The scene in the Nationals' clubhouse after today's game was the most surreal I've seen in four years on the beat - and, I'm guessing, one of the more surreal things reporters with many more years of experience than me have seen in a clubhouse.
While Far East Movement's "Like a G6" thumped as Nationals players packed for their road trip to Chicago and celebrated their 11th win in 12 games, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman led reporters into the middle of the clubhouse, where he talked for 15 minutes about his reasons for resigning as the team's manager.
Riggleman had told general manager Mike Rizzo before the game that he was going to resign after the game if Rizzo wouldn't agree to have a conversation about the manager's contract when the team got to Chicago. And as the Nationals left for the airport, they still didn't know who would manage the team. While most players were diplomatic about Riggleman's departure, they vowed not to let his resignation hurt them after winning 11 of 12 games to move a game over .500.
"We're playing some good baseball. He was leading the ship, and I think we're rolling real well," said pitcher Jason Marquis, who threw eight shutout innings Thursday. "We don't know the reasons why. That's something he had to think about a long time. I guess we'll probably never know. We wish him the best of luck in whatever opportunity arises for him. The Washington Nationals still go on. We've still got to play some solid baseball, and we have a goal to accomplish."
But asked whether he thought Riggleman deserved to have his option picked up, Marquis said: "That's not my decision to make. You could say that for hundreds of players throughout baseball who have options on their contract, whether they deserve it or not."
Jayson Werth, whose relationship with Riggleman goes back to when he was an outfielder with the Dodgers and Riggleman was the bench coach there, had created a stir with comments last month in Milwaukee that the Nationals needed to make changes. The two men met the day after Werth made those comments, and Riggleman said he came away believing Werth wasn't talking about him.
On Thursday, Werth said, "I was probably as surprised as you guys were. But whether I agree or disagree with it, I respect Jim's decision. He's moving on. We're moving on. We've got a ballgame tomorrow, and we've got over half the season left. I still feel really good about where we're at and where we're going."
Asked for his thoughts on the timing, Werth said, "I think I can say I'm disappointed. I'm surprised, for sure. I don't really know enough details, and I don't really know exactly what all has happened, why the decision came now. It really has nothing to do with me. It's a personal decision. I respect it, and I'm going to go to Chicago and play a ballgame tomorrow. ... I've never been a manager. I know up until this year, really, I've been on a one-year deal for the most part. A lot of guys in here are on one-year deals. I've never been a manager. It's not really up to me. It's not a good question for me to answer."
He also said the manager wasn't one of the things he was focused on when he signed with the team; Werth said he focused more on the team's commitment to signing players and making the team competitive.
And reliever Drew Storen said, "I see both sides of it. I understand. He needs to take care of himself. In the end, it's his decision, and I respect him for it. I don't think anything's going to change. We have enough veteran leadership on this team that a distraction like this, it's going to test us, but I think we're going to get through it, and in the end, might even come out better. It's just one of those trials that happens."
Rizzo told the team after the game that Riggleman had resigned, and Riggleman was asked not to speak to the players. They'll wait to find out who manages them going forward, but Storen thought the team would be fine.
"I don't think it's going to be as big as everybody's making it," Storen said. "I trust the veteran guys. I know that all the guys down here know what they're doing, so they're going to figure it out."