November 14, 2009

Did The Best 'man Win?

This has been a good news/bad news week on the Nats front. Ryan Zimmerman raking in the overdue hardware: good news. Jim Riggleman losing his interim tag: bad news. The Nats looking to upgrade the middle infield: good news. Moving Guz to second and calling that an upgrade: bad news.

In the warm immediate afterglow of Zimmerman's Silver & Gold tour I'm willing to overlook the fact that the Gold Glove is a fatally flawed award too often given to a well-known offensive talent from a medium-to-large market who's not a total butcher with the leather. I'd prefer a genuine acknowledgement that Zimm is a unique defensive talent, but that's the way the game is played. The Silver Slugger? Well, Soriano got one for his 40-40-40 season in 2006, so it must be some measure of offensive prowess. Good on Ryan for coupling his usual defensive brilliance with a bounce-back offensive campaign.

Now, about Riggleman. I said in the last post that I was prepared to rescind my positive commentary on the nascent Kasten-Rizzo regime if Interim Jim got the full-time gig. Upon reflection I'm not prepared to go quite that far... yet, but I'm not happy about the managerial pick. Others have spilled many bytes comparing Jim Riggleman to Bobby Valentine and ultimately coming to a "six of one/half dozen of the other" conclusion. I won't dispute that. My gripe is almost entirely with the selection process. I can't shake the feeling that the dice were loaded for Riggleman from the day he took over as Manny Acta's bench coach.

In my mind the search for a new manager should start with a clean slate. The goal should be to find the best person to manage the 2010 Washington Nationals. In-house candidates are fine, but if you want me to believe that the best man to take the helm is the guy who was second in command of the previous shipwreck you're going to need some pretty substantial supporting evidence. Jim Riggleman's key qualifications seem to be that he's managed before, he knows the personnel and he's willing to work for what the Lerners are willing to pay.

I'll grant that there's something to the prior manager experience argument, just as there is a benefit to knowing the ropes of any job. But managing before isn't synonymous with managing well, or you probably wouldn't be in the market for a new position. Just recycling the same 30 -35 guys over and over more or less guarantees you're never going to uncover new talent.

Knowing the personnel is definitely a plus; Riggleman's already had his learning curve. But again, if that's a major qualification you're pretty much limiting your applicant pool to the bench coach, the field coaches and one or two minor league skippers. Learning new players is something every manager has to do, sometimes on the fly in the heat of a late season pennant race. Don't you want some evidence that your guy has that skill too?

Finally, the $64,000 question. Is Jim Riggleman getting paid more than $64,000 to manage the Nats this year? We'll never know. Both he and his agent, the excellently monikered Burton Rocks, have been sworn to secrecy. C'mon Jim, D.C.'s a company town, everybody knows what everybody makes, so let's have it. We're you really the best man for the job, or just the most readily available?

I suppose it's possible that Steve Jobs' executive assistant is in the best position to take over Apple when he retires. I'll even allow for the slight possibility that Joe Biden is the second most qualified person in the United States to be President. But the idea that the best manager for the 2010 Washington Nationals, better than Bobby V, Eric Wedge, Bob Melvin, Tim Foli and an unknown cast of dozens, just happened to be riding shotgun for Manny Acta the whole time? Sorry, I don't buy it.


Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

This is easier than a drunken sorority girl...

Zimmerman led the NL in UZR, RF, and the majors in assists and total chances. Furthermore, Ryan was honored by the Fielding Bible folks, the cutting-edge statnerds who are going to end the farce that is the Gold Glove. That's particularly significant because they only name one player per position, which means Zimmerman beat out media darlings like David Wright as well as his A.L. counterpart, Evan Longoria.

Anonymous said...

That's particularly significant because they only name one player per position, which means Zimmerman beat out media darlings like David Wright as well as his A.L. counterpart, Evan Longoria.

Well, no. Evan Longoria won the AL Gold Glove award. Gold Gloves are awarded for each league, not MLB overall.

Nate said...

W.U.L. - If I wasn't clear, my complaint wasn't with Zimm winning the Gold Glove, it was with the GG selection process being such a farce. I'd prefer the Fielding Bible award get more press and the Gold Glove less, but that's life.

Anon - We love a good pedantic correction here at NTP, no need to hide behind a cloak of anonymity!

Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

@Nate - Agreed. The Gold Glove has been a joke for quite some time now, almost as much as the MVP has been a de facto - Who's the best guy on a playoff team.

@Anon - The "they" in the sentence you so magnanimously quoted refers to the "Fielding Bible Folks" in the prior sentence. It's a rather common use of a pronoun, but (perhaps you missed it while studying for your GED) thanks again for providing yet another proof of Skitt's Law.