Warm your hands at the Hot Stove

It’s only appropriate that during the week the Nationals take a major step toward their future with the hiring of Jim Riggleman, the future becomes clearer with personal accolades for Ryan Zimmerman.

First, the manager: Jim is a knowledgeable, classy, solid baseball man and the right one to be at the helm at this point in time.

His second half performance, along with his players’ success, was hiring-worthy and the Nats showed they are after substance before style. There were “sexier” picks for manager out there, like Bobby Valentine and Don Mattingly; but baseball lends itself to a steady hand at the controls every day of the six-month season, and Riggleman fits that definition to a T.

He told me at spring training last year that he was ecstatic to be working close to home in DC, especially after the way he’d been treated in Seattle.


Jim was told when he took over for Mike Hargrove that wins didn’t matter during the second half of a lost season, that it was more important to the Mariners to see what they had in some of their younger players. Then, when it came time to hire a manager, Jim didn’t get the nod “because he didn’t win enough.” He was told one thing, then the organization did the opposite.

It’s important for us as fans, and broadcasters, to realize that this is an often harsh and cold business to go along with the game, and that every franchise not named Washington has its shortcomings, too. Seattle’s loss is our gain; now let’s get behind Jim and give him all the support he deserves!

Now to the third baseman: Ryan is the best at his position in the National League, maybe in all of baseball, and he deserved the Gold Glove.

I was concerned that others with fewer errors, like Kevin Kouzmanoff in San Diego, might get the nod, but the voters got it right, and this should be the first of several for Zim.

Then you pile the Silver Slugger on top of that, plus his All-Star appointment, and it adds up to a storybook season for our young star.

His professional, non-assuming nature endears him to us who are around him every day. I think of the great players I got to know personally in St. Louis, like Ozzie Smith and Albert Pujols, and I don’t blink in telling you that Ryan shares their talent, character and commitment to team.

He will be even better than he was this past year and should be in a Nationals uniform his entire career. That kind of player is a dying breed, and we need to treasure them while we have them, like they did with Cal up in Baltimore.

Not a bad week, eh? The Hot Stove League is cooking. Now, how about some solid veteran arms to warm our hearts and get us all ready for 2010!