Word came down today that Fizzleman is losing the interim tag and has been named the permanent manager of the Nationals.
I was just about to post a comparison between Riggleman and Bobby Valentine, the reported "other" final candidate. (Kind of rude for Rizzo to scoop me--where's the love for a fellow Illini, Mike?). But I thought I'd share what I got anyway.
One of my bigger gripes with Riggleman was the Nationals' miserable performance in the running game. The team had a 70% success rate on steal attempts under Interim Jim, the second worst of any manager in baseball this year. That's bad, but compared to Valentine, Riggleman was practically clairvoyant when it came to sending runners. In his time in with the Mets, Valentine's teams had stolen base success rates of 56.7%, 57.4%, 71.1%, 58.9%, 57.9%, and 67.4%. Blech.
Then there were the sacrifices, bunts, and suicide squeezes. Riggleman called 50 sac attempts in 75 games, a 108-sac pace that made him the third most frequent spoiler of outs in baseball. In New York Valentine, ranked #14, 4, 12, 8, 16, and 6 in sac bunt rate from '97-'02. For an NL team, that's hardly makes him a sac bunt addict, but he also didn't exactly eschew the bunt either.
Riggleman also gives away far too many baserunners. In 75 games, he issued 33 intentional walks. Projected over a full season, that would give him 71.3, three more than Joe Torre's MLB-leading 68. Valentine wasn't much better though, averaging 53.3 IBBs per year and ranking #11, 3, 5, 13, 5, and 5 in the league from '97-'02. Again, for an NL manager he wasn't the worst offender imaginable, but that's still far too many.
Of course, any list of complaints about Jim Riggleman starts with his inability to keep young pitchers out of Birmingham. From Kerry Wood to Jeremi Gonzalez to Jordan Zimmermann to Craig Stammen, young pitchers in Riggleman's care sooner or later find their way to the DL. He hasn't successfully transitioned any prospect--pitcher or position player--from the minors to the big leagues since Joey Hamilton in San Diego in 1994, and he's shown precious few signs of lessons learned.
While in New York, Valentine rarely had a pitcher among the league leaders in pitcher abuse points. He put a swift end to the meat-grinder treatment that ruined the "Generation K" trio of Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher under Dallas Green. For that reason alone, I was rooting for Valentine to get the job over Riggleman.
But that's probably not what the team had in mind when considering him. What Valentine--and Mattingly, for that matter--would have brought is some splash, a bit of name recognition and box-office appeal. But the team wasn't about to make an offer Valentine or Mattingly couldn't refuse--that's not the Nationals' way. And let's face it, neither of these guys were coming to DC unless they got Godfather money.
So for all practical purposes, it was Fizzleman from the start. Oh well. At least we don't have to feel conflicted when it comes time to call for his head. And I give him a year. If he survives in this death march of a job longer than Manny did, then he'll really have achieved something.