Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Nats, Riggleman far from the answer

Last week, the Nationals removed the interim tag from Jim Riggleman and made him their permanent manager. It was a move that disappointed some - including this blogger - because names such as Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine were being thrown out as possible candidates.

My first choice? Valentine. He's had success before in the major leagues and, if nothing else, would make the season entertaining. He thought he would be given the job, but GM Mike Rizzo decided to stick with the in-house candidate, Riggleman.

His reasoning was pretty simple: Riggleman knew the team, went 33-42 as their manager, and improved the team's fundamentals.

Well, that's sound logic. I can't really argue with any of that, other than to say that their 33-42 record was more of a result of the team finally hitting its stride and playing to its capabilities. Nyjer Morgan had a big role in that. While Riggleman was manager I was not really impressed with him. He mismanaged the bullpen just about every night and made some comments that really rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't like how he refused to start prospect Ian Desmond; he did, however, become a big Desmond supporter by the end of the season. So, at least he isn't opposed to changing his ways.

I did like some things Riggleman did - he was better than Acta, that much is true - but overall, I was hoping the team would bring in a winner to the organization to change up the losing culture that has already begun to develop. The team got behind Riggleman, though, and I'll trust Mike Rizzo in this move; he hasn't done anything to break my confidence..yet.

Which leads me to my next point: hiring the manager was just the first step to improving the team. The manager is only as good as the players you give him. If Rizzo fails to acquire pitching help and defensive help, Riggleman will fail as a manager. If Rizzo acquires 1-2 quality starters, some solid defensive players, and bullpen help, the Nats could be .500 next year (a big leap, I know).

If I was Rizzo, I target these types of players this offseason: sub-4.50 ERA starters, middle-of-the-road relievers, good defensive middle infielders, a good defensive backup 1B, and a veteran backup catcher who could play 80-90 games.

Really, that isn't that much. Their outfield is essentially set with Willingham-Morgan-Dukes and Maxwell as the primary backup. Willie Harris can also play if needed. On the infield, the team really needs to try to move Cristian Guzman so they can start Desmond full-time and start a guy like Adam Everett or Alex Gonzalez. The last two guys aren't offensive threats, but are quality defensive infielders. I'd like the team to go after a veteran like Mark DeRosa who can start if needed but is a great utility player.

On the mound, the team just needs MLB-quality talent. There just isn't enough there right now. John Lannan is a good pitcher and players like JD Martin, Ross Detwiler, and Craig Stammen are decent young options, but a veteran ace would add so much. As for the bullpen - well, there's just a need for every role.

All in all, the team needs a lot of work. Rizzo has a lot of holes to fill and may or may not have a tight budget to do so. It will be interesting to see who he goes after and who he can actually reel in. He's been talking the talk, now can he walk the walk?

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