OPINION: As all of us fans know, this year has stunk for the Nats in terms of winning baseball. There have been some bright spots here and there, like the potential Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray have shown, and Luis Garcia coming back up to the Majors — guns blazing. Juan Soto hasn’t been the typical other-worldy hitter he has been in the past, but his WRC+ (as of 6/21/22) is still +127, and he still has a very good looking Baseball Savant page. But besides the players on the field, the Nats have some decisions to make regarding manager Dave Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo in terms of their contracts this winter. With the Lerner ownership group exploring a possible sale of the Nats, the future is extremely unclear right now.
Multiple sources have stated that this year is the final guaranteed year of both Martinez and Rizzo’s contracts. After this year, the Lerners’ have the option to buy them out and thus find new faces to lead this organization into the future. Now, why would they fire any of the two if not both? With Rizzo having been with the team since 2006, and the General Manager since 2009, why would they fire him? Why would they get rid of Davey Martinez, one of the key pieces that helped the 2019 Nats turn from 19-31 to World Series Champions? There are valid reasons for the departure of both of them, and in my opinion, I would not see an issue with both of them being gone after this year, and here’s why.
Let’s start with Davey, which would be an easier firing for Nats fans to compartmentalize and easier to move on from. Davey has had a career 290-326 record as the Nats manager (as of 6/21/22). His lone two winning seasons out of his five so far were a measly 82-80 record in 2018 (more to come on that), and the 93-69 record in 2019 where they famously started 19-31 and went on to win the World Series. Since then, they’ve put up 26-34, 65-97, and 24-46 records at the time that I’m writing this. You want to throw out the “world series hangover” excuse in an already busted and jacked up 2020 season to comprehend the 26-34, fine, have that. But those who have watched the games since 2020 have seen how abysmal Davey has been as manager. With his indecisions on the lineups, who he’s starting everyday, and underwhelming bullpen uses, I think enough is enough. Along with that, the consistency over the past 3 years to be playing old washed up veterans like Alcides Escobar, Asdrubal Caberea, Starlin Castro, and Gerardo Parra instead of getting the young guys like Carter Kieboom (yes, I know he is injured right now) and Luis Garcia notably more at-bats in obvious years we should be developing players. It will also be interesting to see what they do with Victor Robles come the trade deadline. Lane Thomas should be an everyday player for this team, as he has actually shown potential with the bat. He does seem to be a streaky hitter so far, but compared to Victor he’s miles better. According to what the team puts out there in the lineup everyday, they seem to be thinking that rotating Yadiel Hernandez, Victor Robles, and Lane Thomas in the outfield when Robles is by far worse than the other two still irritates me. The pitching staff has also been horrific since 2019 as well, and in Davey’s defense, you can’t blame the injuries to Stephen Strasburg and the absolute blow up of Patrick Corbin on him. However, Davey giving Sam Clay 45 innings in 2021 and Austin Voth 57.1 innings with their combined 5.45 ERA for the year, I mean come on. Thankfully the Austin Voth experiment ended this year, but Davey still isn’t great at bullpen management. When he can’t rely on a workhorse closer like Sean Doolittle in his first stint with the nats, and 2020 Trevor Rainey, it’s and absolute disaster.
I said there was more to come on the 2018 year, and here it is. Like I said, that team went 82-80. Now, read this list of names on this team and tell me if this is an 82 win team:
- Bryce Harper
- Juan Soto
- Trea Turner
- Anthony Rendon
- Ryan Zimmerman
- Adam Eaton
- Daniel Murphy
- Howie Kendrick
- Matt Adams
- Max Scherzer
- Stephen Strasburg
- Sean Doolittle
- Matt Grace (hear me out, he has a 2.87 ERA and 149 ERA+ this year)
- Justin Miller
- Wander Suero
- Shawn Kelly
- Greg Holland
This team should’ve been nowhere near 82 wins, and more likely should’ve been around 92 wins. The worst hitter out of those names I mentioned by OPS+? Trea Turner at 100. The worst pitcher out of those names by ERA+? Stephen Strasburg at 114. The more I look into this team the more annoyed I am at the severe under-performance. How does this relate to Davey? Davey inherited a 97 win team the past year with Dusty Baker at the helm, and did 15 games worse in his first year. The team was practically the same, the notable losses were Jayson Werth, who was a below average hitter, and Gio Gonzalez on the mound. These two losses should not equate to 15 games worse on the field, and quite frankly, should’ve not made that much of a difference at all. And when the team is pretty close to the same in back to back years, then it falls on your manager. I don’t care that it was his first year as a manager, the talent that was completely wasted that year is ridiculous, there was so much potential with that roster that was thrown away. I don’t know what happened in 2019, and you’re for damn sure I’m extremely happy that it did, but that 74-38 stretch at the end of the year is looking more and more like a fluke the longer I see this team play with Davey at the helm. It’s time to move on.
