Nationals give extension and promotion to GM Mike Rizzo

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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.

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”