Nationals Baseball: More Thoughts

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Thoughts

I want the story to be about something else. Really I want it to be about how Rizzo is kind of an ass, just like Kasten was kind of an ass.* People being asses bother me far more than someone being overly proud.

*That Boz story about how Kasten told Rizzo... ‘Forget the [expletive] contract. Own the job. Just be the [expletive] GM. Prove you’re the guy.’ ” What a pompous ass, right? I mean I would have turned around and said "Either you believe I can be the GM or you can't. Don't jerk me around for a year so you have an scapegoat if things don't go well. Make a decision. Own your job."

But that's not the story. Riggleman is the story because he's the one that made the terrible decision. He's the one that screwed up, not Rizzo.

We can all understand why Riggleman wanted to do what he did. We've all been disrespected. We've all worked hard and watched it seemingly go unrewarded. But it's turning that want into action with complete disregard for the consequences that drives this drama. Riggleman wanted to quit feeling he was in an untenable situation. By doing so though he would severely screw up his chances of managing anytime soon and he would disrupt the very team he was looking to continue to support as their manager. To most people, those consequences would outweigh whatever burden they felt they were under and they'd stick it out. They'd probably walk as soon as they reasonably could but, again, they'd stick it out. Riggleman didn't and it doesn't make a lot of sense unless his own pride was more important to him than those consequences.

If it IS that way than good for Riggleman. He walked away from a job he loved and ton of cash (hey $400K is not chump change) because those things weren't as important to him as his self-respect. But I get the feeling from what he's said that those things do matter. He does want to coach again. He does want this Nats team to win. It feels more like he backed himself into a corner and screwed up than he took a principled stand.

I have a hard time working up anything beyond gut-reaction anger at Riggleman because, well, it's baseball right? Every time I try to take the deadly serious "he let his team down" view I can't help but drift into thinking it's kind of like he walked away from being banker at a game of professional Monopoly. This doesn't seem like it will effect anyone's job. He's not ruining a player's dream, unless that player set his standards ridiculously low. He made a stupid decision. He screwed himself more than anyone. Let's move on.

So where does this leave the Nats? One thing we can be sure of is that they are firmly and completely Mike Rizzo's team. He's made it clear. He's in charge. But here's the deal. He lucked into having the #1 picks in back to back years when once in a generation talent was available. He's mostly built up a solid core finally backed by some cash from the Lerners. The expectations are playoffs sooner rather than later, certainly by 2013. Don't screw it up or the fans won't be calling for the next manager's head, they'll be calling for yours.


Section 139 said...

I couldn't agree more. Unless Riggleman is out of baseball he seriously screwed up. Even if Rizzo canned him at season's end, he'd have the "look what I did for the Nationals" card to play when looking for his next job. Stupid move.

Too, on Rizzo... We fans will fast forget that Rizzo is a "Richard of royal proportions" if we win. In fact, keep being a dick if it means we are winning. But if we lose, no one is going to back that guy.

Calindc said...

The one thing I absolutely hate about the "A**hole-fest" from Riggs/Rizzo is it completely takes away what the Nats did on the field. They just swept a team whose starting pitchers completely dominated them. An absolutely feel good sweep completely taken away by two egos.

Mythical Monkey said...

As far as Rizzo goes, I think, as Boswell wrote this morning, the decent thing to have done before the season started was to exercise the option on Riggleman's contract -- sure, $700,000 is a lot of money to me, but it's not that much more than the league minimum. Or put it this way: Matt Stairs is making $850,000 this year to hit .116.

I mean, you can always fire him anyway and eat the contract. That's pretty much the way every organization in baseball works these days.

So I can't exactly say I'm in Rizzo's camp.

But as a study in negotiation tactics, Riggleman's actions were a classic disaster. The first question you always have to ask yourself is, as the Harvard School of Negotiation would say, "What's your best alternative to a negotiated agreement?" Most people would say that quitting your dream job at 58 for what is in all likelihood permanent exile from your career field is not all that attractive a prospect.

In fact, Riggleman had no leverage at all. No job to fall back on, no particular support from fans, players, media or the owners, and no way to force Rizzo to give in to his demands. Pretty much all you can do in that situation, if you really want the job, is to hunker down and win so much they have to keep you. That, and build some bridges.

