Big Hurt got Rizzo started down GM path

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Earlier this week the Nationals removed the “acting” tag and made Mike Rizzo general manager, choosing him over Diamondbacks vice president of player personnel Jerry DiPoto and Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer. Between making trades and signing No. 1 picks for $15 million Rizzo has been in the spotlight recently, but Bill Ladson of MLB.com wrote about how he got started down the GM path:
In 1989, Mike Rizzo was a Midwest and Southeast territorial scout for the White Sox. That year, Rizzo, then 28, scouted a player named Frank Thomas from Auburn University. Rizzo insisted that the White Sox draft the right-handed hitting slugger in the first round, but Thomas was not a consensus pick among members of the organization
“I learned how to go after a player passionately, fight for your player and fight to draft the right guy at the right spot,” Rizzo said 20 years later. The White Sox ended up drafting Thomas in the first round of the 1989 First-Year Player Draft. Not too long after that, Rizzo helped Chicago negotiate Thomas’ first professional contract.
It was the first time Rizzo ever dealt with a player agent for such a large sum of money. Thomas signed and ended up having a great career in the big leagues, hitting .301 with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and two American League MVP awards. “It was the shining point of my career.” Rizzo said.

Convincing the team you scout for to draft one of the 20 greatest hitters of all time is apparently a good way to establish yourself in the baseball world, although to be fair my guess is that there were at least a few other people within the organization who didn’t mind taking Thomas with the No. 7 overall pick.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.