Riggleman a Quitter

29 06 2011

I’m late to this subject but so be it. I was disappointed in Jim Riggleman quitting the Nationals last week because of a contract discrepancy. What caused me more annoyance was how a pair of highly-respected baseball journalists rationalized Riggleman’s decision to quit because the Nationals wouldn’t pick up his 2012 option. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Buster Olney each justified Riggleman’s decision; I highly doubt they would have kept the same attitude had a player done what Riggleman did.

On the day of Riggleman’s decision, Heyman wrote in consecutive tweets that the manager is a “tremendous individual” and that he applauded his decision, given that, in Heyman’s view, the Nationals acted irrationally.

Regarding Riggleman, Olney took a more calculated view of the situation, although he did point out that Riggleman is a “very respectful person.” I might be too critical of Olney, since he didn’t take Heyman’s path in outright supporting his resignation.

What bothered me so much is that each writer felt the need to state a positive quality of Riggleman near the outset of each of his tweets about the situation. It felt like a need to soften the blow of whatever criticism they might offer. I can’t imagine a player would be treated the same way if he quit on his team in-season because of a contract dispute. Remember the avalanche of negativity directed toward Manny Ramirez in his final days on the Red Sox?

I’d prefer not to be pessimistic but it felt as though Heyman – likely more than Olney – was voicing his support for Riggleman to protect a source. After all, managers usually have a longer life in the Majors than players. Perhaps Heyman has a long-standing relationship with Riggleman. I just can’t see any other viewpoint on Riggleman other than that he deserted his team for selfish reasons. It wasn’t noble and it wasn’t justifiable.

As Dan Patrick stated on his radio show, Riggleman was under contract for this season and still had a job to perform. Players are critiqued so often by the media for thinking only of themselves at a time when their team needs them. This was an opportunity for Heyman to hold a manager accountable similar to the expectations of a player.

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