VIERA, Fla. - Before Nationals manager Jim Riggleman met with the media this morning, he pulled three players - outfielder Jayson Werth, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and shortstop Ian Desmond - into his office. Riggleman was drafting a list of “standards,” as he called them, for the Nationals’ clubhouse, and wanted players to be in charge of writing most of them.
There were a couple more players involved in the process, Riggleman said, and the Nationals did something similar last year, but the ones he chose were no accident. If there’s going to be accountability in the Nationals’ clubhouse this year, Riggleman would prefer it came from the players more than him.
“I think because it’s my second full year as a manager, and there are some guys who have been here that much longer, I’m going to expect them to handle situations more themselves, rather than waiting for me to police them,” Riggleman said. “It’s kind of a lost dynamic in the game. It’s hard for players to police each other in today’s world. It really is. You’ve got players coming from many different cultural backgrounds, different countries, different languages. ... It becomes tough for a guy or two to really get on another player and say, ‘Hey, come on, we’ve got to give a better effort than that.’”
Riggleman said he was talking about clubhouse rules mostly with veteran players, so the fact that Desmond - who is starting his second year in the majors - was included is telling. The Nationals have seen potential in the 25-year-old shortstop to develop into a team leader, and Riggleman is giving him the opportunity to prove himself in that role.
“He’ll be involved in that,” Riggleman said. “He’s a guy who displays those qualities.”
He said the Nationals didn’t have any clubhouse issues last year - though a handful of players had squabbles about playing time. But Riggleman has spent plenty of time addressing the team over the last year and a half, often talking to them after games. If anything, he’s trying to make his voice heard less often.
“The message is kind of like, ‘We want you to police each other, but you’ve got to allow yourself to be policed,’ ” Riggleman said. “If somebody has the courage to come to you and say, ‘Come on. Turn it up a notch,’ you’ve got to accept that as constructive criticism instead of being confrontational about it.”