Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Really Disagree with Tom Boswell’s column today…


Mike Rizzo takes some incorrect criticism from Boswell today. Photo:

Tom Boswell printed a column today (6/2) in the post (and online here).  It included some severe criticism of the general manager Mike Rizzo, including this quote:

Instead of scouting for players who might help in 2015, he should have been back home hosing down the Nats’ roof as the wildfires approached.

I may agree (somewhat) with his sentiments about the lack of leadership on the team right now, but I categorically disagree with this statement.  The Nats are NOT going to win the world series in 2011, and a few games lost in May fielding a lineup of predominantly players who aren’t even going to be with this team in 2013 is not going to mean squat to the development of this franchise overall.

The BEST place Rizzo needs to be is preparing for a draft where the Nats have 3 of the first 34 picks in a very talented draft, those three picks which could make a huge difference in the outlook of this team in 2013, let alone 2015.  And then he needs to prepare even better for the next few rounds, which can make or break a draft.  First rounders are high-money, high-visibility but its those 2nd-5th rounders (like, for example, Derek Norris, Jordan Zimmermann, or Danny Espinosa in our own system) that can turn your team around.

Sorry Boswell, I really disagreed with this column’s premise.

Written by Todd Boss

June 2nd, 2011 at 10:04 am

Posted in Nats in General

11 Responses to 'Really Disagree with Tom Boswell’s column today…'

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  1. There you go, double posting again. :)
    Drafting and playing development in the minors are Rizzo’s strength. At the major league level, he’s pretty green and, hopefully learning on the job.
    I agree with your opinion on the Lerners present day. Making money is more important than winning. I’m pretty sure this will be a similiar situation as the Irsays in Baltimore/Indianapolis & the Wirtz’s in Chicago. While the Dad was alive, they were never going to win, but almost immediately after the patriarch dies, the son takes over and the team starts winning big time.
    Mark Lerner loves baseball and the Nats; as soon as he’s in charge, expect much better things.

    Mark L

    2 Jun 11 at 11:05 am

  2. This is it!! The season in the next 11 games. Last year, the swing through the west was a disaster that wan neverrecoverable. This year will give us a great idea of what this team is about. Can this team gel and win and build up a foundation. This year the pitching is better and is going to only get better. Check out the Peacock, Myers, Perez, Wang. The defense is better. Now it’s the offense. It will all happen in the middle of the night when no one is watching.


    2 Jun 11 at 12:09 pm

  3. MarkL – I could not agree more.

    A native of Indianapolis, I saw the Irsay transformation first hand. The son turned out to be absolutely nothing like the father. Jim hires good people, pays them well, and then lets them do their jobs. He pays to keep good players. He’s patient, reasonable, and a genuinely likable guy. In other words, he’s everything that his father was not.

    I think that Mark Lerner is primed to be a great MLB owner. Let’s hope so!


    2 Jun 11 at 2:07 pm

  4. What Boz’s column really reflects is how much Boz misses Stan Kasten. I don’t know that many would feel the same way.

    But he is right in saying that there is a vacuum of visible leadership–just as you, Todd, are right in saying that Rizzo should not be the one expected to fill it. What is needed is an ownership presence like that of Ted Leonsis–there to exercise general supervision and be a focal point, but not to micromanage. Ted Lerner can’t or won’t do that, and Mark perhaps feels it is not his place while his father is alive; here’s hoping other posters are correct and that will eventually change.

    Steven J. Berke

    2 Jun 11 at 3:04 pm

  5. Todd – while i agree with your point that the players drafted next will have more long term impact on the Nats’ future than the games played, not sure that I agree with how you see Rizzo’s role. Rizzo needs to have a staff that he trusts to do the scouting and evaluations, not feel like he is going to do it himself. For two reasons: he risks spreading himself too thin, and second, he will hurt his ability to attract quality staff by not delegating to them enough authority.

    How many GMs spent the last two weeks on the road scouting? Not many, I bet. Sure, maybe to just see a few players to give input ino the first selection, but beyond that, the SD and his staff takes over. I get the sense Rizzo stays very involved beyond that.


    2 Jun 11 at 5:35 pm

  6. Well, no, I don’t think Rizzo’s role as GM is to be the head scout. Of course not. But I also don’t have a problem with Rizzo hitting the road for a week prior to a draft where the team is probably going to commit $15M dollars or so. That’s just good business.

    Frankly, if the front office falls apart because Rizzo is gone for a week, then there’s bigger problems than Rizzo potentially spreading himself too thin. You mean to tell me these guys can’t make the baseball operations decisions on their own for a week in the middle of June? What decisions did they have to make in that time? A couple of players moves, perhaps sign some invoices? There’s no contract negotiations going on, no salary issues, no promotional concepts to ferret out. This period just prior to the draft is arguably the easiest time a GM/baseball front office has all year.

    For me, the future of this team is in its player development. Nothing else is as important. Modern baseball teams are built through the draft and through player development. Its that simple. Unless you’re the Yankees and can spend $200M on a roster full of aging free agents to win 90 games, you have to develop. So I don’t have a problem with Rizzo going out there and seeing the players that we’re considering with his own eyes.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jun 11 at 6:09 pm

  7. I don’t either, and there weren’t any decisions to be made, but things were spiraling downward and it looked like the clubhouse was fraying a bit. I think that is a good time for a GM to be visible, vocal and redirect some media attention away from the players onto himself. In today’s media-driven world, shielding the players when it gets a little hot is generally a positive, imo. If the manager was more a Torre or TLR type, there would be no need. But here, it would have helped.

