortunate to have him. It’s one of those situations where when you lose ballgames, I’ve been there with a couple ballclubs, you lose enough ballgames where you feel like you’re doing the right thing, saying the right things but you lose enough that the manager is the one that usually takes the hit and that’s what’s happened. He and Randy St. Claire are both these outstanding baseball people that are not with us anymore and I know that myself and the coaches feel that we let Manny down and this is the result: Manny is not here now… I just thank Manny for the opportunity, bringing me here, but also thank him for the work he put in.”
On what changes we can expect to see on the field:
“We’re not going to reinvent the game. I don’t think any two people, if you take two great managers, if I could take a couple names out of a hat, [Tony] LaRussa and [Bobby] Cox, are not going do everything the same way in any given situation but they both are great managers and so if one was taking over for the other he wouldn’t reinvent, he wouldn’t change a whole lot that the other was doing, we’re not going to change a whole lot of what Manny was doing, but we got to find a way to get some different results.”
On what he learned from a similar experience last year:
“Well I think that the thing that I take from last year is that, again I was working for a great baseball man there in John McClaren and we just tried to continue to implement the message. There wasn’t a lot we did differently. But we just worked. We did improve defensively last year from last in the league to somewhere in the middle of the pack, we just kept working. That’s what we’ve been doing all along. We just eventually started seeing some results from that hard work. I think that what I draw from that is to keep working, keep pushing. Don’t let up, just stay on them, stay on the players. To take the losses, agonize over the losses. That was a message we were trying to give them. Losing should hurt. Winning is hard, it’s hard to win. It’s easy to lose, you can lose and just accept it, but that’s unacceptable and that’s the message we tried last year and we’ll try to do it again this year. “
On how his voice will be different than Manny Acta’s:
“I don’t know that it’ll be much different but there’s something to that. That was kind of a statement I made in Chicago. I was there five years and I was let go there and I felt like if I was in the general manager’s position I would have done the same thing. I would have let Jim Riggleman out of there because I know he’s saying the right things but I have to get someone else to give this message because the players are not getting it done. That’s basically what it amounts to. I don’t think you can change a lot. I know Manny wouldn’t change anything that he did and I wouldn’t question anything that he did. I’m just going to try to continue to pound the message in. Maybe coming from somebody else, maybe they’ll respond and maybe they won’t but we’ve got to try that.”
On how he would describe his style:
“You know, I’ve kind of heard that I am fiery in the last day or two but I feel like I’m a bit of a softie, I feel like I’m pretty easy. But the thing that I think I’m easy in the sense that, if players are not playing well I understand that, it’s a tough game. But if they’re not playing hard, that irks me. If they’re not respectful of the game, respectful of the uniform, respectful of the fans, of the organization, and if they do that, then there’s a problem. Sometimes that has happened. I’ve had a few incidences with players where I’ve had to address that and that comes out because the camera doesn’t miss much. So somebody thinks I’m fiery or whatever but if players just play hard, like I said, I have no problem if you miss a ball, but if you don’t chase it after you miss it… I’ve got a problem. So just give your good effort and there won’t be any problems. That might be perceived as Jim’s not tough enough, that I’m not getting on enough, but I know they didn’t try to miss the ball.”
On what kind of personnel/on-field changes we might see:
“I may tinker with the lineup a little bit but that’s what we did anyway. If you noticed a couple times [Adam] Dunn hit fifth instead of fourth or [Nick] Johnson hit third instead of second, maybe [Cristian] Guzman sixth instead of second. So those types of things because we get a lot of hits, we hit pretty good, but we haven’t scored a lot. So something in that lineup hasn’t produced runs as it should for as good of hitters as they are. As I scratched out lineups, again as the bench coach, some of what Manny and I talked about, some of what we did, continued to produce hits but not runs, so that’s not going to work.”
On the rest of the season:
“Let’s get refocused. We got a lot of season left. There’s a lot of opportunity to make a move in the standings. We’re not looking to leapfrog three or four clubs but we can set our sights on, at least chase a club, whoever’s ahead of us, let’s get after that club.”
Major League Managerial Experience:
2008 season: He was hired as the interim manager by the Seattle Mariner on June 19th when John McLaren was fired. He led an injury marred Seattle Mariners team to a 36-54 (.400) record. He took over when they were 25-47 (.347).
1995-1999 seasons: He managed the Cubs to a 374-419 (.472) record over the five year period. He posted a pair of winning seasons during his five year stint with the Cubs, including a 90-73 (.552) record and a NL Wild Card in 1998. They were swept in three games by the Atlanta Braves.
1992-1994 seasons: He took over at the end of the 1992 season for Greg Riddoch and went 4-8 in the final 12 games of the season. He managed the Padres to a 112-179 (.385) record over the two-plus years and coached the likes of Fred McGriff, Tony Gwynn and Gary Sheffield.