WASHINGTON – Mike Rizzo stood on a step in the Nationals’ first-base dugout here Sunday afternoon, his hands folded and his left arm leaning on a wooden bench with his back to the field.
With Washington’s pitchers warming up in short right, the long-time GM of the Nationals addressed the media before his team hosted the playoff-hopeful Boston Red Sox in the regular-season finale.
After contending for a playoff spot for nearly a decade, the Nationals entered the regular-season finale with a record of 65-96.
That came just two months and a few days after Rizzo and his staff dealt veterans such as Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Jon Lester, and Daniel Hudson to contending clubs at the trade deadline.
Now Rizzo had a reboot on his hands as the offseason looms.
“I see a lot of positives and some negatives [of the new, young players]. For the core group that is going to be our future, I see a lot of positives,” said Rizzo, wearing sunglasses, a short-sleeve light blue shirt, dark blue jeans, and white tennis shoes on a beautiful, 85-degree afternoon in the Navy Yards neighborhood.
“Like I said back at the trade deadline, I see some correlation in this reboot” with the previous one, he added.
“Our goal is to win the division, win the World Series every year. Our goal is to be better next year. The pitching definitely has to improve; we have to get better.”
“We are about winning, we have always been about winning,” Rizzo said. “I’m excited about the challenge [to reboot]. I’m all fired up about it. It’s the greatest job in the world. We want to win. We are a winning franchise. We have been an excellent team for more than a decade. I don’t see any willingness to change that” and tank like other teams.
Rizzo added that more changes are coming to player development and scouting.
The Nationals earlier had let go of several coaches in the minor leagues – some for performance and some who were not willing to get vaccinated per the team mandate, per published reports.
“The resources have been an issue here,” Rizzo said. “We are certainly going to make some changes in player development and scouting just to get some new ideas and fresh looks. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”
Rizzo also added that young infielders Luis García and Carter Kieboom need to make adjustments in order to keep up with those made by opponents.
And he said the best days are ahead for center fielder Victor Robles, who ended the year at Triple-A Rochester.
“He’s a good, young player,” Rizzo said of García, 21, adding he has lapsed at times on defense.
García went on the Injured List Sunday to make room for right-handed pitcher Joan Adon, who was making his MLB debut.
Kieboom, 24, was drafted out of a Georgia high school and has made the move to third base after playing short as an amateur. The right-handed hitter started at third on Sunday and entered the game with an average of .206 and six homers this year.
“He has shown flashes offensively,” Rizzo said of Kieboom.
And of those trades in late July?
“We thought it was the prudent way to go,” Rizzo said. “I am not going to put a timetable on when we will become a championship-caliber” team again.