Does Jim Riggleman feature in the Nats' future?

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Chico Harlan notes that the Nats have sorted out most of their big issues for 2009: the Dominican Republic signing bonus scandal, Jim Bowden getting fired, Manny Acta getting fired, the draft, signing Strasburg, and making Mike Rizzo permanent.  Now all they have left to do is to figure out if Jim Riggleman gets the “interim” tag taken off his title:

Under Riggleman, the Nats are 18-20. They’ve been streaky. They just wrapped up a disappointing 1-5 homestand. But just to put Washington’s improvement in perspective, the team didn’t win its 18th game under Acta until June 17 — a night when the record improved to 18-46.

It’s a bit premature, I know. But I’ll ask anyway.

Chico “asks” whether Riggleman should be brought back in poll form.  I’ll opine: nah.  Nothing personal against Riggleman, but the improvement since he was hired is likely more evidence that this is not as terrible a Nats team as it appeared under Manny Acta than it is evidence that Jim Riggleman is a miracle worker. Yes, near-.500 ball is impressive from this group, but can anyone (paging NBC Washington’s Chris Needham!) point out what Riggleman has done that is so special?  Special enough to overlook his historically ho-hum presence on the multiple teams he has managed?  More special than the roster cleaning and restructuring that Rizzo has done to fix what was a horribly-constructed team at the start of the season?

Above all of that is the sense that the Nats really and truly (a) need to make sure they have a manager in place that has a track record of working well with and developing young talent, especially pitching talent; and (b) need to inject some sort of excitement into this team that will motivate people to actually, you know, buy tickets to watch these guys as they get better.

That’s a tough combo.  Usually the big colorful Billy Martin-type managers are guys who don’t do too well with kids because, hey, they don’t have to.  But it’s worth seeking out, and for that reason I think the Nats should offer Riggleman a hearty thank you, a nice coaching job, and look onward into the future with another man at the helm.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?