Washington's 1-0 victory yesterday did more than just accentuate the shock resulting from Jim Riggleman's decision to resign. It meant that the Nationals were making a managerial change despite a winning record, 38-37. Though not a change of their own volition, it still represents a relative rarity in-season.
Riggleman is the 41st manager to be replaced in-season since the start of the 2001 campaign, and of the previous 40, just four had winning records at the time of the change. For fun, we'll include Jimy Williams as well, whose 2004 Astros were 44-44 when Houston replaced him with Phil Garner.
Considering that Riggleman left over the issue of his 2012 option, it is fair to think he wanted to keep on managing. Does leaving with a winning record augur good future employment prospects for Riggleman? Not necessarily.
The two most recent managers to leave while winning were Mike Hargrove, who resigned as Seattle manager with his 2007 Mariners at 45-33, and Ned Yost, fired with his 2008 Brewers at 83-67. Hargrove's not an ideal comparison, since he decided he didn't want to manage anymore. But Yost landed on his feet, taking over as manager of the Kansas City Royals in May 2010. And unlike Yost, who got his walking papers after getting swept in a four-game set, Riggleman certainly had his team playing well.
The other three managers to lose managerial positions with a .500 record or better are Larry Bowa, Jimy Williams and Jimy Williams. Let's start with the latter two, since it's the same guy. Williams actually knows what it is like to lose a managerial job in-season three times. The first came in 1989 with the Blue Jays, when his team's record then was just 12-24. But in 2001, with his Boston Red Sox at 65-53, Williams got the ax. It certainly didn't help Boston any; the Red Sox stumbled to a 17-26 finish.
Williams then landed a job managing Houston in 2002, leading the Astros to a pair of second-place finishes. But in 2004, with Houstonn at 44-44, Williams got fired again. This time, Houston flourished, making the playoffs under Garner. But this was the last managerial go-around for Williams. He served as Charlie Manuel's bench coach from 2006-2008 in Philadelphia, resigning after the Phillies won the World Series. The multiple stops make Williams a pretty decent comparison for Riggleman.
As for Larry Bowa, he was technically an in-season firing, but at 85-75, his season was essentially over. Bowa's Phillies won at least 80 games in each of the four seasons he was in charge, well over a decade after his failed tenure running the Padres. Bowa never managed again, topping out as a third base coach for Joe Torre with the Dodgers.
What could make for an interesting test regarding Riggleman is how his now-former team fares without him. Charlie Manuel, Bowa's successor, led the Phillies to a ton of postseason success, which reflects poorly on Bowa, player personnel differences aside. In the case of Williams, when his successor in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, faltered, Williams got another managing job. When his successor in Houston, Garner, led the Astros to the playoffs, he didn't.
In other words, it would probably be best for Jim Riggleman to see Washington fade, Marlins-in-June-style, over the remainder of the season. But given the acrimony surrounding his departure, I have a feeling Riggleman wasn't going to root for the Nats anyway.