Danny: Rizzo's contract means more than Harper's

Brian Tinsman
March 30, 2018 - 5:20 pm

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of how the team performs on the field, the No. 1 storyline for the Washington Nationals this season is a certain contract extension—and it's not the one you're thinking of. 

Danny Rouhier is an avid "seamhead" and is one-half of the Grant and Danny midday show on 106.7 The Fan. Pulling double duty on Friday, he appeared as a guest on Chad Dukes vs. the World and expressed why the uncertain future of general manager Mike Rizzo is even bigger than what is expected to be the biggest contract negotiation in MLB history.

"Mike Rizzo is more important to the long-term health of the franchise," Rouhier said definitively. "And it's no disrespect to a guy who may be the MVP of the National League for the second time [this season>. It's no disrespect to one of the five or six best players in baseball. It's no disrespect to a guy who I, frankly, love.

"I love watching Bryce Harper play. To give you an idea [of how much Harper means>, my 4-year-old knows who Bryce Harper is. He doesn't know much about anything, but he knows who Bryce Harper is. That matters when it gets to that level."

That's not enough to outweigh everything that Rizzo brings to the table, given the stable leadership he has given the Nats front office.

"[Harper> can be replaced. You can figure out a way to get Victor Robles at a fraction of the cost and get more at-bats from another guy, or bring in another pitcher this offseason," Rouhier reasoned. "You could get the same number of WAR points that you'd get from an MVP caliber player in Bryce Harper.

"Good executives are much harder to find. They are really, really hard to find. The Nats lucked out in finding a guy like Mike Rizzo, who is not only competent but his entire staff [is as well>. These are really good baseball folks who get it. They've beefed up their Latin American scouting--guys like Victor Robles are a testament to that. You see this group developing talent from within so that you can replace a Bryce Harper if the circumstances arise.

"So, to me, it's Mike Rizzo [that you prioritize>."

At this point, Rizzo is one of the longest-tenured executives in MLB and sports a 763-694 (.524) record since 2009. That mark includes four years in which the team has won at least 95 games.

Harper has been with the Nationals since 2012 and the club owns a 555-417 (.571) mark, including all four 95-plus-win seasons.

It's easier for a great player to win on a team with surrounding talent. It's easier for a front office to look good when they have star players on the roster.

Which side of the equation gets more credit remains to be seen. Both general manager and star player will negotiate critical contracts in the next nine months.

What fans should appreciate in the meantime is how unusual this is in a sports town like D.C.

"We've seen what executives look like that aren't particularly good in this town," Rouhier said. "A lot of guys keep getting promoted in this town. And you know who I'm talking about. You don't have to have a decoder ring to figure it out. Mike Rizzo is more important to the long-term health of the franchise."


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