The Washington Nationals beat the Seattle Mariners 1-0 June 23 with a walk-off sacrifice fly by left fielder Laynce Nix. But that’s not the story.
Shortly after the game ended, reporters headed down to the press room for Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman’s press conference. Riggleman is usually quick to the microphone after games, so it was strange when 10 minutes went by, then 15, and no manager. Then, Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo came in.
“We have a major announcement to make,” Rizzo said. “Following the game, manager Jim Riggleman has resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals, effective immediately.”
According to Rizzo, Riggleman came to him before the game on Thursday and informed him that, if his option for next year were not picked up by the end of the day, he would resign.
While this news was shocking, Rizzo said he believes the Nats can and will survive without Riggleman in the dugout.
“We feel like we’re going in the right direction,” Rizzo said. “The leadership is very, very strong and committed to put a winner on the field, a championship caliber organization, and we will be committed to that.”
For now, though, the Nats are without a manager. Rizzo says they will name an interim manager before Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox and that a permanent change will be made on Monday.
There is no doubt that the Nationals’ front office was not expecting Riggleman to make the decision that he did. The team is playing better than any team in league right now, having won 11 of their past 12 games. Certainly this is not the time when most managers would choose to step down.
“Very disappointing. Very disappointing,” Rizzo said. “Disappointing to the players in the clubhouse, to the fan base of Washington, to the city of Washington D.C. and personally to myself.. But we will move on. We will move on from this as we have from the Stephen Strasburg injury, from the Ryan Zimmerman injury … We will move forward and we will not miss a beat.”
More will surely come out about this story. There are likely things behind the scenes that went on between Riggleman and management that we know nothing about. But right now, it looks like Riggleman did what he always praised his players for never doing: He put himself before the team.