Mike Rizzo is the tough one in this scenario. I can see both sides of the arguments whether to keep him or not. Here’s my take on why it might be time to clean house. First, the Lerner’s are going to sell, and with new ownership, they’re probably gonna want their own GM. Second, we can’t have nostalgia and personal bias towards Rizzo get in the way of these recent years. His inability to sign our big position player stars but then use all of the money on pitching has crippled this team. The Scherzer contract is going to carry him in terms of his ability to sign big name players, but look at the others and what they’ve done since Rizzo has signed them? Again, I’m sort of throwing Strasburg out of the equation here, but it is to note that he did have injury problems in the past before the 7 year $245 million extension he got, but again, I’ll give Rizzo the benefit of the doubt on Stras.
Here are his biggest position player free agent signings: Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, and Matt Wieters. Combined these players were signed for $242 million. Just the Stephen Strasburg contract by itself is larger than all of these combined. Now we have the biggest pitchers he’s signed: Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg, Rafael Soriano, and Will Harris (yeah he’s still on the team. remember him?). Combined they were signed for $647 million. Three pitchers who only start 1 out of every 5 days and 2 pitchers who play around 60 games a year for that much money. That’s crazy, and should not be applauded just because of the Scherzer contract. Sure, he got the world series in 2019, and sure, I would do everything exactly the same if there was a redo before 2019, but at what cost? The Strasburg and Corbin contracts are going to cripple us for the rest of the time they’re contracts are with us, and we’re still paying Szherzer, Rafael Soriano, and Brad Hand in deferred money!
With position players, Rizzo has relied way to heavily on the one year deals on guys who could be “bounce back” candidates or just old average players such as Eric Thames, Ehire Adrianza, Alcedias Escobar, Gerrardo Parra, Brock Holt, Emilio Bonafacio, Jordy Mercer, Hernan Perez, and Alex Avila. All of this is making the teams Juan Soto situation to be shaping out like what happened to Bryce Harper, where Rizzo thinks they can sign him, don’t extend him at all before his contract ends, don’t trade him at the deadline thinking they can lowball him with deferred money so he will stay, then he leaves and the Nats will look like idiots once again. Harper wanted to come back and stay in DC, but the inability to sign our big name, homegrown superstar position players will always haunt us. Harper and Rendon were the first, and Soto is going to be the next.
Rizzo is also not as good at drafting as people think. First off, it’s really hard to miss on two straight #1 overall picks, but to his defense he did draft two absolute superstars in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. But other than that, the best player he’s drafted in the first round is Lucas Giolito? The guy we traded for Adam Eaton? Is it Erick Fedde? He could make up for this depending on how Cade Cavalli and Brady House develop, so I could very much end up eating my words on this take, but I will stick with it. Rizzo also drafted Alex Meyer, Seth Romero, Mason Denaburg, and Jackson Rutledge in the first round. All, you guessed it, pitchers. Romero was horrific in the MLB and Meyer didn’t even play for the Nats in the MLB (career 92 ERA+ in 3 seasons). Now Denaburg and Rutledge do still have some potential, but they are always injured and before we know it it’s gonna be too late for them. Overall, Rizzo isn’t some masterclass drafter that we can’t afford to lose.
With Davey’s one year outlier, and Rizzo’s inability to re-sign the guys who play everyday, I wouldn’t have any problem with a clean house going into either next year or into the new ownership. We can’t let the personal bias of most Nats fans liking Rizzo keep him from the fact that he simply hasn’t been that good at his job lately, and maybe it is time for a change of scenery. Washington DC isn’t some small market, and for this team 20th in payroll in 2022 at $129 million, this team should be near the top 10 in payroll for the market we are in in my opinion. It is time for a new era for Washington Nationals baseball, and it should be one without the likes of Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo.