“I’m not going to insult the intelligence of everybody listening, the fanbase, and everybody else, and say, ‘Hey, things are rosy and things are great right now.’ No they’re not.”
Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo has spent the last two weeks with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies venting on Wednesday morning, talking openly about the struggles the Nationals have dealt with through the first 41 games this season, over which they’ve gone 16-25, with losses in 14 of their last 20.
So, no, Rizzo said, things are not “rosy”, “They’re terrible.”
“It’s the worst we’ve played probably since we’ve come off an expansion-type of a roster, so we’ve got a long way to go, man. We’ve got to play a lot better baseball and we’ve got to win games, and we’ve got to get back to learning how to win. We walk into that ballpark every day — I always say, you guys have heard me say it a million times, we put a guy on the mound that gives us a chance to win each and every day, and over the last seven years we are one of three teams that have had a .500 or better record. That’s hard to believe, but that’s true. We’re one of three teams in the last seven years that have been .500 or better.”
Playing without the likes of Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman, and Matt Adams for long stretches, however, the Nationals have struggled in every aspect, with fill-ins at multiple positions, players out of position, and a bullpen that’s settled in some, but still hasn’t produced as expected.
The starters have, at least the top three, generally given the Nationals a shot to win but their work hasn’t always been supported, or protected by the bullpen.
“We’ve been stricken by some injuries, there’s no doubt about that,” Rizzo said.
“I mean since Rendon went down I think were like 7-and — we’re playing like .320 ball since our 2-3-4-5 and Matt Adams went down. We’re starting to get a couple of guys back. You’re seeing Rendon starting to get a little comfortable at the plate. Juan Soto is back.
“We’ve got Trea, he’s rehabbing in the minor leagues so he’s on the horizon and shouldn’t be too far away and that’s going to be a huge impact for us. You’re talking about one of the best two-way players in the game.
“He locks down our defense in the most important position on the infield and is kind of the captain of the defense, and also gives you a great offensive performance at the plate.
“He’s been a huge loss. Let’s not forget, we’ve had him for a total of four games this season, so we’re excited to get him back and to kind of get whole and see what transpires after that and see what type of team we really have and see if we can get a little bit of momentum.”
Building momentum with players who have been sitting for weeks, as the Nats have seen in previous seasons, is never easy, of course, but if they’re going to make a run they need it to happen sooner than later.
“We do have 122 games left, but I’m certainly not — we’re 8.0 games out, so I’m certainly not going to say that it’s early, because it’s not early,” Rizzo explained.
“We’ve got to start playing better, but when I look at the teams that we’re chasing in the Phillies and the Braves and the Mets, we’re certainly capable of playing with them and beating them.”
When the Nationals hired Davey Martinez there was plenty of talk about how making it to the postseason wasn’t enough any more, but they missed out on playoff baseball in 2018 and things aren’t going much better this season.
But no one in the Nats’ front office is ready to give up just yet.
“We’ve built something here that expectations are high,” Rizzo said.
“I’m not settling on lowering my expectations. My expectations are still: win this division, the National League East, which is a tough division, it’s gonna be nip and tuck the whole way, and go deep into the playoffs.
“I think we have the roster, when healthy, to do so, and I think we have the personnel to be a really competitive team in the National League.”
“So that’s my expectations, that’s my thought process, and obviously we have to play a lot better baseball than we are right now to achieve that.”