National Matters: Inside the mind of the GM


Welcome to this week’s edition of National Matters with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. This week, Rizzo fielded a few questions from fans about the state of the Nationals as they enter the 2010 season.

Read on as Rizzo gives fans his rationale on anything from where to place a prospect in the minors to how to fill holes in the major league lineup.

Richard Amazin: Mr. Rizzo, 1. It’s obvious Scott Olsen has problems. How long do you wait to cut the cord? Bring him North to drop 2 or 3 and then call Syracuse for help or save the aggravation and cut the cord sooner rather then later?

2. The pundits continue to applaud your efforts to reshape the team, yet those same pundits say the team could probably still lose 100. Is this just the same bias that comes out of the mouths of anything that does not say Yankess, Red Sox, Dodgers or Phillies. Is it worthy of our attention?

Mike Rizzo: Dear Richard, Scott Olsen is a young (age 26), veteran LHP who logged 180+ innings in the major leagues for several seasons. Jordan-Zimmermann_Tall-Away.jpgLeft-handed starters like Scott have great value if they’re healthy. We have faith in Scott because of his success record, and we are going to be very patient. Presently, Scott is rehabbing from shoulder surgery. I am pleased to tell you he is pain-free at this time and has started to regain arm strength as well as velocity. We believe Scott can and will be available to help us at the major league level sometime during the 2010 season.

A team can never have too many starting pitchers. Our goal was to create a deep inventory of young, talented major league caliber starters. This is necessary not only when a need arises on the major league team but also when acquiring players by trade from other teams. In today’s baseball industry, it is enormously difficult to acquire talent the likes of a Jordan Zimmermann from ANY team for ANY amount. A prospect like Jordan Zimmermann is protected like gold.

JayB: All winter you and Riggs were telling fans how Dukes was the RF and that the progress he made the second half of 2009 proved he had earned the job. I never saw that and when he failed to go back to winter ball or come in early I knew he was at risk. My question is given that his 2009 was not strong as you had been selling it and that he failed to return ad do what he needed to do over the winter, why did you not make a run at a proven RF to challenge for that spot? Now we are faced with no good solution for RF. How is this good planning?

Mike Rizzo: Dear JayB, Regarding our right field situation, we believe that our current “in-house” candidates for that position will provide the team with an improved level of offensive production. Up to this point, the level of production in right field has been less than satisfactory, but we are confident that with candidates like Willie Harris, Bernadina, Maxwell, and Mike Morse, we will see improvement over years past.

peric: Dear Mike Rizzo, Do you have fiadone for Easter? fiadone.jpgSorry, all that talk of food last night had me thinking about Easter fiadone. It’s an Italian thing. What is your criteria for deciding to assign players to Syracuse or Harrisburg? It seems like there is a pattern?

Mike Rizzo: Dear Peric, I am always glad to discuss the subject of food, but I have not had the opportunity to try an Easter fiadone. From what I understand, it’s a type of cheese pie. As a Chicago guy with roots in deep dish pizza, a fiadone sounds right up my alley - On the list for Easter acquisition next season.

As for criteria for assigning players to SYR or HRS: There isn’t really a pattern, but there is definitely a philosophy involved. We choose a farm team based on a player’s level of experience and ability. We look for a situation that will be best for the player’s overall development. Ideally, we want to provide an opportunity for the player to be successful and rise to a higher level of ability ... but we also want him to confront a situation in which he feels challenged and compelled to develop into a more complete player.

natsfan1a: Are you sorry that you ever agreed to do a blog? (Just kidding.) Could you describe a typical day in your life as GM?

Mike Rizzo: Natsfan1a, Am I sorry I agreed to do a blog? Well, I am writing this at 9:55 p.m. Good thing I never tire of baseball. And to answer part 2 of your question, as far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a typical day for a GM - But hope springs eternal.

“Thanks very much for sending your questions,” Rizzo said. “Sorry I couldn’t get to all of them, but as a rookie blogger, I hope to develop my skills and improve my delivery! Thanks for your support of our team and for your patience with my blogging abilities.”