|Monday, October 4
Cubs fire Riggleman after disappointing year
CHICAGO -- Jim Riggleman stood in street clothes, sipping a soda at the far end of the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse, calmly answering questions and accepting responsibility for a season that cost him his job.
Riggleman's five-year run as manager ended Monday. He was fired, one day after the end of a horrendous season that saw the Cubs go from 90 wins and the playoffs to 95 losses and last place in the National League Central.
But he made no excuses, he pointed no fingers, he displayed no bitterness shortly after general manager Ed Lynch gave him the news.
"It comes down to you've got to win ballgames and we didn't win enough," Riggleman said. "I've got nobody to blame. I think everybody has to be accountable. I'm accountable and this is the result of wins and losses."
Not even Sammy Sosa's 63 homers could save the Cubs, who finished 67-95, the second worst record in the National League and the team's worst since 1980, not counting the strike years of 1981 and 1994.
Riggleman had a 374-419 record with the Cubs, including two 90-game losers and one 90-game winner in the last three seasons.
"We didn't get it done," Riggleman said. "I guarantee you there were a lot of people around baseball who probably said, 'How in the hell has that guy kept his job as many games as he's lost?' "
Riggleman, who managed two seasons in San Diego before arriving in Chicago, couldn't stop a slide that began in early June when the Cubs were nine games over .500 and in second place in the NL Central. Chicago won only 26 of 77 games after the All-Star break.
There were injuries, there was bad pitching, there were poor performances all around for a team that began the season with a $60 million payroll.
"We underachieved as a team. The numbers don't lie," said Lynch, who decided to fire Riggleman about a week ago.
"I'm not going to point fingers at Jim Riggleman. Sometimes it is necessary to change the perception or attitude or the direction of the club down in the clubhouse. And that's what I'm trying to do," Lynch said.
"I deserve a lot of the blame for what has happened here, and I accept that."
The Cubs offered Riggleman, 46, the chance to work in their minor league operations. He said he would consider it but hopes to manage again.
"I'd love to manage," he said. "If a good opportunity comes up, I would jump at it. I had a good opportunity here, and it didn't work out."
First baseman Mark Grace went to Wrigley Field on Monday to say goodbye to Riggleman.
"It's not his fault or the staff's. It's the guys between the lines, from Sammy to myself to the 25th guy," Grace said. "We failed him."
The team also fired four coaches and said Hall of Famer and ex-Cub Billy Williams, the bench coach with Riggleman, will be interviewed for the manager's job.
Chicago's starting rotation that was a big part of the success a year ago fell apart in 1999, starting in spring training when Rookie of the Year Kerry Wood blew out his elbow. Steve Trachsel, a 15-game winner, became an 18-game loser in 1999; and staff ace Kevin Tapani, who won 19 games a year ago, was hit by injuries, finishing the season on the disabled list with a 6-12 record.
And veteran players who helped the Cubs to the playoffs in 1998 couldn't match their performances of a season ago -- namely Lance Johnson, Mickey Morandini and Gary Gaetti. For the second straight season, Jeff Blauser was a non-factor.
Riggleman said he contributed to personnel decisions and accepted his role in bringing back the veterans who faded.
"I probably did evaluating with my heart rather than my brain over last winter," Riggleman said.
"We knew everybody wasn't going to come back and have a big year, but we didn't know which ones weren't, so we pretty much brought them all back. ... It just wasn't there anymore."
Also fired were pitching coach Marty DeMerritt, third base coach Tom Gamboa and first base coach Dan Radison, although the Cubs said they would be considered for positions after a new manager is hired. Bullpen coach Dave Bialas also was fired but will be offered another position. Hitting coach Jeff Pentland will be retained.
Counting Joe Altobelli, who managed one game, Riggleman was the Cubs' sixth manager in the 1990s.