The Nats name Mike Rizzo GM
Baseball is in Mike Rizzo’s blood.
It is a trait his father Phil passed onto him. If it wasn’t at birth–the nature vs. nurture debate is never ending–it was during the countless hours when Mike studied his Dad’s every move as a child. Phil, now 79, still scouts amateur players for the Nationals and attends almost every Cubs and White Sox home games. He has been a scout for more than 50 years.
Mike learned the intricacies of baseball from him. It was with his father he developed an uncanny baseball eye and the ability to recognize talent. He learned life lessons too: never lie and tell it as you see it–the keys to scouting. That’s how his dad operated, as a scout and as a father.
In 1984, when Rizzo was released by the California Angels and was preparing to sign with a Minor League team, his father sat him down at the kitchen table for one of those life talks. When the kitchen table is involved, you know the talk is serious. It was short and sweet. He was a scout so evaluating his son was second nature.
“He said: ‘you can be a Minor League bum your whole life. You aren’t going to play in the Big Leagues. You aren’t talented enough. But you still could be a good baseball guy either as a coach, manager, scouting director or ultimately a GM,’” Rizzo said, remembering his father’s words as if they were said yesterday. “It was a driving force in me getting to the position I am today.”
And his dad’s reaction to the news today:
“It was good,” said Rizzo in one of the most emotional moments of the press conference. “It was a good reaction. He was very, very emotional and very happy.”
He has been just what his dad predicted years ago. Rizzo’s first draft with the Nationals in 2007 was rated the best in baseball by Baseball America. He earned a World Series Ring in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks as the Director of Scouting. That season the D-backs Minor League system was ranked 29th in baseball according to Baseball America. Five highly success drafts, miles and miles spent in a car and watching thousands of amateur players later, the D-backs system was ranked No.1 in baseball by the same publication entering the 2006 season.
That’s what Rizzo expected. He also expected to be named the GM of the Nationals. He is confident. It is that simple.
“I always knew that I was going to be the choice,” Rizzo said. “I am not sure if they knew it.”
If he can’t out think you, he will out work you. As a scout, if it took driving an extra hour to talk to a player, that’s what he did. If it meant going to one more game that night, that’s what he did.
He continues to work overtime–all the time–to guide the Nats to the top of the NL East. They are building everyday… not rebuilding.
There have been a number of moves and acquisitions in the last months that have reshaped and redirected the Nats in the right direction. Rizzo cleaned out the bullpen, acquired a true center fielder in Nyjer Morgan, promoted Jim Riggleman to the manager position, signed the No. 1 and No. 10 overall picks–Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen. Since the All-Star break, the Nats are 17-16 so it is only fitting they promoted Rizzo, the mastermind of all the moves, to the position of Senior Vice President & General Manager.
One of the first things the Nationals did when the Lerner Family bought the franchise just over three years ago was hire Rizzo as the assistant GM. He is a 26-year veteran of professional baseball and joined the Nationals on July 24th, 2006. Since March of this year, he has served as the team’s acting General Manager. They wanted to ensure the franchise was built from the ground up so they let him lead the scouting and development department.
“He did such a great job acquiring talent with his former team in Arizona,” Team President Stan Kasten said. “He stepped right into the bridge and continued doing that for us here in Washington, leading to the growing crop of young players that we have in our Minor League system that have already started making their way up to the Major Leagues.”
There are always future drafts, players to scout, more moves to make and players to acquire: Rizzo wants to name a manager sometime after the season is over, find a veteran starting pitcher to mentor the young staff, a defensive glove up the middle and a few more dependable arms to further solidify the bullpen.
It is nothing really new to Rizzo. It is just baseball.
The only difference is there is no longer any acting necessary.