Do the Nationals need a team president?

After witnessing the end of Jim Riggleman’s tenure as manager of the Washington Nationals, it is interesting to wonder what difference a Stan Kasten-like leader would have made during the last few months.

Kasten resigned as team president at the end of the 2010 season. His leadership and experience guided the Nationals, for better or for worse, through some rough waters as they wrestled control of the franchise back from Major League Baseball and rebuilt a decimated farm system.

Mike Rizzo was promoted to executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager in late October 2010. Rizzo has not only had to concentrate on building the Nationals’ roster, but also has been responsible for myriad of other tasks that have left his plate full.

It stands to reason that if Kasten, or an executive with equal experience, intelligence and respect in baseball, would have guided Rizzo through the process, or at least been able to advise and work with Riggleman as well, both sides might have been able to compromise. It just seems that Rizzo has a lot of responsibility, and was given even more responsibility for so many other important and crucial decisions when the organization decided not to replace Kasten.

Andrew Feffer was hired as the chief operating officer to handle “all business operations for the club, (including) revenue generation, marketing, communications, brand development and business administration,” according to his biography in the team’s media guide.

But what if there was a team president on board after Kasten left? Would yesterday’s dramatic announcement have been avoided if there was a chief executive officer above Rizzo to help shoulder the load and provide professional counsel?

I believe that scenario would have made a difference the last few months and Riggleman would still be the manager today if Rizzo was not left to his own devices to figure this out.

Let us argue that the Nationals wanted to make a big splash with their next manager, and Riggleman was not the gregarious, media-friendly skipper they envisioned leading Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the Nationals in 2012 and beyond.

If Riggleman is not that man, who is? The team has won 11 of its last 12 games and 16 of their last 22 outings since falling nine games under .500 on May 30. Now, with Ryan Zimmerman back healthy and a young core of players making game-changing plays, the Nationals have turned around that season before Strasburg returns into a legitimate run for the National League Wild Card.

It would have been easy, as Riggleman probably did, to attempt a sitdown with Rizzo when the team was losing. But now that they are winning, and they have shown their potential as a pretty good baseball team, Riggleman’s resignation carries a great deal more gravity.

Sometimes when you continue to believe that the next person, job or experience is going to be better than what you already have, you miss out on the present. And the present is the Nationals are playing good baseball. It is too bad that momentum had to be disrupted for any reason.

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