Nationals Baseball: Rizzo Right, Rizzo Wrong,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rizzo Right, Rizzo Wrong,

Rizzo as a GM confuses me. On one hand I do believe he's a good judge of talent and that he understands the long haul situation the Nats are in. He's made a couple questionable moves but nothing that influential to the team either in dollars, time sunk, or talent lost. At the same time he seems convinced, as a lot of successful people can be, that once the pieces are in place it's simply a matter of effort and attitude, dismissing the vagaries of luck and niggling injuries and talent evaluation that move a team in one way or another.

In Boswell's column the other day he presented these sides of himself in quote form:
"We're underachieving. We're playing bad baseball. Defensively, we're giving away far too many outs. We're not situational hitting... You can't win major league games by doing that."
This is exactly right. Baseball games are generally close affairs. That'll happen when the best teams win 55% of their games and the worst only win 45%. Even a great team can suffer if they don't execute when they need to and the Nats are certainly not a great team. It's imperative that they play with minimal mental errors or else... well you can see what happens or else.
"This is not and should not be a 10-games-under-.500 team, We have seven guys who've played in the World Series and others who've been in the playoffs. And that doesn't include some of our best players. I can't believe that playing the Orioles in June is the most stressful thing they have ever done."
This is exactly wrong. The type of "just try harder" nonsense that you expect a clueless superstar to scream at a helpless rookie at the first game of the season. It doesn't matter how many World Series they've been to, or playoff games they've played, because it's not a matter of failing under stress. It's because the team is falling back down to the level of play that should result from their talent.

Rizzo put together a team that if all went exactly perfect, if everyone, over the course of the year, played to moderate to best expectations would be around a .500 team, maybe a couple games over. But that never happens. Some guys collapse, some guys get hurt, some guys were just wildly misjudged. In the end you end up about where you should and for the Nats - it IS 10 games under .500(probably more like 15...). Now of course that doesn't mean 10 games under at this point in the season, but 6-7 under would be about right.

But you can see Rizzo doesn't get that. Teams will lose series to the Orioles. Good ones. Some may get swept. It's a long year. It happens. But such a circumstance is impossible for Rizzo. Lannan has thrown better games in the past than he has this year, so he isn't struggling with injury or maybe losing his razor thin margin of success, he just needs to get down to AA and buckle down.

This attitude has been fine for the Nats so far. Dukes, Cabrera, even Lannan - these weren't difference makers for the Nats. But what happens to first time someone who is a potential difference maker goes into a slump? Really - what about Desmond? He should be up the whole year - but I can hear in the back of my head Rizzo screaming "WHY WON'T HE JUST CONCENTRATE AND PICK THE BALL UP!!!! GET ME THE PHONE! HE'S DONE HERE!!"

I believe that Rizzo can put together a winning team for the Nats, but I'm starting to worry about what'll happen if he does put together a good team and it happens to unravel due to whatever reasons. Can Rizzo work the damage control needed for a well constructed team, or will the first sign of disappointment make him want to rip it apart and try to start over with "guys who care"?


Nate said...

And if it gets to that point, will there be any fans who care left?

Anonymous said...

I agree that Rizzo seems to be a pretty good judge of talent. I wouldn't worry too much yet about his Pirate strategy of "If the young pitching does well and most of the team has their best year, and we get a little luck, then we can compete.". At this point he almost has to say the team is underachieving because the alternative is to admit they aren't very good, but just wait a few years down the road. When the time comes I think he can light the appropriate fires under the team that really can compete.

Harper said...

Nats - of course there will be or at least regional baseball fans who have no alternative. Which are like fnas.

Anon - Agree, but we could have stopped after "We're underachieving. We can play better" without going to the "What the hell? It's Baltimore"

Kevin Trainor said...

I'll care. Damned if I'm going to root for the Godless Orioles, who are an even worse team than the Nats.

Kevin Trainor said...

Also, linking this post at Beltway Baseball, even if I can't quite figure out what you're trying to say here. ;)

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Actually it is those fans who post on NATS Journal who are saying the things that you think Rizzo might be thinking, ie. blow up the team, send Desmond down etc, etc. Rizzo and Rigs are just screaming at them now to motivate as opposed to the last season and a half under Manny and to a less extent Jimbo.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7