Drew Kinback: An early look at Jim Riggleman’s future in D.C.

I peg manager Jim Riggleman as a whiskey man.

I don’t base this off much of anything or know if he actually partakes in the American firewater, but let’s pretend a little bit. He just looks and carries himself like a whiskey man: staunch, regal, a touch of book-smart intellect mixed with barroom pugilism. A lover and a fighter. It is the sort of thing you want in a baseball manager running a team of bosky greenhorns and slightly fossilized gray-hairs.

I’ve always imagined Riggleman walking back to his office through the busy and noisy clubhouse after a game, shutting the door, opening up the bottom drawer of his desk and pulling out a glass and a bottle of reasonably priced bourbon whiskey. He pours himself a glass and sips (yes, sips - he looks like a man who enjoys things in life) while just looking at the wall, but not seeing the wall. But he sees.

It is a pleasant and comforting thought only broken up by the thought he might do this even before a game, if he was a brash whiskey lover. As manager of the Washington Nationals, could we really blame this imaginary baseball general for a little indulgence to take the edge off?

I only paint this picture because I have mucho respect for Jim Riggleman the Man, Jim Riggleman the Baseball Man and Jim Riggleman the Human Being. The only Jim Riggleman I have a problem with and have always had a problem with is Jim Riggleman the Manager. I’m not a big fan of that particular Jim Riggleman. He is a nice guy and all, but doesn’t seem to have the grapefruits it takes to truly lead a competitive team, which is why I would not be completely upset or surprised if the Nationals do not extend his contract past 2011.

His infamous double switches are annoying, his use of his pitchers is questionable, his loyalty to aging and unproductive vets is detrimental at times, and there seems to be a continued theme of no one taking responsibility or accountability in the organization as no apparent punishments are dished out for bad play. Who knows what goes on behind the closed doors of the clubhouse, but everyone knows the quickest way to drive a point home to a player is less playing time. It is the only thing a manger has to threaten a player with. But perhaps the most irritating can be summed up in a recent quote after a 6-4 loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday night. He was talking about catcher Wilson Ramos’ big two homer night:

“You hate to have a guy hit a couple of homers in a losing cause, but it was a real good night for him,” Riggleman said.

Ramos hadn’t hit his homers when the game was a “losing cause.” He hit two home runs when the Nationals were coming back to tie the game. Ramos powered up in a winning cause. I don’t believe any game is a “losing cause” or a lost cause until the final out is made and any manager of any team should believe that, as well. To refer to a game as a losing anything is a defeatist mentality and that mentality has no place in Major League baseball or built into a major league manager.

Perhaps it isn’t Riggleman’s fault, however. Not entirely. He was brought up in a culture of losing. A manager is responsible for putting the pieces on the field and working with what he has, not getting the pieces himself. That falls on the general manager of a team and in the Nationals’ case, Mike Rizzo, but that is a post for another day. But on the great totem pole of blame in the major leagues, the manager usually goes first, which very well might be the case by the end of this season. Riggleman will be Manny Acta-ed.

Either way, if Riggleman stays Nats manager or is given the boot, I’d buy him a drink anyway. Whiskey man to whiskey man.

Drew Kinback blogs about the Nats at Nationals Inquisition, and gives his take this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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