With the team sputtering and stumbling down the stretch, Nats manager Jim Riggleman held yet another team meeting this week, letting his players know that they needed to play a bit harder. By some estimates, it was the 459th team meeting he's held this season. And as you'd expect, they're becoming increasingly less effective.
Riggleman seemed aware of this. He didn't just speak to the players himself, but he had his coaches do it as well. He told reporters, "sometimes when the same person keeps giving the message it starts to fall on deaf ears, so I had all the coaches address the team."
And therein lays the problem (well, one of ‘em) with ol' Interim Jim. He's basically admitting that the team has tuned him out. They've heard his spiel once, twice, maybe fourteen times before. And now they're not listening.
Riggleman signed a two-year contract last offseason, but it's even weaker than that. Beyond his meager $600,000 salary this year, there is a $100,000 buyout for 2012. If the Nationals wanted to go in a different direction, it wouldn't take much dough at all.
The team meetings are one example of how it seems like Riggleman doesn't know how to handle the team. His recent spat with Nyjer Morgan -- wherein he ripped Mr. Plush to the media before taking the player aside -- didn't paint Riggles in the best of light. With Morgan flailing on and off the field, does Riggleman's stubborn insistence to pencil his name in the lineup every day send the wrong message to other players on the team?
Riggleman seemingly goes about his job as if he's the ultimate influence for every single game. If there were an award for Overmanager of the Year, he'd be the landslide winner. The guy double switches early, often, and late just because that's something a manager CAN do. And it's often done with little thought as to whether a manager SHOULD do it. The best example of that was earlier this year when he took Mike Morse out of a game on a double switch in a game where Morse already had two home runs.
Sometimes it seems like he's taken lessons from Mr. Burns on the Simpsons who once pinch-hit for Darryl Strawberry with Homer simply to gain a platoon advantage.
After this latest meeting, Riggleman explained to reporters that it was body language and energy that he was most concerned with. (Maybe he, like GM Mike Rizzo, didn't like their aura?)
"You cannot go to the level that teams such the Padres, Giants, Yankees, Tampa Bay - those teams who are going to be right there at the end - you cannot be in the same class with them until you have everybody on board pulling the same way, putting personal statistics behind them and milestones behind them and all that nonsense. Until every body is pulling the same direction, getting after it every day, it's not going to show up in the win column."
That's a pretty distressing quote, and it's actually hiding and covering the best defense the Nats should have for keeping him around: the lack of talent on the team.
Does he really think that the difference between the Nats and the Rays is the energy level? They're winning because they're "pulling the same way?" I dunno. I sort of figured that the reason the Rays won was because, well, they have damn good players.
But that quote shows Riggleman's view on managing: if he can just pull the right levers and push the right buttons, things are going to click. It's as if he thinks he could enter his 1992 Ford Taurus into a NASCAR race, and win it, so long as he had the right attitude and steered it properly.
Does he really believe that if he gives the right speech, and makes the right double-switch, that the team's going to start winning?
And as an aside, which of his players are putting personal stats ahead of the team? And, if you think about it, isn't having players want to get lots of hits, mash lots of homers, and drive in a bunch of runs, basically a good thing?
It doesn't seem that Jim Riggleman is on the hot seat. And given that the team's likely to struggle next season without Stephen Strasburg, bringing in a new manager to absorb a season of losing might not make the most sense. But if the team DID want to go in a different direction, it might not be a bad thing. And it certainly wouldn't be an expensive proposition.