That Riggleman didn't seem to grasp any of that, coupled with history's worst career winning percentage of any manager with his experience, seems to be pretty strong evidence that he wasn't the man for the job.

But I don't have to live in his skin. Maybe exile really was preferable to staying. He's not the first guy to run away from the Nationals.

Still ...

As Calindc says, all this sturm und drang really took the air out of the balloon. I hope the team can keep up the good work and not let this be the turning point in what could easily become another dismal season.

Mythical Monkey said...

And I find it interesting that Rizzo chose to let his manager walk in the middle of a winning streak rather than kick the can down the road. If what Riggleman really said was "I want to talk about the contract" then Rizzo probably should have said, "Well, we can talk about it, but I'm not promising to make a decision before, say, the All-Star Break."

But that's probably not what he said.

Yesterday was no doubt the end of many testy conversations, and these guys had come to loath each other. Why else would they have mutually chosen to blow up the status quo?

DCNatty said...

At least Riggs finally ended a season with a winning record...1st time in his career. haha. he sux...and I wanted him fired after the 4th game of the season when he was resting 20yr old starters (check the posts). Let him go bat the pitcher 8th for someone that really backfired yesterday. glad they won theough. Keep it rollin Nats

My vote is for Bo Porter.

Harper said...

139 - totally agree. Riggleman had a winning move "leave immediately in off-season", maybe even announce it with a few games left, that could show he wouldn't be disrespected but not bring him all this grief. Just couldn't take it. And fans will forgive just about anything for winning. Everyone knows that, that's why it ain't all nice guys everywhere.

Cal - It was Riggs that forced the issue now so gotta give him the bulk of the blame for that. If Rizzo was going to let him walk I can't expect him to not do it just because they are winning right now.

MM - You have to think they hated eachother. On Rizzo's plus side he wasn't going to play games. He wouldn't talk to Riggs just to do it. On the negative side, seems like he would let Riggs twist in the wind, all but telling him he was gone after the year. Rizzo was using Riggs. If they lost he's a scapegoat. If they win small, like .500, he's can still just let him walk with minimal fuss. (Boz's claim that they couldn't possibly let him walk if they had a winning record is nonsense) It's only if they made the playoffs or really close where Rizzo would get in trouble, but it was a gamble he was willing to take.

Wally said...

I don't think that we can analyze what Riggleman did in a rationale way. When you do, the conclusion is inescapably yours - this was a horrible, horrible decision that he will undoubtedly regret. And because we expect people to act rationally, it just makes no sense.

But I don't think that he was thinking rationally during the last several months. I think that he was under a huge amount of stress: mostly self inflicted around the resentment of being disrespected. But even more so around what he felt it said about him for accepting this treatment, both in his own eyes and the eyes of his baseball peers. When you deal with that kind of stress over a long period of time, it builds and builds, drowning out other thoughts. Like the old man's heartbeat in that Poe story. Eventually what starts to shape your mindset more than any other thing is this: make it stop. Reason and rationality, even self interest, take a back seat to that emotion.

So I think Riggs crafted this outcome with this in mind: one way or the other, he wouldn't be in the position of continuing to accept the disrespect he felt was being publicly heaped on him.

It is a shame, really, that he gave in to that feeling, because he will be the biggest one hurt by this, and he seemed like a decent guy.

John O'Connor said...

Glad to see reasonable Harper has returned. ;-)

The AP story is interesting because they actually asked Riggleman what would have happened if they had the "conversation" in Chicago and Rizzo said that it wasn't time to commit to an extension. Riggleman said he would have resigned. So the difference some are touting between "extend me now" and "I just want a conversation" is hooey.

Unlike some, I could hear the rumblings in the press about Riggleman beiung unhappy about his contract. Kurkjian's ESPN piece from a couple of days ago mentioned the contract, as did a WaPo piece from a week ago. Boswell says Riggleman's been lobbying the press "not for attribution" since at least February. And Boswell's right, that Rizzo was the wrong guy to do this with, as Rizzo apparently didn't try to leverage the Lerners in the press. And what did we hear about one reason the Lerners got the team? They were the one ownership group that respected MLB's directive not to lobby in the media.

I also don't think Kasten was pompus in telling Rizzo to not carp about a contract, but to do the job well and earn the job permanently. Nothing wrong with that advice at all.

