Before the 2011 campaign, it was all about SPAD. Speed, pitching, athleticism and defense. The order was actually rearranged to make for a better acronym, but as Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo stated often throughout the winter of 2010-11 it was the focus or guiding philosophy behind his attempts to turn the nation's capital's Nats into a legitimate contender. "We believe and I believe wholeheartedly that championship teams are built on pitching, defense, speed and athleticism," Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy that winter.
"Our philosophy is pitching, defense, speed and athleticism," Rizzo told reporters at the Nationals' jersey unveiling in November of 2011, "so that's a philosophy that we've been working towards with our draft picks and our major league roster and we're going to continue to follow that philosophy throughout."
In the leadup to the 2012 season, the talk was of playing "meaningful games in September/October," as the Nationals' general manager explained to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "We intend to be playing meaningful games in September and October," Rizzo said, "We're going to give that message to our players here when they all assemble, when position players get here and they take their physicals and we're ready to take the field."
Davey Johnson's repeated desire for a pennant or division title made a lot of headlines that winter as well, and the Nats won the NL East before losing in the NLDS with St. Louis. The next logical step, as Davey Johnson told reporters earlier in the winter before the 2013 season was a World Series championship. "World Series or Bust!" was the catchphrase that was repeated throughout the summer as the Nationals tried and failed to defend their NL East crown.
As the Nationals play out the season, having fallen short of their manager's stated goal, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo has been asked twice in the last week to identify a weakness or area of concern for the Nationals that needs to be addressed heading into the offseason and the 2014 campaign and a new catchphrase has emerged. The cause of the Nats' struggles this season, the goal for next year, it's "offensive efficiency." The general manager was asked by a caller on this week's edition of "The Mike Rizzo Show" with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier if he could identify three areas of weakness for the 2013 Nats.
"I think offensive efficiency is 1.1 in my book," Rizzo said. "We have to do a better job of scoring those guys from third base with less than two outs and moving guys over from second to third. You know, that type of baseball. Doing efficient offensive plays and doing the little things offensively to score more runs. I think we have to certainly be more effective in the bridges to our back end of the bullpen guys and our bench needs to produce more and those are kind of three in a nutshell off the top of my head that we would try to address in the offseason."
The phrase came up again when the Nationals' GM talked to MASN's FP Santangelo before the start of the final series of the season in Arizona last night. The MASN tv host asked Rizzo if he could put his finger on one thing that resulted in the Nats not returning to the postseason for the second straight year?
"I think if you had to put it in a nutshell," Rizzo said, "and this is a very in-depth question I think that we're going to analyze after the season is over when we look back and we do our final analysis on what we're going to do in the offseason. But if I had to put my finger on one particular characteristic of the ballclub, it was offensive efficiency. We weren't very efficient early on in the season. We didn't hit with runners in scoring position very well. We didn't do the little things to create runs and to generate runs without hitting home runs."
Getting more runners on to begin with is a good start. #moarobp
"Offensive efficiency." Your first Nationals' catchphrase or mantra for 2013-2014.
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