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11/12/09 6:08 PM EST

Nationals appoint Riggleman manager

Interim tag shed as skipper takes helm for Washington

WASHINGTON -- As a kid growing up in the 1950s and '60s, Jim Riggleman was a Senators fan and often went to Griffith Stadium to watch them play.

On Thursday afternoon, Riggleman's dreams came true when the Nationals named him their permanent manager, signing him to a two-year deal, with an option for a third year. The monetary amount of the contract was not disclosed.

The news comes five months after Riggleman was named the interim skipper, replacing Manny Acta.

"You move on and there have been other opportunities that took place, but this has been a dream of mine to land right here," Riggleman said. "This is a team I grew up on -- the Washington Senators. To me, it's still the Nationals/Senators. It's all the same as Washington baseball. It's a dream of a lifetime to grow up watching a ballclub and then end up playing or managing that ballclub. It couldn't be better for me."

Riggleman became interim manager on July 13, the day the All-Star break began. The change sparked improvement, and Washington was 33-42 under Riggleman after it went 26-61 to begin the season. In fact, the club ended the season on a seven-game winning streak.

According to Nats left-hander John Lannan, Riggleman made his mark the day he had his first practice session on July 15, a day before the second half of the season started. Before the session, Riggleman had a team meeting and Lannan sensed there would be a change in attitude.

"He stuck with the fundamentals when we were struggling with the defense," Lannan said. "The bullpen was in shambles and he put everybody in roles. He told them who was going to do what and he put it on the board. It really helped out, too. I'm impressed. He runs a tight ship, and it's going to pay off."

This is Riggleman's fourth managerial stint, after leading the Padres, Cubs and Mariners. He has a 555-694 career record. His best season as a skipper was in 1998, when he guided the Cubs to the playoffs after they won a National League Wild Card tiebreaker over the Giants. The team lost to the Braves in the NL Division Series, 3-0.

It was after a few rounds of interviews with several of the candidates that Rizzo knew that Riggleman was the right person for the job.

"Knowing that Jim was part of the organization and knew the players very well -- knew the strength and weaknesses of what we were doing -- he was on board with the long-term idea and the long-term strategies that I had," Rizzo said. "He went into it as a real candidate for the full-time manager's job. He was the right guy to lead this franchise into the future."

Riggleman beat out candidates such as Bobby Valentine, Bob Melvin and Tim Foli. Valentine ended up being a finalist, but was informed Wednesday that Riggleman had the job.

Rizzo said he came away impressed with his interview with Valentine.

"Bobby Valentine was extremely impressive," Rizzo said. "He was very [vocal] and is baseball knowledgeable. He is an extremely bright person in general. He has great baseball acumen."

Asked if Valentine fell short on anything, Rizzo said, "None whatsoever. He was a very attractive candidate. I just felt he wasn't the right guy for me at this time. I just felt that Jim was the right guy for the job."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.