Rizzo: Nationals' season 'far from a manager problem'

Chris Lingebach
August 22, 2018 - 12:07 pm

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Rizzo ranks the 2018 season among his biggest disappointments in his time with the Nationals, but says it's "far from a manager problem."

The Nationals, in the general manager's time, have missed the postseason on a World-Series-or-Bust proclamation in 2013, and again, in 2015, with one of the greatest starting rotations ever assembled.

"This one's up there with the most frustrating years that we've had," Rizzo told The Junkies on Wednesday, sponsored by Burke & Herbert. "Most disappointing, probably up there too."

The 2018 Nats, expected to be World Series contenders, sit 7.5 games out of first place and just waved the proverbial white flag, trading away Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams, an All-Star caliber player and a booming bat in their lineup, with 37 games to go. Rizzo points to ill-timed injuries for their downfall.

"The frustrating part about it is that we just can't seem to get a rhythm," he said. "We can't seem to stay healthy in one sector of the roster. You know, we get one guy back and we put another big cog of the team on the disabled list. I think that's the frustrating part.

"This ranks up there with some of the most disappointing teams that we've had. This is my 37th year in professional baseball, so I've seen it all. I've won the World Series and lost the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion, but to be as inconsistent as we have been is something that doesn't sit well with Davey or I, and that's something that we have to fix."

Nightengale Expects Martinez To Be On Hot Seat

Critics says the Nationals established a managerial precedent last year, by not renewing Dusty Baker after failing to advance past the first round of the postseason in consecutive winning season, which culminated with 95 and 97 wins, respectively. Critics say that should put first-year manager Davey Martinez's head on the chopping block.

What does Rizzo have to say to those critics?

"Davey's a great manager," he said. "He's a vibrant personality. He's a great Xs and Os guy. He communicates great with the players. He's exactly the guy that we thought we were hiring this year. He's upbeat and positive."

"As you've heard (Ryan Zimmerman) say on many occasions, as you heard Murphy endorse him yesterday, the players love playing for him," he said. "This is far from a manager problem. This year's a disappointment, and if you're going to judge Davey Martinez on how the players respond to him, just look at last night's game."

The Nationals Tuesday night made a spirited come-from-behind effort to topple the Phillies, who are ahead by 5.5 games in the NL East, 10-4.

"With the disappointment and the bad feelings because Murph and Matt Adams left, this team still grinded it out and played an extremely tough game and run through the wall for the man," Rizzo said. "And the endorsement of the players, I think, is what's important, and he has that in spades down in the clubhouse."

The decision to trade Murphy and Adams, Rizzo says, led to "one of the toughest days I've had as a GM. Seriously."

"With the frustration and the disappointment of the way we're performing on the field, that predicates moves to get rid of two of the most wonderful guys that I've ever been around in Murphy and Adams," he said.

"Those are tough conversations to have with great players. Davey and I, we brought 'em into the office and talked to them. Those are difficult, difficult discussions, because Murph and I have been together for three seasons and we've come very, very close, and he's an All-Star caliber player. And Matt Adams has been just an awesome, awesome new arrival this year."

Franchise cornerstone Bryce Harper, due to hit free agency after the season, was also placed, and claimed, on revocable waivers, but Rizzo says no meaningful conversations developed with the Dodgers, who he says likely put a claim in on Harper to block other teams from doing so.

Altogether, Washington saved "about $6 million" with Tuesday's trades. And, Rizzo says, they're not done on the trade-waiver wire just yet.

"We'll filter a couple people through after, beyond today."

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter