Combative Jim Riggleman Missed the Lessons of Fredi Gonzalez, Jack McKeon

by NESN Staff

June 25, 2011

Combative Jim Riggleman Missed the Lessons of Fredi Gonzalez, Jack McKeon Jim Riggleman did not lose his job as manager of the Washington Nationals on Thursday, when he demanded his boss do X and his boss, as any boss would under similar circumstances, did Y.

Thursday just happened to be the day Riggleman resigned.

The day Riggleman essentially lost the job was May 20, when he reportedly shadowed pitcher Jason Marquis around the clubhouse after a game, challenging the 6-foot-1 right-hander to a fight.

Riggleman wasn't fired that day, so he still had the title of "manager." But it was evident that barring a miracle turnaround of performance and attitude, his 12th season as a major league manager would be his last.

Conflict in sports locker rooms is inevitable. NFL teams (when they're not locked out) await the first scuffle of training camp every summer with amusement.

Those are players, though. Players, even teammates, are expected to clash now and then when their adrenaline gets pumping. Managers are the adults in the room of a major league clubhouse — or at least they should be. They shouldn't lash out when a player, such as Marquis, curses his manager from removing him from a ball game. If that type of reaction were in play, managers would be fighting disgruntled hurlers every night from April to November.

Riggleman's reaction to Marquis' insubordination contrasts with the reaction of a couple Florida Marlins managers. If Riggleman essentially lost his job as Nationals manager in his episode with Marquis, it's safe to say Fredi Gonzalez effectively won his job as the Atlanta Braves' replacement for Bobby Cox with his handling of Hanley Ramirez.

Gonzalez was the one who extinguished a situation in 2010 that threatened to burst into flames after Ramirez was perceived to have jogged after a ball in the field. Without a knock-down, drag-out argument, Gonzalez benched Ramirez, who in turn was a model citizen the rest of the season.

Ramirez also was the subject of Jack McKeon's first noteworthy action as manager this season. Again, it involved benching Ramirez.

While these actions point to a disturbing trend concerning Ramirez, they also point to the two managers' deft handling of an enigmatic, but uniquely talented player. The player and both managers currently have jobs and are out of the bad headlines for now.

Without explicitly calling for respect, Gonzalez and McKeon earned it with their reputations still intact. By demanding respect with a sneer, Riggleman is running low on respect (called strike one), reputation (called strike two) and employment (swing and a miss for strike three).

In Washington, Riggleman is out.

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