Before Jim Riggleman became the Nationals’ bench coach in 2009, he finished the 2008 season as the interim manager of the Seattle Mariners, taking over for his good friend John McLaren. And as it turned out, Riggleman’s short tenure as Mariners manager left quite the imprint on the two franchises.
He went 36-54 with the Mariners, improving on McLaren’s 25-47 record and lifting Seattle to 61 wins with a sweep of the Athletics on the last weekend of the season. The Nationals got swept that weekend by the Phillies, meaning they passed the Mariners for the No. 1 pick and the right to draft Stephen Strasburg.
“I knew (about Strasburg), but I didn’t think I was going to be back in Seattle anyway,” Riggleman said. “I was just trying to manage the game.”
The Nationals manager wasn’t brought back after new general manager Jack Zduriencik decided to hire a new staff, and he said there are only a few people still in the Mariners operation that he worked with while he was there.
The one he recalled most readily was outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who led the American League in hits for the third year in a row that season. Ichiro hit .310 - actually a low average for him - won a Gold Glove in right field and stole 43 bases.
“He’s an amazing guy. He’s 37 now, but he can still fly,” Riggleman said. “He gets hits in ways that you just can’t imagine. It’s like it’s by design. It’s amazing, some of the places the ball goes, and he gets hits, and then he’ll square one up and hit it as far as anybody alive. He’s an amazing guy, and his preparation is just off-the-charts. The way he prepares for a ballgame is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”