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.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.