Late last night, between the end of a miserable series in Detroit and a the start of a series in Milwaukee (all while the Braves have snapped off seven in a row) the Washington Nationals announced an extension for General Manager MIke Rizzo as well as a promotion to President of all Baseball Operations. Essentially, Mike Rizzo makes all decisions now with regards to how things are done at Nats park (barring interference by the Lerners, who seem to have butted out for the most part.)
I’m a big fan of this move, and so are many others. Rizzo has been with the team since 2006 (as Assistant GM) and the full GM in 2009. Comparing this team on the field, with all its disappointment, it is leaps and bounds better than any team under the Bowden era, or the beginning of his tenure. The Nationals started in DC worse off than an expansion team as their best prospects and players were routinely dealt to other cities when MLB was running the franchise. To say the cupboard was bare is an understatement.
Since then the team has routinely improved on both the major and minor league fields by leaps and bounds. Things can always go better, and he hasn’t done a perfect job-but he’s done as well as just about anyone else in the Major Leagues-and he started with a lot less.
Some people question the timing of the move-given the team’s recent slide. Personally, I think that’s sort of a stupid thing to complain about. The guy has done a very good job, even with the problems of this year, and to suddenly focus on it being tone-deaf is to focus more on being placated as a fan than it is to focus on what is best for the baseball team.
I am reminded of an incident with the football team I root for signing a head coach to an extension in week 7, but the team decided to hold on to the announcement (despite many rumors it had happened) expecting to announce it after the 5-2 team won its 6th game. The Buffalo Bills went 1-7 over the next eight weeks of the season and announced the extension of Dick Jauron (which everyone knew about) when the team was 6 and 9.
I don’t think Mike Rizzo is Dick Jauron. I do think that, barring a miraculous run which isn’t likely to happen, there was going to be no perfect time for this announcement this year. The people who want to complain about the team and use Mike Rizzo as a whipping boy were going to do that today, in a month, or next Spring Training. I think signing the extension now but holding off until it “played better” would have only courted disaster.
The story of this season’s disappointments will be part of the Mike Rizzo legacy, no doubt. And they should be-the failings on the field go up through the manager to the front office, and the buck now stops with him. Still-the tapestry of this team is much richer since he has taken over. It takes time to turn around aircraft carriers and baseball teams. In a time of relative disappointment (and I say relative because I remember what the really dark days were like), this move is a vote of confidence in the man who has put together the best DC ball club since Clark Griffith.
Being anything less than happy about that makes no sense.