The Washington Nationals were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball last season. And when the team failed to reach the postseason after being considered World Series favorites heading into Spring Training, it became abundantly clear that changes would have to be made this offseason to get the team back on track for 2016 and beyond. Prior to the offseason, however, it wasn’t clear what exactly those changes would be.
Most assumed that manager Matt Williams would be gone in the offseason, and that assumption was quickly confirmed when the team fired their manager the day after the regular season ended. But for many, firing Williams wasn’t enough. Some believed that more changes were necessary to right the wrongs of 2015, and many Nationals fans and pundits alike even demanded that general manager Mike Rizzo be fired as well.
Fortunately for the team, that did not happen. Rizzo and the Nationals’ ownership fired Williams and the coaching staff and promised to make changes this offseason, but the team would not go as far as firing the man who got them where they are today.
To be clear, Rizzo certainly deserves a part of the blame for the Nationals’ 2015 failures. After all, the acquisition of Jonathan Papelbon proved to be one of the most damaging trade-deadline transactions in recent memory, and Rizzo was unable to acquire any team-improving players at the deadline. Butt Rizzo is the one who built this team from the ground up, and despite a couple of questionable decisions last season, he’s still one of the best general managers in the game.
For a position as all-encompassing and constantly-evolving as the general manager’s office, it’s important to judge success based on the entire body of work instead of just one or two key moments. Rizzo is the one who helped secure young talent such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon in the draft. Rizzo is the one who constantly amazes us with seemingly impossible trades, such as the acquisition of Trea Turner.
Under Rizzo’s leadership, the Nationals have skyrocketed from the bottom of the league to one of baseball’s most prosperous franchises, and those are facts that simply can’t be ignored. Did he make mistakes last season? Absolutely. It’s baseball, and when things go wrong, nobody is blameless. But did he deserve to be fired? Absolutely not. Rizzo has been the heart and soul of this team for years, and the future of the franchise may very well be in his hands.
For the first time since he took over as general manager in 2009, it looked like the Nationals might actually have a motive to fire Rizzo. Today, I’m thankful they didn’t.
- Pablo Roa, Co-Editor
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