CHICAGO -- Bobby Valentine has emerged as a top candidate to manage the Washington Nationals, Mike Rizzo, the team's general manager, told MLB.com on Tuesday. An announcement is expected to come on Friday, two days after the annual GM Meetings here break up. Rizzo said that Jim Riggleman, who took over for Manny Acta at the All-Star break, is also among the finalists for the job. The Nationals are the last Major League Baseball team to fill its vacant managerial position.
"We've done our due diligence and we've gone through a process," said Rizzo, who took over as Nationals acting GM when Jim Bowden resigned during Spring Training and was formally given the job in August. "We've talked to a lot of people about the manager's job. We've closed it down to a select couple of people." Rizzo then confirmed that Valentine and Riggleman were among the "select couple of people," who remain as finalists for the job. Rizzo added that he has great admiration and respect for both men. Valentine's tenure in Japan ended at the conclusion of the season and he joined ESPN as an analyst with an out clause from that position if he's able to procure a managerial job. Valentine, the former skipper of the Rangers and Mets, managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League for six seasons. Valentine somewhat rancorously departed the Mets in 2002 and, after a year of on-air commentary, returned to Chiba where he managed one season in 1995, between his stints in Texas and New York. Though Valentine worked thousands of miles and time zones away, his exploits were well-chronicled. At the beginning of the season, Chiba management told him they would not renew his $3.9 million contract, making him a prime candidate for a big league comeback. He boasts a National League pennant-winner in 2000 with the Mets and a .510 winning percentage (1,117-1,072) in 15 seasons. For Chiba Lotte, Valentine also enjoyed wild success, winning the 2005 Japan Series, the first time the Marines had accomplished that in 31 years. Valentine is widely respected as having a gifted intellect and a keen baseball mind. His interests go beyond the sport, which makes him somewhat of anomaly among the traditional baseball set. And most of all he has a hunger to learn, a characteristic that was exhibited in his stints as manager of Chiba Lotte. After all, he taught himself to read, write and converse in Japanese, a very difficult language. "He's one of the most intelligent baseball men I've ever met," said Ron Darling, who pitched for the Mets when Valentine was the third base coach and is now a team broadcaster. "For that alone he deserves to be back in the Major Leagues." Riggleman took over the club from Acta on July 16 when its record was 26-61. Under Riggleman, the Nationals were 33-42, finishing with 103 losses, the third-worst season in the 41-year history of the Montreal/Washington franchise. He has managed seven full seasons for the Padres and Cubs, parts of three seasons -- including the last two for the Mariners and Nationals -- and has a 555-694 record, with one playoff appearance in 1998 as manager of the Cubs. That 90-73 record accounts for his only winning season.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.