    A little, anyway. You aren’t wrong, i am just saying that I think Rizzo gets a little too comfortable in his old hat, and needs to realize that a GM has some other duties too sometimes. So get on the plane to scout, fine, but also cut it short sometimes too.


    2 Jun 11 at 8:16 pm

  8. Here’s a question: do you think the players care who the GM or the owner of a team is? I mean, on a day to day basis does it really matter if an owner (like Wilpon or McCourt) is going through “drama” or if a GM is embattled or on a road trip? To me, I don’t think they care. Players play for the Manager, the Manager reports to the GM, and the GM handles baseball operations for the owner. I wonder how much interaction the GM has with his players on a day to day basis as a result. If the answer is “a lot” then perhaps Boswell is “more correct” for saying that Rizzo needed to be a presence.

    But here’s the thing; how often do you hear about Managers calling team meetings? All the time. How often do you hear of GENERAL managers calling team meetings? I can’t recall a single one.

    GMs are *specifically* banned from appearing in the dugouts of ongoing games (hence why they’re usually in the stands, pressing the flesh). I’ve always understood the relationship of the two being along the lines of the following: the GM gets the players, the manager uses them. Sure, the two will discuss needs on the field (Managers tells GM that his 2nd baseman needs replacing, GM makes the corresponding move, etc).

    I dunno. In the end this was probably bad timing, a mini team crisis during the final week of scouting prior to a very important draft for this team. I don’t think Rizzo could afford to cut that trip short, not with all these upper-end prospects pitching in the conference playoffs and in many cases appearing for the final time. I’d want to see Meyer, Bauer, and other arms for the last possible time before committing millions of dollars to them. If my team loses a few games and a crisis goes un-averted for a few days so be it.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 11 at 9:40 am

  9. Great question. I think that normally they don’t care, so long as the guy can build them a good team that gives them a chance of winning. Maybe if the guy is a fool, like Jimbo, they don’t like it because it embarrasses them?

    But I do think that all players want (or need) a strong presence above them in the chain of command that can be the responsible one, especially when things go wrong. As you point out, ideally, that is the manager. I think that a good case can be made that the best thing a good manager does is provide that figure of responsibility that can deflect the media and other sources of heat and distraction, especially in bad times. Game decisions – eh. This way players can focus on performing, and not defending themselves in the papers. I think that all players benefit from this. It doesn’t matter if they are 31 yr old, $126m contract guys or rookies on minimum pay. Torre was great at doing that for the Yanks. He had great players in a volatile mixing bowl, and he managed the mixing bowl part and let them play. Worked pretty good. Put him on the Dodgers, with slightly lesser players, and his record is slightly lesser too.

    I am not a Riggs basher, but he isn’t that guy. Because of that, Rizzo should step up that way, or go bring in a stronger presence in a manager. I think that a strong managing presence would also give the team an identity that it has lacked, too.


    3 Jun 11 at 1:50 pm

  10. My pet theory on managers goes something like the following: managers are either “old school” hard asses (Frank Robinson) or “players managers” (Manny Acta). And usually teams have to cycle between the two types of managers in order to get rid of the flaws that the predecessor had. For example: Frank was an old school guy, and kept the team in line, but eventually his disciplinarian style grated on the Veterans, who kinda revolted and he was replaced by Acta. Acta’s a players manager, he relates to the players, he’s younger, etc. So the players initially like the guy, want to play for him, are relieved to not be subject to dress codes or curfews or whatever else the old school guy did. But eventually the players take advantage of the player’s manager and start getting lazy. Soon the clubhouse is lost and discipline is low … so you bring in an old-school guy to shape the guys up. And the cycle repeats.

    The amazing, long-time managers are those that somehow bridge the gap between these two roles and do both things equally well. Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, etc.

    In my example Riggleman is the old-school guy who replaced the player’s manager Acta (and i don’t think you can argue against that … he’s certainly not a player coddler). So at some point he’s going to wear out his welcome with the established vets and have to be replaced. But is that point now? I don’t think so. How can you blame Riggleman for the performance of this team so far? He took over for Acta and immediately improved the 2009 team. He Improved last year’s team by 10 games. Right now the team is projected at 72 wins, and that’s without his best starter (Strasburg), 8 games of his best hitter (Zimmermann), a probable season ending injury to one of his two major FA acquisitions of the off season (LaRoche), and the trade/release of 2 of his 3 best hitters from last year (Dunn and Willingham). To me, that’s a job well done.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jun 11 at 3:47 pm

  11. I don’t blame Riggs for any of that. He is fine. The Nats played well early against a hard schedule, without their best player. So even though they were slightly under .500, it felt like they outperformed expectations and everything was mostly going well. When they faced an easier schedule (even if just perceived easier, since Mil was playing very well) and they had a bad stretch, the media started circling and picking out the obvious targets, like Werth because of his contract and so-so numbers.

    At that point, I don’t think Riggs has the … I dunno what to call it – street cred, rep, control of the media?- to redirect that away from Werth (and Stairs – for goodness sake, all that hoopla over a 25th man who gets 75 ABs tops?). There is value to someone who can do that, is all I am saying. If not Riggs, then Rizzo should be that guy.

    I am not sure that we are disagreeing on much here, just how much value to place on that visible figurehead role, and who should play it?


    3 Jun 11 at 4:57 pm

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