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One-on-one with Rizzo

Feb 20, 2011, 7:45 PM EDT

VIERA, Fla. — It’s been nearly two years since Mike Rizzo became acting general manager of the Nationals following the abrupt resignation of Jim Bowden in the middle of spring training.

In the two years since, Rizzo has guided the franchise through a number of changes on and off the field and last fall was given a five-year extension and title promotion to general manager and executive vice president for baseball operations.

Since taking over, Rizzo has assembled a roster that fits his mold more than the one he inherited, with big, bulky power hitters replaced by more athletic, defensively gifted players. He has bolstered his roster’s depth at a number of positions but was unable to acquire the front-line starting pitcher he publicly desired this winter.

Earlier this afternoon, as position players officially reported for spring training in advance of Tuesday’s first full-squad workout, Rizzo sat down for a brief, one-on-one interview and discussed the state of the roster, the status of several players (including Chien-Ming Wang, Nyjer Morgan and Bryce Harper) and the status of manager Jim Riggleman (who is entering the final year of his contract).

You can read the full transcript of my interview with Rizzo on CSNwashington.com.

  1. JayB - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Thanks for asking about Wang Mark…..something is not right there. As I posted earlier today and asked Boz in his chat….Rizzo and Wang are clearly not on the same page…something has to give here soon….can he be Patterson'ed or Hill'ed or are they on the hook for all that 1 Million dollars no matter what?Small money but just like Alex Cintron signing….just bad Carma to have an endless rehab guy and past proven loser in the system….Rizzo seems so ready to move on for these types of players…it just does not add up.

  2. Doc - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Agreed JayB! Rizzo sometimes gets caught up in his own BS. So stats don't count, and Nyjer's batting average in ST will matter not (or is that nat!). Rizzo acts like the PR department when he's talking to reporters and fans. I mean who's he kiddin'????We need less baseball macho, and more honest answers. From what he's implying, that if Morgan is hitting below the Mendoza Line in ST, as long as he's trying, we should be happy. Hmmmmmmmmmm!

  3. Anonymous - Feb 20, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    I think Morgan's approach to the plate and plate discipline he displays and whether he looks helpless against left-handers will factor more into the decision than his batting average. Mark might have asked about OBP but spring training doesn't really allow enough time to gauge that. Morgan is on the hot seat. Rizzo now has at least 4 guys who can step in and bat left. Plus, Harper is in the wings. Morgan is now +30 and he knows it.What does that tell the discriminating fan?

  4. Theophilus - Feb 20, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Secretly, Rizzo hopes the Pirates want Morgan back, or some Japanese team will buy his contract, or the Padres will decide he's better than Curtis Maybin — anything that will take Morgan of his hands. He's not gonna whiz in the Kool-Aid before he finds someone who want to drink.

  5. Sunderland - Feb 20, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    We actually don't need any honest answers from Rizzo. It may satisfy curiosity, but it's not in the best interest of the Nationals.We need competition and smart baseball decisions. Rizzo has created a pretty good amount of competition (albeit without a ton of talent). As Theophilus points out, Rizzo is gonna say only positive things about Nyjer (and CMW, and Riggleman, and every other person under contract) because "honest answers" don't help the cause.

  6. BallstonNat - Feb 20, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Here's a thought I've had for a while about Wang. Perhaps a large reason the Nats initially signed him, and then re-up'd with him is as much performance potential related as it is marketing related. Last year, despite no time in DC, Wang jersey's were prominently displayed for sale at Nats Park. One couldn't help but notice a large Asian base of fans admiring the wall of Wang jerseys. Taiwan and Asia are a huge baseball/sports market, and it is good to have a foot in them. Just ask Seattle and New York. Or Houston in the NBA, or even the Wizards with Yi. One million a year for a strong foot in another market might not be a bad plan, even better if he could reach the big league club.

  7. Another_Sam - Feb 20, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    Regarding Morgan: for all his faults, he's one of the very few exciting players on that squad. We fans have got to be alert whenever he's at the plate, on the basepath, or tracking ball hit to center. Sure, one could put a reliable boring player in there, but for me, excitement counts for a lot. But having said that — please, NM, few bonehead moves this year.

