Nationals’ John McLaren ‘blindsided’ by Jim Riggleman’s resignation
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org June 24, 2011 11:22PM
John McLaren, chatting with Ozzie Guillen, is the Nationals’ short-term replacement for Jim Riggleman. | David Banks~Getty Images
Updated: June 27, 2011 1:48PM
A day after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals, the surprise factor was apparent among players and baseball people.
“Weird,’’ said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who played for Riggleman and the Nationals before signing with the Sox. “It’s pretty bad timing I would think. Those guys are playing well and it seemed like they had a good thing going, but he obviously had a reason for it. I don’t really know the whole story, and I don’t really care. It’s a shame for those guys.’’
Riggleman resigned after the Nationals’ 1-0 victory Thursday over the Mariners, the team’s 11th victory in 12 games. He wanted the Nationals to pick up his contract option for next year and said the reluctance of general manager Mike Rizzo to have a meeting on the subject reinforced his feeling that he was merely a placeholder until the team could find someone better.
Bench coach John McLaren, a former Seattle Mariners manager, was named interim manager Friday but perhaps only through the weekend.
“I’ve had managers get fired, but nothing like that,’’ Dunn said. “Maybe I’d understand if they were not playing well, but it seemed like things were turning around for them. For your so-called leader to kind of walk out on you, that’s pretty bad.’’
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen praised McLaren and had the same questions as others about the resignation.
“A lot of people have different opinions,” Guillen said. “They used to fire managers. Now they resign.
“I don’t know why he did it. I think it’s easier to get fired than resign because when you get fired, you just say they didn’t want me. There are a lot of questions if you resign.”
Guillen called McLaren “an unbelievable baseball man. He knows this game very well. I hope it’s not just for a few days. I love him so much, I hope it’s for a long time.’’
McLaren, 59, took over for a departing manager in July 2007 when Mike Hargrove left the Mariners. He managed the team until June 19, 2008, and went 68-88. Riggleman, who managed the Cubs from 1995 to ’99, was his bench coach.
“Shocked, blindsided. It caught me off-guard,’’ McLaren said. “Jim and I talked all the time. I knew he’d been upset for quite awhile. This kept building on him, and like I said, I’m blown away. I had no idea this was going to take place.’’
Rizzo, who hired Riggleman, said “the time wasn’t right’’ to discuss the extension and accepted Riggleman’s resignation. He said McLaren is an interim manager for days, not weeks, adding that the team already has talked to several candidates to manage the rest of the season, including former major-league manager Davey Johnson, a senior advisor to Rizzo.
“Davey Johnson is one of names we’ve discussed and we’ve talked to,’’ Rizzo said. “He and several other names we are actively talking to.’’
Guillen said a manager’s first thoughts should be about his players.
“There are two sides, and nobody knows what happened between the Nationals and [Riggleman],’’ he said. “We [managers] take a lot of responsibility and a lot of heat. If you’re a free agent, [you can say] will you sign me or not? When you’re a manager, you don’t have the power to make that decision.
“If I ever made a decision [to leave], the first thing that would go through my mind is the players, and then my family after that.”