Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty first reported last week on the news, “[VP and Assistant GM] Johnny DiPuglia resigned from his role as the Washington Nationals’ international scouting director,” 15 years after GM Mike Rizzo brought the long-time scout into the organization the same year Rizzo was named the Nats’ full-time General Manager.
“The reason for his resignation was not immediately known or provided by the team,” the WaPost writer noted. “DiPuglia declined further comment.”
In his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, Rizzo, who’d initially declined to comment for the Post’s story, said the reports on the decision to part ways being mutual were accurate.
“Great guy,” Rizzo said of DiPuglia. “I’ve known him for 30 years. He’s been with me for 15. He’s done a sensational job here. He’ll have a job with somebody very soon.”
“Change is good,” the GM added. “A lot of times change is good. Johnny and I go way back, we’re still best friends and that’ll never change.
“When reports come out and it says a ‘mutual resignation,’ I think you can believe it. Johnny and I are warriors from a long time ago. And we battled against each other for years, and then we brought him in and I think that his resume speaks for itself.”
The changes in the scouting ranks in the organization continued on Wednesday:
The Nationals have informed six pro scouts they will not return, sources tell me and @BrittGhiroli. Those let go: Special asst’s Willie Fraser, John Mirabelli, Mike Pagliarulo, Matt Ruebel, Jon Weil, plus pro scout Jeff Harris. Cuts also made on amateur and int’l side.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 6, 2023
Source: The Nationals have informed four members of their international scouting department that their contracts will not be renewed. The list includes Mike Cadahia, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Pepe Ortega and David Leer (who scouted Aruba).— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) September 6, 2023
Though they decided to make changes in the scouting department, Rizzo told the Junkies he’s happy with the work his front office has done since they kicked off the organizational reboot which began at the trade deadline in ‘21, and in his mind the process is now actually ahead of schedule.
“I think we’re a little bit ahead of schedule,” Rizzo qualified. “I really like where that Double-A club is with a lot of prospects. The last three drafts have really impacted us positively as far as our farm system. I like the young group of players at the big league level. I think that we’re gonna have an increase of wins from 55 to wherever we end up this year, which I think is a positive aspect of the rebuild. And when you look at the six, seven players that are gonna be core group of the team that we already have along with the impact type of players that we have in the minor leagues that are not far away from the big leagues, I think you can only be happy about the way the rebuild has gone.
“And since July of ‘21 when we started this rebuild, you have to see the light at the end of this tunnel because I think we’re ahead of our schedule where we were in the first rebuild in ‘09, ‘10, ‘11.”
CJ 3 CS:
CJ Abrams, 22, stole his 40th base in 43 attempts this season on Wednesday to become, the, “… third player (fourth occurrence) in Nationals’ (2005-pres.) history [of a player recording] 40 or more stolen bases in a season.”
“Since moving to the leadoff spot on July 7,” the club added in the post game notes on their walk-off win, “Abrams has 29 stolen bases, the most in Major League Baseball.”
Manager Davey Martinez told reporters in his post game presser he’s not surprised at all to see Abrams reach the 40-steal plateau.
“As I always tell him,” Martinez said, “‘You can do unbelievable things when you get to first base.’
“A walk turns into a double for him, sometimes a triple. He worked some really good at-bats today, got on base, got his 40th stolen base, but that’s awesome.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of what the shortstop has been able to do so far in his career is the fact he has done what he’s done so far as a 21-year-old rookie and 22-year-old second-year big leaguer.
“I think there is more in the tank,” Martinez added. “He understands the whole stolen base thing, he gets on base, and he wants to get to second base, and that’s a big part of stealing. But we need him to get on.
“I tell him walks are important, base hits, two-strike hitting is going to be really important for him just to move the baseball.”
The improvement he’s made, given his already abundant talent, provide plenty of reasons to be excited about what the future holds for the speedy infielder.
“He’s got that gift to really get on there and read pitchers and understand what he can do and what he can’t do and when he can’t do it,” Martinez said of Abrams’ base-stealing prowess.
“But he’s ultra-aggressive on the bases, which I love.”
BACK TO RIZZO:
GM Mike Rizzo is not big on discussing his own contract status, though it was bound to come up again after manager Davey Martinez, who, like Rizzo, was in the final year of his deal with the Nats this season, signed a multi-year extension a couple weeks back.
Rizzo declined to discuss rumors he was about to sign a deal too at the time, with the GM explaining he was focused on the deal for Martinez first before moving on to his own future.
“I’m Davey’s boss, my job is to take care of Davey and to take care of the players in the clubhouse and I’ve done my job,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.
“It was important for me to have ownership sign off on this multi-year contract [for Martinez].
“To me it was important for me to have Davey solidified in that clubhouse as a guy who is going to be around and see this rebuild go through, so that was a success. And job well done, Mike, so I appreciate that.”
Rizzo stuck with that approach when he was asked this week why his own deal is still not done during his latest visit with the Junkies.
“Well the big news was that we got Davey signed and sealed and delivered for an extended period of time,” Rizzo said, “which was my goal all along. And like I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m [Martinez’s] boss and I wanted to get that thing done, so, appealed to the ownership and we got it done, so that was an important thing. I see a lot of reports about a lot of things, my personal business and baseball business, and you just have to take that stuff with a grain of salt. You guys have known me a long time I’ve never worried about my contract situation, I grind it out every day, I come to work every day, I’ve got assignments and things I have to accomplish every day and we’re doing our business as usual. And I just want to grind this thing out and get it through this rebuild and put a championship-caliber club on the field again.”
So clearly he wants to see the organizational reboot he and his staff kicked off back in 2021 through to the end, right?
“Oh, definitely,” Rizzo said. “This has been my home for 17 years, and we brought this thing from below expansion franchise when we bought it from MLB back in the day, and I’ve been here since ’06 and plan on being here for a long time beyond that.”
So, one of the Junkies asked cheekily, we should expect a press conference on his (Rizzo’s) own extension before the end of the season?
“You’re talking about things that I don’t discuss,” Rizzo said.
“We never discuss what we’re doing as far as negotiations and contracts and that type of thing so we’re not going to start now.
“I’ve been the GM for 15 years and I’m happy here. I see big things happening for this team, and I’m certainly glad that Davey’s around for it, and I certainly want to be part of the next championship club.”
Developing story: Stephen Strasburg’s retirement press conference slated for Saturday has been cancelled, multiple sources say. The plan was to honor him and retire his number but the Nationals have changed course.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) September 7, 2023
Sources: Luis García is on his way back to the majors and is expected to join the team before the Dodgers series this weekend. Not sure of the corresponding move yet.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) September 7, 2023