Nate said...

Let's not forget how Riggleman got here. He was installed by the Front Office (aka Mike Rizzo) as the bench coach/Angel of Death on Manny Acta's staff, and he didn't see to have any pangs of conscience about that role. Jim has always seemed like a good guy, but I have a problem with any manager who is a perfect season away from having a .500 career record complaining about a lack of job security.

You want an extension? Win. Want a 3-year contract? Keep winning. A 58 year old man complaining publicly about being disrespected sounds like someone who has spent to long playing a game for money. I hope Riggs can find another job in baseball, because life in the real world might be too big a shock to his system.

bdrube said...

Personally, I WANT my GM to be a bit of a bastard and not let sentimentality (like say, giving a $10 million contract extension to an immoblie, overweight veteran first baseman in the middle of fluke comeback season) get in the way of his decisionmaking. Lots of HARD choices have to be made for any team to make it top the top, and I can't imagine Riggleman wasn't aware of that fact.

Harper said...

Natty - probably the healthiest reaction to all this. honestly. Who cares, just play baseball.

Wally - I tend to side with you. It's more sad to me than stupid.

JOC - fine, it's not how the org rolls but I still think there's a problem here with Rizzo. He didn't want Riggs around but wouldn't come out and tell him that because he would rather he stuck around for the whole year. I don't like that.

"Pompous" isn't the right word. To me I read that as "Don't worry about what's right or fair. Just do your job well and things will get taken care of" I think that's bullshit. I can do a job well AND worry about what's right and fair. Notice I didn't say I would walk away from a deal I agreed to, just that I would tell off Kasten for setting me up to be a fall guy making me prove something that obstensibly I proved enough to get the job in the first place.

Nate - Ah but that's the difference. Rizzo fired Acta because he didn't want him around anymore. He WOULDN'T give Riggleman the same courtesy. Bascially he was using Riggleman for a year to keep a seat warm and wouldn't outright say it.

It IS Riggleman's fault for not seeing this when he signed in October. It's his fault for not trying to force the issue by getting this team near the playoffs this season. It's his fault for stupidly quitting mid year. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a crappy thing for Rizzo to do.

Harper said...

bdrube - that's fine. I'd rather he could make hard choices without being a bastard. (I'll interject here that non of us really KNOW Rizzo - he might be the best guy eva! But his public persona is what it is)

Also let's not make Rizzo out to be an unfeeling winning is all that matters guy. He's let useful people walk (or threw them out) because he didn't like them and he keeps people here because he does (Hey Matt Stairs!). He can cloud it as creating a winning atmosphere but really it's about what he likes and doesn't/

Anonymous said...

On the he said/he said stuff, I think I'm with Boz. Whatever was said after "I'm not getting on the bus unless..." is meaningless. There is no distinction between "wanting to have a conversation" and an "ultimatum." If Rizzo has the conversation with Riggs after Riggs has pulled this stunt, he's having the conversation at the point of a gun (admittedly, a gun pointed at Riggs' own head). He simply couldn't agree to that demand, not because he's kind of an A*hole, but because you can't run an organization if you're going to let your employees force you into that spot.

It's pretty clear Riggs wasn't going to settle for anything other than "Ok, Jim, we'll announce at the all-star break that we're picking up your '12 option." Even if that's what Rizzo WANTED to do, he couldn't do it after Riggs made the ultimatum, because if he extended him under the threat of the ultimatum, he'd have had no leverage with him going forward.

Basically, though I think Jim deserved better, he played this about as stupid as someone can. He let his own bubbling frustration and anger and pride get in the way of good long-term decisionmaking. For someone paid to be in a management job, he ends up looking awfully thin-skinned.

mrromantimothy said...

im with riggs imean heres rizzo with no prior experience with his 5 year deal learning on the job,looking for any good reason to get rid of him,and take all the credit!

mrromantimothy said...

if rizzo can offer 7 years and one third the worth of the nats to a washed up phil reject and he cant even sit and talk with his manager about more than one year?show a complete lack of faith in his farm system by signing high mileage freeagents?:nyjer morgan blunder?out of respect shouldnt the sens manager be the first to interview for nats manager?125 mill to one player instead of shared equally by all? scott boras is the one to blame!