3. In Rizzo We Trust: It began in the fall of 2009 with the hiring of eighteen front office execs from around baseball who joined DC GM Mike Rizzo in Washington because, in the general manager's own words, as quoted by Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell in an 11/19/09 article entitled, "This National intelligence estimate is decidedly favorable":
"They know this is a baseball shop."
Roy Clark, the Atlanta Braves' Scouting Director for the previous eleven seasons, who, according to the Post's Mr. Boswell, had been Nats' President Stan Kasten's first choice for assistant GM under Jim Bowden, became Mike Rizzo's Asst. GM and the Vice President of Player Personnel. Davey Johnson came on as a senior advisor to the GM. Johnny DiPuglia, who'd spent ten years in the Red Sox' scouting department, left his job as Boston's Latin American Scouting Coordinator to become the Nats' Director of Latin American Operations. Rizzo, the former D-Backs' Director of Scouting assembled what the soon-to-be-ex-President Mr. Kasten described to Mr. Boswell as a group of "wise old owls," who subscribed to the Rizzo regime's philosophy, "We want our eyes and the numbers to agree...But we'll lean toward the scout," as Mr. Rizzo told the WaPost writer.
2010 began with the news that the Nationals had scouted Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman and they surprised some when in early January they emerged as one of two teams, along with the Cincinnati Reds, who stayed in it til the end but drew a line financially speaking and wouldn't cross it. When they missed out on Chapman, the Nats shifted their focus to another international free agent, as Stan Kasten told ESPN 980's The Sports Fix's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro in a July 2010 interview, "we turned our attention to whoever was next on our list and I will tell you [Yunesky] Maya was very high on our list at that time," and the Nats' eventually signed the 28-year-old right-hander in late July and had him on the mound, perhaps prematurely, in September. Adam Kennedy, (one of Jim Riggleman's big regrets?), was added to the infield when Orlando Hudson signed elsewhere. Matt Capps was signed after Pittsburgh non-tendered him and eventually flipped for Twins' catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Jason Marquis was a bit of a disappointment, but if he has a good year next year in the second season of his two-year deal, he too can be flipped for prospects. Pudge Rodriguez gave the Nats some veteran leadership behind the plate.
But more important than anything they were able to do on the free agent market, what Rizzo's front office accomplished in the 2010 Draft is what impressed everyone around baseball. Signing 25 of the top 26 selections, including the no.1 overall pick, Bryce Harper, who got a 5-year/$9.9M dollar major league deal, 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis, who got a $2 million dollar bonus, 4th Round pick, A.J. Cole, a potential 1st Rounder who dropped to the 4th Round because of a collegiate commitment, signed for $1M, and 12th rounder Robbie Ray received a $799,000 bonus. As the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell summed up the front office additions and change in philosophy in a chat entitled, "Redskins, Stephen Strasburg, Nats and more -- Ask Boswell":
"The ownership has learned that the (only) bargains are in signing young players and international players, so they are trying to win that battle with the first step being the enormous upgrade of their scouting system..."
Year one of the Rizzo Regime is in the books. In Rizzo We Trust?