Mike Rizzo didn’t hold back in the press release on the Washington Nationals’ decision to cancel their Spring Training 2.0 workouts on Monday morning.
Rizzo, the GM of 2019’s World Series champions, cited a 72-hour delay in getting COVID-19 test results and said clearly, “We cannot have our players and staff work at risk.”
“Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning,” Rizzo wrote.
“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”
Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga wrote, in a column about the team’s decision and the GM’s statement, that Major League Baseball, “considered Rizzo’s statement to be some sort of insubordination.”
“The commissioner jumped on him for that,” Svrluga added, citing “one person familiar with the situation,” who spoke, “on the condition of anonymity.”
In a Zoom conference call with reporters this afternoon, Rizzo explained the thinking behind shutting things down on Monday even though the team has a limited window to prepare for the 60-game MLB campaign they’re going to try to play.
What changed in the 24 hours that passed that allowed them to gather together again?
“What changed is yesterday we had too many outstanding tests,” Rizzo said, “and we didn’t have the information on the players, and their safety, and we figured instead of going in blind and hoping that the outstanding cases weren’t going to be positive, we just didn’t have a good enough feeling that we were having the players’ safety in the forefront.
“So, we decided that until we get a good feel for who’s testing negative and positive that we were going to delay the start of yesterday’s workout and wait for some results. We didn’t get them by midday, so we canceled the workout altogether.”
The limited days that they have to prepare players for the upcoming season are precious, so it wasn’t a decision anyone with the Nationals took lightly.
“I’m the caretaker for these guys,” Rizzo said. “These are my guys. Their families are my families.
“The staff is my staff, and I couldn’t live with myself if we went on haphazardly, and didn’t abide by the rules that are in their best interest.”
“We’re confident,” Rizzo added, “that after some early hiccups that the procedure is going to work smoother, we’ll get a little rhythm going, and hopefully we can turn around these tests and then make prudent decisions about players’ health in our inner circle, but having the information makes that possible.”
Manager Davey Martinez said as important as each day is, they made the right decision and got back at it today when they were more comfortable with the circumstances, and they’ve started working in groups now as they prepare for the start of the season.
“We just backed up the schedule one day,” Martinez said, “but we’ve actually, with the way we’re trying to get these guys ready, it’s a constant, they’re constantly moving. We’ve got four stations with maybe probably two or three guys in each station just constantly working.
“Actually I think it did some good, because they came in today with some energy. We did a lot of baseball stuff today, which is kind of nice. Cutoff and relays. Some PFPs, and things of that nature, and then they hit a lot today. They looked good today, they looked really good. Saw [Stephen Strasburg] throw a bullpen today, and he looked fantastic, so like I said, ‘We’ve got to get ramped up a little bit different, and we’re going to keep you guys moving, keep you guys on your feet, and it’s going to be — you’re going to get tired, but it’s going to be good, because you build up your cardio as well.’”
Both Martinez and Rizzo said they take the role they’re in seriously, as caretakers of the club, its players, their families, and staff, so there were no regrets about the decision they made.
“Yesterday,” Martinez explained, “I sat in my office yesterday morning, and as we all know I cancelled practice, and that’s because of how much I care about these guys, and I want to keep them healthy, but also everybody else around us healthy.
“We’ve got our coaching staff, our training staff, everybody. Everybody is involved here. Like I said, if two or three guys go down because they’re ill, it doesn’t do anybody any good, and still, we don’t know what this thing really does to each individual. It’s always different for different people, so my job, like I said earlier, is to keep them safe and healthy and get them ready to play, and if we can do that, these guys are doing well. They’re all in. They’re excited and we’re having a lot of fun.
“I love this group, and as I said before, I’m going to do everything to take care of them on and off the field.”
“By missing a day, until we got the results back,” he added, “I thought it was the right thing to do and get everybody back today and out on the field and everybody is good to go.”
“We’re going to proceed with caution,” Rizzo said of the plan going forward, “and if we don’t have the information that we need, then we’re not going to put players’ health in jeopardy.”
Rizzo said Nationals’ ownership did talk to the league about what went wrong that led to the delays getting results, and they’re all on the same page.
“We’re trying to make this work,” he said. “We want to make it work, we want baseball, but it has to be safe, and we have to care about our players, and the players’ families, and our staff’s, first and foremost, end of sentence.
“I think that I do have confidence that we can get this right. There are a lot of smart people trying to work this thing out.
“I’m not going to judge it by the early results that we had early on in camp, because we’re in a situation that we’ve never been before, but we’re also going to make sure that the protocols are being done right and correctly and to the safe protocols that we need to for me to feel good about protecting our players and their families and our staff.
“That’s paramount in my mind and that’s my job, I’ve got to care for my people. And that’s what we’ll do. So, hopefully this thing gets a little rhythm to it. We’ll get more fluid.
“It will be more of a routine, but we’re always going to make certain that it’s done right, and when it’s not we will let people know.”