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.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?