It's rarely shocking when a manager resigns. Sometimes a manager resigns because he's tired of managing, and sometimes a manager resigns because "I quit" sounds ever so slightly better than "They fired me."
It's shocking, though, when a manager of an up-and-coming team with a winning record quits in the middle of the season, as Jim Riggleman reportedly did Thursday afternoon, immediately after his Washington Nationals completed their series sweep of the Seattle Mariners with a walkoff win.
Why did Riggleman quit? In the end, only he knows. What's interesting and quantifiable, though, is what he's leaving behind.
Jim Riggleman has managed four major-league teams in his career, which is two or three more than you might expect, considering his record. In two-plus seasons in San Diego, Riggleman's Padres won only 38.5 percent of their games. In five years managing the Cubs, Riggleman enjoyed one legitimately good season, two decent seasons, and two awful seasons. He managed the Mariners for half a season, with a 36-54 record. And finally, the Nationals: 69-93 last season, and ... what's that? The Nats are 38-37 this season? And they've won nine of their last 10 games?
Yeah. But 38-37 and a nice 10-game stretch ... those don't necessarily augur great success. Maybe Riggleman's just getting out while the getting's good, with his first winning record since 1998.
Except there are pretty good reasons to think the Nationals' future is even better than their present ...
- Jayson Werth's off to a slow start this season, but he's presumably still a pretty good player and he's signed for infinity.
- Ryan Zimmerman's one of the best players in the National League, and he's locked up through 2013.
- In Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa, they've got budding young starts behind the plate and at second base.
- In John Lannan and especially Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals have two good young starting pitchers.
- Stephen Strasburg's recovery from Tommy John surgery is going well, and he's expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation next spring.
- Bryce Harper, all 18 years old of him, continues to absolutely crush South Atlantic League pitching, and his ETA in the majors is sometime next summer or fall.
About the worst things you can say about the Nationals' future is that 1) they're paying Werth for infinity, and 2) aside from Harper, they don't have many hot prospects. But even there, some of their young minor-league pitchers have established themselves as prospects this season with outstanding numbers.
There aren't any guarantees, particularly in a division that contains the Phillies and the Braves and the Mets (who figure to be tough again, once the ownership mess is sorted out). But If you're a manager today and you could choose any club for the next five seasons, the Nationals might make your Top 10 list.
For much more about Jim Riggleman and the Nationals, please visit Federal Baseball.