Yesterday, the Reds relieved both manager Bryan Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins of their respective jobs from the Cincinnati Reds. It was a somewhat surprising move, if inevitable for a team that’s started out 3-15 to begin the 2018 campaign.
It’s also a move that isn’t likely to accomplish a whole hell-of-a-lot of anything, unless you’re one of the nineteen-hundred-thousand Facebook commenters that tends to believe everything bad that happened was Bryan Price’s fault.
Some of it was, to be sure. A lot of it wasn’t, though. Regardless, when the team sputters and sputters this badly, someone is bound to lay on the grenade (or, maybe better put, be thrown on top of it). And today, that someone(s) was Bryan and Mack.
Somebody has to take the job managing this team, though, and that brings all of us to Jim Riggleman.
Riggleman is no stranger to the Reds or Reds fans. He managed the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 2012 (featuring future 2018 Reds Billy Hamilton and Tucker Barnhart, along with Didi Gregorius, Tony Cingrani, Daniel Corcino, Hank Rodriguez, and Donald Lutz) to a 68-70 record in the Wahoo’s first year of existence.
After that season, Riggleman was named manager of the Louisville Bats, where he’d stick around for two seasons. He’d manage the Reds Triple-A club to identical 75 loss seasons (though they seemed to have played one extra game in 2013, meaning they had 69 nice wins that season versus 68 the next).
And, I’d like to make a joke here somewhere about Riggleman failing up in the Reds organization, but when you look at both of those 2013 and 2014 Louisville Bats rosters... yikes. The Pythagorean W-L had them 12 games LOWER than what happened, so I guess at that point you take it and run.
He did, right into the Reds clubhouse. Riggleman was named 3B coach for the Reds for the 2015 season, and he’s essentially been Bryan Price’s right hand man ever since.
We know how that has turned out. But Jim Riggleman has been in this game since long before he stepped foot into the Reds organization. After his playing days were over as a minor leaguer in the early-80s, he started managing in the Cardinals organization back in 1983, and managed minor league teams from then until getting a shot at the Major Leagues in 1992.
Riggleman actually got his start late in the 1992 season after the Padres fired Greg Riddoch with only 12 games left in the season.
Speaking of tanking (which, I guess we are right now when considering the Reds and their new manager), Riggleman oversaw a Padres team in 1993 that lost 101 games. And it was absolutely what the Padres intended to do that season. Back in the 90s, before Tom Werner was better known for helping the Boston Red Sox achieve greatness they hadn’t achieved since the early 1900s, he was known for buying the San Diego Padres, and, well, running them into the ground.
The Hardball Times tells a better story than I ever could, but the idea is that Riggleman took over a team that willingly shelled out players like Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield to their opponents for basically nothing in return (though they did end up with Trevor Hoffman). In case any Reds fan was wondering what “shedding payroll, winning be damned” looked like, they can talk to their favorite team’s new skipper.
Riggleman manged the Padres through the 1994 strike season.
Riggleman took over the Cubs in 1995 and stayed their manager through 1999. The 1995 season was a winning one for the Cubs, though still strike shortened. Riggleman’s Cubs would fall just short of a wild-card birth, the first of its kind, to the Colorado Rockies.
1996 and 1997 were lost for the Cubs until Riggleman finally found success as manager in 1998. Which means, of course, he had a front row seat to the Home Run Chase as it happened. Sammy Sosa of course finished behind Mark McGuire in the Chase, but the Cubs won 90 games and reached the post-season, the first of any Riggleman manged team.
They were swept out of the playoffs by the Braves, Sammy Sosa be damned. The 1999 would have none of the same successes, and Riggleman was dismissed.
Read this ESPN story and then try and draw a line from what he said then that Bryan Price would say now. It’s kind of eerie, really.
Jim actually spent an unremarkable time as interim manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2008, but took over there after only being the bench coach at the start of the season and it all went predictably poorly.
He took his hood and sickle to the Nationals in 2009 and began as bench coach for that season before taking over for a dismissed Manny Acta in the middle of that season.
And this is the notorious part of Riggleman’s managerial career. He shepherd a seemingly-hapless-but-promising Nationals team to 69-93 record in 2010, and then oversaw the extreme Thom Brennaman voice all-of-a-sudden break-through Nats in 2011 to a 38-37 record... at which point he wanted some guarantees.
Your author assumes he saw once-in-a-lifetime prospects Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper coming down the line and said, yeah, I want to be with that. And after coaching and enduring what he’d seen the previous seasons, he wanted the security to know that he’d get to do it.
He didn’t get any of any of that, of course. And in the midst of multi-digit-game win streak, Riggleman bailed.
It’s chronicled in your mind, but here’s a story from the time that it happened.
Riggleman left, potentially, he career behind. That didn’t happen, of course (hell, the Reds hired him in their organization the next damn season). But by God, he made a stand...
This isn’t all to say that he’s not the guy to see this God awful season forward. He may be the best or the worst, depending on what your perspective is. But he knows a tear down when he sees one; he’s been a part of a lot of them. He can do the interim thing; it’s basically all he’s done.
But he’s not done it with, essentially, a full season to prove.
It’s hard to judge, really. His first job was an impossible one, he second was one that nobody won until 20 years later, and his third, well...
That’s our interim manager.