Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo appeared on MLB Network yesterday. To open the segment, he was asked to give a sales pitch to Shohei Ohtani who is the most discussed potential free agent this off-season.
Here is what Rizzo had to say on Ohtani:
#Nats GM Mike Rizzo gives some insight into the @Nationals' Shohei Ohtani sales pitch on #MLBNow. pic.twitter.com/98WgnnVGTe
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 27, 2017
One takeaway from that video clip was this quote from Rizzo to Ohtani:
“We have a lot of things going for us and the number one thing is we have a great ownership group and a team he could join.”
How many general managers would make their ownership group the #1 thing in a sales pitch? Mike Rizzo did just that. He joined the Washington Nationals to coincide with the Nationals ownership changing hands from Major League Baseball to the Lerner group on July 24, 2006 making Rizzo the first person Ted Lerner would hire and a man who has been there right from the start with the now 92-year-old Mr. Lerner.
“Under new ownership and the leadership of Stan Kasten, I have been given the approval and resources to hire the best and brightest the baseball industry has to offer, and today’s hiring of Mike Rizzo exemplifies this,” said Jim Bowden who was the general manager when the team was sold to the Lerner group. “We could not be more pleased to add Mike to the Nationals’ family. His track record in Arizona is well known and respected throughout baseball.”
Rizzo’s journey began as the Nats’ assistant general manager at the age-of-45 in 2006, and then he moved in 2009 to his current general manager role. In 2013, Mike Rizzo would also receive the title of President of Baseball Operations along with a new contract and a significant raise.
“Upon purchasing the Nationals, Mike Rizzo was our first hire and he has performed brilliantly,” Nats’ owner Ted Lerner said in 2013. “We started with an idea about how baseball teams should be built and he translated it into a reality far faster than many could have imagined. He knows the game, the players, and is a true professional. Under his direct leadership, the Nationals have become one of the most exciting and respected young teams in baseball.”
Since that point in 2013, Mike Rizzo has been doing his job under a contract that expires at the end of the 2018 season. Some members of the media have tried to imply that there is a chasm between ownership and Rizzo. If there was one, Rizzo wouldn’t be touting “ownership” as his #1 reason to come play for the Nats. Rizzo in this MLB Network segment said “we’re good where we are at” and went on to say he worked as an area scout and worked for 21 years on 21 one-year contracts. “The Lerner family and I have great respect for each other and a great relationship”. There you go on that.
The most controversial part of the interview was in a question by Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News and the Yankees beat. Feinsand asked about the process of hiring the Nationals newly minted manager Dave Martinez and “the decision to let go Dusty Baker“. Rizzo only spoke about Davey Martinez. He did not mention Dusty Baker’s name in his response. Most of his comments on Davey Martinez have been discussed many times. Here is a snippet:
“[Davey Martinez] has a great rapport with players. He is going to give us an energy and an analytical kind of savvy. He has been with the two of the most analytically successful organizations in baseball. I think he is going to bring a lot to the ball club to the clubhouse and the field.”
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports asked the Bryce Harper question about his future with the Nats beyond 2018:
“We have a lot of things going for us. Bryce and I are very close. We have a great relationship with the [Boras Corporation]. Bryce was scouted, drafted, signed and developed here in Washington — his home away from home. I think he loves the fanbase and loves the city and I think we have as good of a chance to sign him long-term as anyone in baseball. He’s the type of iconic, historic, type of player who would love to be with the same organization throughout his whole career such as Jeter and that group of guys. I think he wants to be here and we want him here. I think there is a chance for him to make history.”
They then segued into the rest of the outfield depth and Ron Darling of SNY asked particularly about Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Michael Taylor. Rizzo began speaking about Robles:
“Victor has a great upside. Huge skill sets. He is a speed/power combination kind of guy. He can really throw, really run and play great defense. So his future is very very bright.”
Michael Taylor had the best offensive showing in this year’s NLDS. Mike Rizzo had this to say:
“Michael Taylor came on the last couple of years. He got better and better each time and as the season wore on he became a really good player for us and a real factor for us. He was a finalist for the Gold Glove in centerfield and as good a throwing arm as any. He can steal a base when he needs to. When he barrels it up, it stays hit. He can do a lot of things for us.”
Rizzo gave his thoughts on Adam Eaton who is recovering from a knee injury and will be back healthy for the 2018 season.
“Adam Eaton was a sparkplug for us at the beginning of the season. The first month with him and Trea Turner at the top of the lineup was dynamic. He’s a great fundamental defensive player. He can play centerfield and both corners. He’s a top of the order hitter. He’s an on-base percentage guy. Steal a base. Go first to third. He can really really grind out at-bats. He was some energy that we really needed and missed throughout the season if that first month was any indication. We are really looking for some special things from him.”
Rizzo then began to talk more about Bryce Harper as an MVP and perennial All-Star and one of the best players in baseball. He said there was great depth in the outfield and throughout the organization. Rizzo made clear what his main focus is going forward:
“…Put the best product on the field for 2018 and beyond. That’s my focus.”