In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on June 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

Only one thing truly matters in the Jim Riggleman saga – how he feels when looking at the “man in the glass.”

Sure, it was rash to quit when his Nationals had vaulted to third place in the NL East after winning 11 of 12. Had his team sustained that pace, Riggleman could have written his contract for 2012 and beyond. Of course it was insulting and senseless to give GM Mike Rizzo a 24-hour ultimatum regarding a “meeting.” And the ordeal was panic-driven for him to flee his post three months shy of getting the answer he so craved.

Nobody understands or respects quitters, especially in the macho world of sports. Most consider them weak. Nats’ pitcher Drew Storen offered, “I understand he needs to take care of himself.” Even his family and friends can’t be counted on as a support system. Each will think, “We love you dad but what were you thinking?”

But none of that matters. All that does is how Riggleman feels since his decision. He’s the one that couldn’t sleep, eat or look himself in the mirror. He’s the one who felt cold shoulders in the locker room due to a “short leash from management. Clearly, it bothered him. No one understands this unless he has walked away from a job – especially a well-publicized one with a sizable paycheck.

At least one of his players understood. Said Jerry Hairston, Jr. ”It’s one of those things where I never want to put myself in somebody else’s shoes. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.” And he’s right.

For Riggleman to claim, “I’m 58 and that’s too old to be disrespected” is whining – but not to Riggleman. He wasn’t or isn’t the only sports official to work on a 1-year contract. Lots have and would take his deal tomorrow for the chance at the “big-time.” But standing on principal, he added, “In my heart, it (leaving) is the right thing to do.”

Riggleman was peeved. Felt betrayed. Angry. Insulted. Belittled. Embarrassed. Probably sick to his stomach. Who knows if his health was suffering? Ivory-tower and glass-house dwellers say he lacked mental toughness. Rizzo claimed his manager was selfish. Others may suggest the ex-manager seek counseling for an “anger problem.”

And all of them are right. But none walk in Riggleman’s shoes. I know because I have, though my footprints were smaller.

I felt as frustrated as did Riggleman in a job I once held in sports 20 years ago. A 3-year rift with my boss caused me so much angst, I ended up in the emergency room one night. The next day, I resigned.

The only way to re-claim my self esteem – and health – was to quit. Few understood. I lost “friends in the business” who refused to return phone calls when I wanted “back in” the field. I was labeled a quitter and that was my problem – just like Riggleman will learn once his frustration ebbs and he yearns to again, manage a ball club. The red, curly ‘W’ on his chest has morphed into a script, scarlet ‘A.’

When all the columns cease on the Riggleman story, the only thing that matters is the man’s peace of mind. It’s up to Riggleman to find a career “plan B.” In his case, that shouldn’t be hard, considering his close contacts in the bigs, namely Bruce Bochy, the Padres manager.

With his sudden resignation on everyone’s radar screen, Riggleman may never again make out a lineup card. But you may see him flashing signs in a third-base coaching box.

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