Wednesday, September 30, 2009
GM: Riggleman a 'legitimate candidate'
WASHINGTON -- Jim Riggleman knows this routine. He takes over as interim manager of a major league club that's headed for 100 losses, posts a better winning percentage than his predecessor and then is listed as a contender for the permanent job.
That scenario is playing out with the Washington Nationals in 2009, precisely the way it did for Riggleman with the Seattle Mariners in 2008.
He did not get the full-fledged job in Seattle. He hopes things will turn out differently in Washington, and on Wednesday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo called Riggleman a "legitimate candidate" to be the team's manager in 2010.
"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 before Washington hosted the New York Mets.
"Jim is a definite candidate to stay on," Rizzo added. "Like I said, he's done a great job."
Riggleman was promoted from bench coach in July to replace fired manager Manny Acta. The team went 26-61 (a .299 winning percentage) under Acta this season and entered Wednesday 28-42 (.400) under Riggleman.
"I can only say I want to come back and manage, but you've got to respect the decisions that are made, and there are different criteria that go into why these decisions are made," Riggleman said. "So I don't even know what the criteria is, but you hope you get the call."
Last season, the Mariners went 25-47 (.347) under John McLaren and then 36-54 (.400) with Riggleman as interim manager.
"It's not the perfect situation to be in, as interim," Riggleman said.
Seattle said Riggleman was under consideration for the managing position in 2009, but in the meantime, he was hired by the Nationals to be Acta's bench coach. He stayed in the running with Seattle even after that, but the Mariners hired Don Wakamatsu to be their manager.
Rizzo said the Nationals will begin their managerial decision-making process when the regular season ends and he hopes to have a quick decision. Any changes to the coaching staff will wait until after the manager is chosen.
In addition to his brief stint in Seattle, Riggleman managed in the majors with the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
He has a .442 career winning percentage 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. His next managing chance came last year in Seattle.
Riggleman figures his work this season with the Nationals serves as a sort of job interview.
Rizzo echoed that thought.
"I'll probably know Jim Riggleman, the candidate, better than any candidate that we'll talk at all to for the job," Rizzo said. "I've had a lot of time to get to know Jim and to see his body of work. So I'll have a good feel for that."