Oct 01, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on the field before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Why Nationals Fans Should Care About Heat GM Rizzo Is Taking

Today, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote a scathing piece on how other MLB general managers feel about Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and his, shall we say, confidence, in shutting down Stephen Strasburg saying that they will be back and this is best long term.

Regardless on how you feel about the Strasburg decision and the mess that is sure to come unless the Nationals win the World Series, this is a very significant deal and cannot just be brushed aside. General Managers use relationships to do several things. They make trades, they make deals, they have their favorites and having favorites can pay off in the long run. When a team needs to trade someone, they call their friends first. When a team wants to negotiate in a trade, they use information from other teams. Being hated by other teams can force you to swim uphill when constructing your team.

No one can deny that Mike Rizzo is a major reason the Nationals are in this position. However, it is concerning that he has angered other GMs. Now, maybe other GMs are just jealous and this will die down. But given some of the comments, I think that this is not likely to blow over and he may face consequences down the road. Adam Kilgore wrote recently that Rizzo only has one more guaranteed year on his contract followed by two team options.

This is a big deal that ownership needs to decide on. Do they risk having an unpopular GM who has shown more than enough so far but may have angered colleagues? How about a GM that may have angered veteran players who may have lost their best shot at a World Series in 2012? This is a decision that had many layers. Sure, fans are likely to forgive Rizzo for punting 2012 giving them more years of Strasburg and – hopefully – more playoff chances in the future. Players may not be so willing to forgive and general managers don’t deal well with someone trying to one-up them. And, by doing something so against the grain, Rizzo is trying something like that. Of course, I am sure that Billy Beane once had to deal with this, especially once Moneyball (the book) was announced. He seems to still be doing alright.

So, the Nationals may be playing their final game of 2012 today, and obviously it is not even a sure thing that even a healthy Strasburg would have helped them out in this series against the Cardinals. But the decision their general manager made could last quite a bit longer.

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Tags: Mike Rizzo Washington Nationals

  • Halma21

    I’m not sure where this piece is going with comments like “This is a big deal that ownership needs to decide on. Do they risk having an unpopular GM who has shown more than enough so far but may have angered colleagues?” Watching the last 2 games has been a major punch to the gut – I’m disappointed by the Nats performance in the NLDS, but where is this coming from? Rizzo took the smodering ruins of a franchise – a francise that MLB wanted to just go away, that suffered from time under the watch of Omar Minaya and Jim Bowden. There was little talent on the club and very little in the minors. In just a few years Rizzo has built the Nats into a team with the best record in baseball and an organization with some legit talent in the minor league pipeline. A couple of years ago, as a Nats fan, I was keeping my fingers crossed about guys like Elijah Dukes and Shawn Hill – now look at the young talent on this team.
    To even suggest there may be doubts about Rizzo’s future with the Nats because a couple of GMs don’t like him is downright silly. It wasn’t easy to shut down Strasburg, but Rizzo had a clear plan that he articulated before the season. I think he should be applauded for carefully working this out and sticking to a plan that promotes the long-term health of a potentially special talent in spite of the temptations. Yes – I would love to see Srasburg pitch for the Nats in the playoffs, and I hope to see it happen several times in the next couple of years, but there is no guarantee he wouldn’t have the same sets of nerves that out entire staff has – especially with the inconsistent way he pitched in September – and it isn’t one guy that’s killing us – it’s anyone on the pitching staff not named Clippard or Storen. And while I respect Strasburg’s bat, I don’t know that his pesence helps knock in any of the 30 baserunners we’ve stranded in the series so far.
    I hope Detwiler extends our season, and Gio gets a chance to show what he can really do in Game 5.
    Go Nats!

    • Jared Book

      The issues with Strasburg not pitching has nothing to do with the actual result of the NLDS. I don’t personally agree with how they handled him but I am not blaming the Game 2 and 3 results on the fact Strasburg didn’t pitch.

      But, having a GM that goes against the grain means that some other GMs just won’t be as willing to work with him. It is similar to Billy Beane in Oakland. People thought his theories were showing up other GMs and wanted him to fail. You can see that ownership obviously stuck with him and it worked. I expect Washington to do the same thing with Rizzo. But in the short term, it may affect certain things. GMs have gone from being traditional to being more new-age, so it may only be the “old school” that is giving those anonymous quotes.

      In the long term will it affect the Nats? No. It won’t affect the way they draft and build their team. I was sure to say that Rizzo’s merits are unmistakable and maybe I overstated the decision ownership needs to make. He will probably sign an extension this winter for all I know.

  • Darlene Langley

    I don’t understand the connection between the Rizzo shutdown decision and other GM’s “not liking” Rizzo because of the decision. Other GM’s may disagree with the decision, but I don’t understand why that would mean it makes them angry or that they wouldn’t want to make trades with Rizzo because of it. If they trade a player to the Nats, what do they care what the Nats do with that player afterward?

    • Jared Book


      General managers tend to call their friends when they have a player they want to trade either because they are out of options or to give the player a fresh start. I’m not saying that all GMs like each other – they don’t. And perhaps these comments came from people who already didn’t like him and won’t change a thing. (This is actually a quite likely scenario).

      When it comes to giving a team that last call to say “someone has beat your offer” they may not make that call to someone they don’t like. That’s all I was saying.