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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

La Russa turns down a cold Natty Light

Poor Jim Riggleman, hounded by the specter of Tony La Russa everywhere he goes.

Riggleman had to leave the St. Louis Cardinals organization to get a shot at managing again only to find La Russa still in his way. Yet Riggleman has apparently been successful in his attempt to have the “interim” tag removed from his job as the skipper of the Washington Nationals.

It wasn’t quick or easy as the Nats stretched and strained to reach high up to the top shelf in their exhaustive managerial search, approaching the long-time St. Louis manager to gauge his interest in taking on the woeful National League East club, according to

“La Russa was honored to be considered, but told the Nationals he would retire if he didn’t manage the Cardinals,” a source told the writer.

No offense, but if La Russa wasn’t ready to retire, having to try to instill winning baseball in the Nationals would be enough to drive any man into a rocking chair.

Then again, it didn’t hurt to ask, as the Washingtonians are most familiar with disappointment.

The club finished 59-103 last season, coming off a 102-loss 2008. That is the worst two-year stretch in franchise history that reaches back to the 1969 Montreal Expos, losers of 107 games. The organization has enjoyed exactly one playoff series in 41 years of aggregate .476 baseball.

You can’t blame the Nats for drooling all over themselves over the prospect of pitching guru Dave Duncan working with “draft pick of the decade” Steven Strasburg and the rest of the Nats’ litter. Yet if Duncan was still angry about his lot in life with St. Louis, that shot of Washington consideration may have been all he needed to snap back into reality over just how good he has it in his current situation.

I have nothing specific against the Nats other than their long period of futile efforts on and off the field, though I do find their elongated managerial search disrespectful to the incumbent Riggleman. The former Cardinals minor league player and coach had to endure the same “hanging in limbo” treatment in Seattle one year ago. In that case, the job was given to first-time skipper Don Wakamatsu instead.

It is probably nothing against Riggleman personally, but instead a reflection of the plodding Nationals organization.

Riggleman, who has prior MLB managerial experience with San Diego and Chicago, had returned to the Cardinals in December 2004 and served as their Minor League Field Coordinator until leaving to become Seattle’s bench coach in October 2007.

At the time, the now-57-year-old made it clear his desire was to again manage in the Major Leagues, something he could not accomplish in St. Louis as long as La Russa remained.

Riggleman had spent twelve years playing and coaching in the Cardinals minor league system before becoming the organization’s Director of Player Development in 1988. Whitey Herzog added the former Arkansas manager and to his coaching staff for the White Rat’s final two seasons on the bench, 1989 and 1990.

From there, Riggleman’s travels took him to San Diego and Chicago, where he managed at the major league level for almost seven years, followed by coaching stops with Cleveland and the Dodgers. Including his 33-42 interim stint with the Nats in 2009, Riggleman’s career MLB managerial record is 555-694 (.444).

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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