  8. Noirelune - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Jay BYou are so depressing.Rarely you post a positive comment. With you, the glass is always mid empty.Take a chair, psssschitt a beer, enjoy the game and relax.From Quebec

  9. Anonymous - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Still think from Rizzo's perspective its still produce or be turned loose as far as Wang. It sure doesn't sound like he will start the season on the Nat's DL if he isn't ready.

  10. Theophilus - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    I agree that Wang is a potential marketing ploy. There are, what, three Taiwanese players (Wang included) in MLB. And Wang is most famous. If you want to play in the "international talent" game in Taiwan, you want to be the team that treated the national hero like a king, not yesterday's fish stix. Maybe if his arm is truly dead he goes back to Taiwan and funnels a prospect or two. And, if he gets back to the majors this year, they're gonna sell a gazillion Wang jerseys in Taiwan and elsewhere and make twice their payout on the licensing deal alone. And, if he wins a few games, it's just the brown sauce on the egg foo yung.

  11. Theophilus - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    JayB is the guy who would check to make sure he was under the piano if it falls.

  12. JayB - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    @From Quebec,Have you seen this team the past 5 years………..300 loses and close to 400 errors in 3 years….Expos were had a great tradition….Nats…not so much…yet…I am hopeful that this is the year we turn all that around….but not with Wang…just a waste of roster space for two years now.

  13. Looks like JayB's act is wearing thin across the border too - Feb 21, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    "There's no point going back and trying to figure it all out," Rizzo said. "In baseball, a hundred things 'could have happened.' You take your best shot and then move on."Boswell column, 2/19/11

  14. Anonymous - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    Rizzo just wants to see if Wang can come back anywhere near a 95 MPH sinker. He is in Florida. He wants to sit in the stands, in the sun, and actually see with his own eyes if his gamble is going to pay off.Wang needs to ramp it up now.

  15. Steady Eddie - Feb 21, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Noirelune –JayB = Eeyore. The worst it has been is the best it can ever get.That is all (you need to know about him).

  16. Sunderland - Feb 21, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    "…Wang…just a waste of roster space for two years now."Wang only took up a roster spot during the offseason. Meaning most directly, his presence took away Luis Atilanp's spot, and Atilano cleared waivers and is still in our system. So he took a spot from, um, nobody.On the 60 day DL all of last year, he took a spot away from no one. And when he's not ready this year, he'll end up on 60 day DL again, again not taking a roster spot from anyone.

  17. JayB - Feb 21, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Mostly True Sunderland …………….but Nats did lose one pitcher this off season from the 40 man moves as I recall and that could have been prevented if I recall as it was after Wang resigned…..your point is correct that with the 60 Day DL being the normal spot Wang has during the season not much if any real roster problems yet……it is the $3 Mil and the false hope placed by Rizzo that really hurts the team. They need starting pitching now. They are not going to get it from Wang. That is the real problem, then the Money, then the Roster and constant specter of non performance around the team. Cutting Want lose would be the best move…oh an do not resign him two years later either please.

  18. JayB - Feb 21, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    OK… back from a beautifull weekend of Spring Training observations from both Viera and Port St. Lucie.Highlight of the weekend was watching Sandy Koufax giving instruction to Chris Young and Oliver Perez on hip rotation from the windup and the stretch. He looks terrific for 75 years old.And it's good to see Captain Queeg … err.. JayB in mid season form. I'll post some observations a little later but I can say without any hesitancy, Nyjer Morgan remains a jerk. And he still can't put his head down and run to a spot, then pick up a ball. He has to track it the whole flight while running, usually in a circuitous route. And his arm is still the weakest on the team. And his competition for center field, both Bernadina and Brown are in immensely better shape than he is….and alot younger, as well.

