GM Mike Rizzo continues to leave his mark

Mike Rizzo Spring Training.jpgNationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has been working endlessly each day trying to transform and reshape the Nationals’ roster, his blackberry buzzes so much you could confuse it for a high schooler’s phone. Of course, he will never be satisfied and that keeps the text messages and e-mails flowing. Satisfied is a word as foreign as “off day” in his baseball vernacular–complacency, not high cholesterol, is the real silent killer–but he is pleased with the progress the team has made over the last 13 months since he was named the interim GM (the “interim” title was officially removed on Aug. 20, 2009).


“We’re never satisfied,” he said. “I always prelude my comments with ‘We’re never satisfied.'” 


His first year as general manager meant little sleep, many early mornings, late nights and countless cups of coffee–there are better odds of counting the number of stars in the sky than the number of cups of coffee he consumed.


On his first Spring Training as official GM:


“It feels good. We all have our trials and tribulations in our careers. I really take pride in the fact that I’m in a peer group of one of 30 guys in the entire world that does this job. I don’t take it lightly and I certainly don’t take it for granted. I know what it entails and I know the esteemed peer group that I’m in. So, it’s important to me. It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be overseeing all these great players.”


Have you had time reflect on how far you have come?


“I have and especially when I’m with my colleagues. We often tell stories and remind ourselves of when we were driving the back roads or driving four hours to get to a high school game in the snow and stuff. It’s a culmination of years of work and effort and sacrifice, not only from me but from our families. You have a chance of looking at it and kind of reflecting. The memories are great when you’re moving up and you always have goals of doing it. I look back with fond memories of my years. I love the foundation I have as an area scout and I’m proud that I’m a General Manager that was an area scout for 12 years.”


On the additions of Pudge, Capps and Marquis:


“I’m satisfied with what we’ve done so far. I’m proud of the players like Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Marquis and Matt Capps…these guys had chances to go, more or less, to any team they wanted, and they chose to come to Washington, DC because of the staff and front office we put together. For them to choose Washington over any one of their other options makes me real proud. That was probably the most gratifying part of the offseason…is being able to get such prestigious, Big League players to want to come to Washington, I think I can say that’s the first time that’s happened.


Mike Rizzo 3.JPGOn his blueprint for building the Nats:


“I see us certainly as a scout and player-development organization. I don’t think I’m modeling it after one franchise over another. I model it off of the franchise I have in my head. When I was interviewing for this job, I said to Mr. Lerner, ‘I’ve been preparing for this job for 29 years.’  Once I did get the opportunity to put my philosophy and my plan in place, I had very distinctive ideas of the type of organization I wanted to put together. It didn’t take me very long to a) figure out the people I wanted to bring over and b) the way I wanted to run it because I’ve been going over it in my mind for a long time.”


Is it frustrating that baseball teams can’t be built overnight?


“I’m well aware of that so that part of it doesn’t frustrate me because I know how long it takes. The frustrating part is losing games. I went through it in Arizona…we lost 111 games one year. Two years later, though, that same core of players won the National League West. Although taking your lumps is frustrating, sometimes as a young franchise you have to do it in order to grow.  I think you really have to put the plan together the right way to maximize your long-term success.”


On the best offseason move:


“I think the best move I’ve made since I’ve been here–the proudest move that I have made–is the people that I’ve brought in to work under me. You’re only as good as the people underneath you. We’ve brought together a group of guys with diverse backgrounds…The people I’ve brought in are probably the thing I’m most proud about.”


On time to sleep:


“Sleep is overrated. We work a lot but it’s fun work. When you’re grinding away for 14 hours a day, you’re talking baseball. My dad keeps it in perspective. Here’s a guy who worked 30 years for the city of Chicago, getting up at 4 a.m. driving a truck for the city. As he says to me, ‘Baseball is not a job. Don’t forget that.'”

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