The Nationals are in the midst of a disappointing follow-up campaign to their National League East title from last year, but general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s getting promoted.
The team announced this evening that Rizzo has signed a new long-term contract and has been promoted to the new title of GM and President of Baseball Operations. The length of the new contract isn’t yet known, but the Nationals already picked up his option for 2014 earlier this year.
Here’s a statement from Nationals owner Ted Lerner:
“Upon purchasing the Nationals, Mike Rizzo was our first hire and he has performed brilliantly. We started with an idea about how baseball teams should be built and he translated it into a reality far faster than many could have imagined. He knows the game, the players, and is a true professional. Under his direct leadership, the Nationals have become one of the most exciting and respected young teams in baseball.”
Rizzo joined the organization in 2007 as an assistant GM and took over the main job after Jim Bowden resigned in March of 2009. The Nationals lost 103 games that year, but it didn’t take long for them to get on the path to respectability. While Rizzo was fortunate enough to be in position to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper No. 1 overall in back-to-back years, he also made multiple key trades and signings en route an MLB-best 98 wins last year.
Of course, things haven’t been as rosy since Strasburg’s controversial shutdown. After being ousted in the NLDS by the Cardinals last October, the Nationals have disappointed with a 52-56 record this season, putting them 11 games behind the first-place Braves and 7 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. Just last week, hitting coach Rick Eckstein was fired against the wishes of manager Davey Johnson while Tyler Clippard criticized the organization’s handling of former closer Drew Storen. However, today’s announcement leaves little doubt that ownership feels the franchise is in the right hands for the long-term.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.
A report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reveals that prospective Marlins’ owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have already initiated several key firings within the organization. While the sale of the team is still pending final approval next month, Jeter reportedly pushed club president David Samson to remove four special assistants this week: Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jack McKeon and Jeff Conine.
Hall of Fame infielder Dawson, outfielder Perez and Marlins’ legend Conine served as special assistants to the president. McKeon, who served as team manager from 2003-2005 (and briefly in 2011), was terminated from a 12-year post as special assistant to owner Jeffrey Loria.
The move didn’t come as a big surprise to Dawson and McKeon, Jackson and Spencer noted. It’s part and parcel of dealing with new ownership. But it was disappointing news nonetheless, especially as the long-tenured McKeon might lose an opportunity to return next September to manage one game and cement his status as the oldest manager in MLB history.
Should the Marlins’ sale go through in October as expected, this figures to be the beginning of several cuts. Per Jackson and Spencer:
Jeter also is expected to fire some people on the baseball side of the operation, though it’s believed president/baseball operations Michael Hill will be retained, at least indefinitely if not permanently.
Any replacements for those already released from the team have yet to be announced.