Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has been the subject of rumors before, even over the last year, as writers around the baseball world have speculated on whether or not a deal will be struck to keep him the General Manager in D.C. beyond 2018. He did buy a new home in Southeast D.C. recently, which led to even more speculation.
Back in 2009, before he was named the Nats’ full-time GM, there were rumors that the Nationals’ ownership decided to go in a different direction, with articles at the time suggesting Jerry DiPoto would be named as Jim Bowden’s official successor a few months after Rizzo took over on an interim basis following the Smiley Gonzalez scandal.
Of course, that never happened. Rizzo got the full-time job. He did, however, talk about the impact the rumors had on him and his family after the official announcement, which came after long week of chatter.
“The information, the mis-information — I agree with [team president] Stan [Kasten] — was unfortunate, but it didn’t affect me nearly as much as the people who knew me and were rooting for me,” Rizzo explained. “Because I knew on Tuesday that I had the job. The Wednesday stories were at first, it was a little comical, and then as the day drew on and it seem to kind of snowball into more of a for-sure thing that I wasn’t going to get the job, and you know, family members and friends were a little more vocal in their displeasure.”
[ed. note - “We had an anonymous source reaching out to us at the time, assuring us in an email that week that, ‘[DiPoto and the Nationals] are in the process of inking a deal as I write this.’”]
Having been through it himself though, Rizzo knows what it’s like to hear rumblings and read things in print and wonder what, if any, truth there is to the reports.
In an interview with ESPN’s Buster Olney this week, Rizzo talked about how he addresses such things when it comes to his players. He was asked about the rumors of interest in a number of players like Jake Arrieta (considered a target for the Nationals before he signed with the Phillies), and J.T. Realmuto, (who has been tied to the Nats all winter), and how much of an effect the stories have on the players whose names are involved.
“It becomes cumbersome after a while,” Rizzo said, “because you’re deflecting — you’re trying to be honest with the media, and you’re deflecting these rumors on a daily basis, but in this world of social media there [are] a lot of stories out there and there’s a lot of conjecture and guys putting two and two together and think they have four and at times it becomes embarrassing for the players because you’re talking about guys that are going to replace other guys on your roster and you’re not even seriously considering guys, but it’s out there in the media, so there’s a lot of monitoring that goes on.”
“There [are] a lot of meetings, conversations, and communications you have to have with your players to assure them and to be honest with them really,” Rizzo continued.
“We had a lot of conjecture about the catching situation, and about starting pitching, and bullpen guys and that type of thing, and really we felt good about where we came in in this offseason. We did our free agent shopping early in the market, we identified three or four needs with our team and we filled those needs right around the Winter Meetings, so we felt good about where we were going into the winter, how we accomplished each and every one of our goals, and we thought that we filled enough holes and that we put together a really strong, deep roster.”
This goes both ways, of course. Rizzo acknowledges “trying to be honest with the media,” but it’s not always advantageous or possible to be completely honest while in talks with players, agents, or other teams, so there is at times some necessary obfuscation and misdirection, and no repercussions for GMs around the game if they’re not 100% honest with reporters, so it’s never easy to be completely straightforward about such things. It can’t be easy for anyone involved, of course, but it’s a part of the game and the coverage of it that isn’t going away any time soon, at least according to our sources.