Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked, during his interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday morning, about reports he was one of the voices in favor of bringing Dusty Baker back to the nation’s capital after the veteran skipper led the Nationals to back-to-back NL East titles and back-to-back NLDS losses.
Rizzo previously said that the decision was a group one made by the Nationals’ front office and ownership, “... with a consensus at the end of it. And this was no different.”
Noting the, “difference between regular season baseball and playoff baseball,” Rizzo said Wednesday that, “I think as the playoffs went on and we saw what was going on there, we made the decision as a group, and you ask if I was the guy standing on the table [arguing for Baker], we all have our opinions. At the end of the day, we have a consensus walking out of the room like we do on all decisions that are baseball, and this was no different.”
“It was a difficult decision,” he added, but they made the move to part ways with Baker and hire first-time manager Dave Martinez, who’d served as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa Bay and Chicago.
“There was a lot of discussion about it, and a lot of debate about it, and we decided as a group to move on and we couldn’t be happier with the choice we made with Dave Martinez,” Rizzo said.
“I think it’s going to be a great choice and he’s going to really be a guy that has the ability to take it to the next step.”
The next step, of course, would be an appearance in the NLCS, which the Nationals fell short of in each of their four postseason appearances in the last six seasons, but that’s not the ultimate goal.
“I think the one thing I have to say after talking with the Lerner family and Mike,” Martinez told reporters in his introductory press conference, “we definitely have something in common and that’s the desire and passion to bring a World Championship here to Washington, and we’re going to get it done.”
Asked what Martinez brought to the table that Baker didn’t, Rizzo declined to compare and contrast the previous and new managers.
“Dusty has been a three-time Manager of the Year and won 1,900 games,” he told The Sports Junkies. “Davey is a different manager. Davey is going to manage like Davey.”
“He’s going to bring energy and an analytical mind to the dugout,” Rizzo continued.
“We’re going to surround him with the best and finest coaches that are going to complement him and help him reach our goals.”
Martinez’s staff is just about set, with the exception of a bullpen coach, after the Nats announced on Thursday that Chip Hale is the bench coach, Derek Lilliquist is the new pitching coach, Kevin Long is the hitting coach, Tim Bogar is the new first base coach, and Bobby Henley is returning as the third base coach, with Joe Dillon added to the mix as the assistant hitting coach in D.C.
It will be up to the Nationals’ new skipper to lead a franchise that has once again made a change on the bench, with Martinez their seventh manager since 2005.
“Davey is a communicator,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy that has played 16 years in the big leagues, so he’s got that part of it checked off. He’s come from two analytical organizations in Tampa Bay and the Chicago Cubs. He’s got great respect from the players who know him and love him for what he’s done and the way he conducts himself on the field and off the field.
“He’s a tactician on the bench and been able to handle superstars like [Kris] Bryant and [Anthony] Rizzo and that group of guys, so I think he’ll be able to handle our great players, and I think there’s a great respect for him, and the players I’ve spoken to about it are very, very excited to have Davey at the helm and I think he’s going to be great for the entire franchise.”
The franchise, Rizzo explained, is one that he’s proud of, having played a significant role in shaping it since he took over as the General Manager back in 2009.
“You know,” Rizzo said, “... people compare us to the Cardinals, and the Dodgers, and the Yankees, and the Cubs — who’ve been around 110 years, 120 years. We’ve been around for twelve.
“We’ve put ourselves in a great position after twelve short seasons of existence, and I couldn’t be prouder of the organization that we’ve built here.
“We’ve talked about the most wins and all of that stuff. That’s a big part of it.
“And getting to the next level is a big part of it, and winning for the District is a big part of it, and I get all that.”
“But the pride I take is to see how this team has evolved,” Rizzo said. “The minor league department that we have that feeds the big leagues, and the process we’ve developed here -- and I keep going back to it: You read about the Washington Nationals on the sports page, and I think that’s so important in today’s age, that we’ve got good character guys that love the city, and conduct themselves and make us proud of the name on the front of the jersey more so than the name on the back of the jersey, and I’m very proud of that.
“There’s wins and losses. Hey, it’s a performance business. I get it. Guys get fired and hired because you win games and win championships, and that’s what this thing is all about. I’ve been doing it for 35 years.
“But I’m proud of the team that we’ve assembled. I’m proud of the organization, and the franchise that it’s become. We’re the envy — believe it or not — from the outside looking in — we’re the envy of a lot of baseball teams and a lot of baseball owners, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team that we have. Not satisfied, but very proud.”
“I think moving forward, this team doesn’t lack much, it really doesn’t,” Martinez said in his introductory press conference. “I think that we’ve just got to get over the fact that we’re not here just to win a playoff game, we’re here to win the World Series.”