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.