  20. JayB - Feb 21, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Njack,Has Norris learned to set a target and not turn his glove down as the pitch is in flight?Does Wang look as bad as he seems to on video…I missed him last week. What did Rizzo say to you to get excited about Tom G. trade?From the little I saw as I drove through last week…this is the best camp to date. Are you seeing a real focus on work and professionalism?

  21. Sunderland - Feb 21, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    My biggest hope for spring training is Corey Brown blowing away Riggleman and Rizzo and patrolling CF on March 31 in NatsTown.

  22. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 21, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    JayB… Didn't really deem alot from watching bullpen sessions. I'd rather wait to observe Norris in game situations dressed in gear and calling pitches.And I saw Wang last fall and can say he his session yesterday was a good 25% better than at any time I've observed him in the past. He topped out at 88 in October and seemed to be hitting that effortlessly yesterday and with substatially more movement.Thone thing I noticed about the difference between the Mets and Nats camp is the extended BP that Mets pitchers get. They utilize three fields, one for bunting, one for PFP and one for actual BP. They rotate through all three fields in groups at least three times as I saw. I told David Eckstine about this. As I tought about it, it does represent the simulation of hitting every 35 – 45 minutes or so that a pitcher would experience in game situations. I did not see any extended BP for Nats pitchers in the two times I observed them.

  23. Charles Evans - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. jd - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    JayB I don't get why you feel that we need to release Wang immediately. This is a pitcher who was in the Cy Young conversation 3 years ago so even if there's a 10% chance that he regains his form it's a no brainer. There's a reason pitchers like Shields and Webb get contracts despite their injuries; someone is always looking to catch lightning in a bottle; heck Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia are getting a look. What valuable spot is Wang taking? which player taken off the 40 men roster is a great loss? I don't get it.

  25. jd - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    BTW, Drew Brees has a similar injury and surgery as Wang. Came back pretty well; no?

  26. Sec 3, My Sofa - Feb 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    For what it's worth, I agree with Sunderland. Rizzo's job is to satisfy to the ballclub's interests, not our curiosity. The answers, honest ones included, only exist on the field, in the games–can he get hitters out? Until the answer on the field is "No," the only honest answer possible is "We hope so." And all it will cost is some of Lerner's money, which, 1) ain't mine, so I'm OK with it; and 2) is a good enough investment to suit them, and hey, it's their money, so I'm OK with it. And it IS their money, not your season ticket money, so don't start with that.Anyway, some people prefer false hope to false pessimism, and some don't. Takes all kinds.

  27. Anonymous - Feb 21, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    jd, it's when you start "getting" JayB's pearls of wisdom that you need to be concerned. If his clueless blathering makes no sense to you, you're in good shape.

  28. Another_Sam - Feb 21, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    natsjack — i yeild. if it's that clear that there're better guys on the roster for CF, I'm in. Enough Zen.

  29. mjr - Feb 21, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    NatsJack, I concur that Morgan is still a jerk. I was down at camp last week before official workouts started and he wouldn't give anyone the time of day much less sign an autograph or even stand still for 0.5 seconds for a photo. I'm SO over him. For those of you heading south, I can add "Squid Lips" as a restaurant recommendation. Near Bonefish Willie's (Willy's?), it has a more extensive menu but simpler preparations (think blackened tuna vs. horseradish-enlivened teriyaki tuna over truffled polenta). The maple, twice-baked sweet potato doubles as dessert for three!

  30. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 22, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    Thanks, mjr….you saw exactly what I saw and I saw it three days in a row. He has no time or the fans.

  31. Tcostant - Feb 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    Mark – How come you didn't ask Rizzo about Dukes? Considering that new information from Dukes is out, that contradicts what Rizzo has said I the past. I figured it was a good opportunity to get Rizzo on the record based on the new info.

  32. The Joker - Feb 22, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    So the Nats are stuck with baldy for five years. Maybe the team name will be switched to Gnats by 2016.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 75 57 --
ATLANTA 69 64 6.5
MIAMI 65 66 9.5
NEW YORK 62 71 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 61 72 14.5
Through Wednesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Mariners, 9:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Mariners, 4:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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