Mike Rizzo

From BR Bullpen

Michael Anthony Rizzo

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Mike Rizzo played several seasons of minor league ball and since 2009 has been General Manager of the Washington Nationals.

An infielder, Rizzo was selected by the California Angels in the 28th round of the 1979 amateur draft, but headed to college. He was selected by the Angels again in the 22nd round of the 1982 amateur draft and played three seasons in their organization. After his playing days, he was a scout for the Chicago White Sox (signing Frank Thomas) and Boston Red Sox, and he was Scouting Director of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2000 to 2006. He then joined the Nationals as Assistant GM, and he replaced Jim Bowden as GM on an interim basis on March 4, 2009, when Bowden was dismissed because of a scandal involving signing bonuses paid in the Dominican Republic. He was given the job permanently later that summer.

Under Rizzo's leadership, Washington drafted and signed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in consecutive amateur drafts. He paid top money for both prospects, and was rewarded for his boldness when both breezed to the minors and began contributing to the big league team less than two years after being drafted. Before the 2012 season, he engineered a major trade with the Oakland Athletics, landing All-Star pitcher Gio Gonzalez in return for three young players. For the first time in a number of years, the Nats were in position to trade young players, because their farm system was finally productive again, after having taken years to recover from the pilfering of its scouting network by Jeffrey Loria when he swapped ownership of the Montreal Expos for that of the Florida Marlins after the 2001 season and took the Expos' excellent player development network with him, leaving the future Nationals barren for years afterwards.

In May of 2012, Rizzo got himself in trouble by talking tough in trying to protect his new franchise player Bryce Harper. Harper had been hit a pitch by the Phillies' Cole Hamels in a game on May 7th, after which Hamels boasted he had done so deliberately. Rizzo lashed into the Phillies pitcher, calling him "classless", "gutless" and "fake tough". Hamels earned a five-game suspension for his gesture, but Major League Baseball also fined Rizzo an undisclosed amount for his verbal outburst. The Nationals made the postseason for the first time since moving to Washington, DC that year, but Rizzo's decision to shut down ace pitcher Strasburg, coming off Tommy John surgery, in early September, was widely criticized, as it was seen as a major cause of the team's early exit from the playoffs.

On August 1, 2013, Rizzo was promoted to President of Baseball Operations by the Nationals, while also keeping his duties as General Manager. He was also given a contract extension. Manager Davey Johnson retired after the season and rookie manager Matt Williams was brought in to replace him in 2014. After missing the postseason in 2013, the Nats had their best season in 2014, finishing with the best record in the NL. However, they suffered another early exit from the playoffs. They were preseason favorites to reach the World Series in 2015, especially after inking free agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a lucrative deal in the off-season, but they faltered badly in August and September, after leading the NL East for most of the first four months. In particular, the trade Rizzo made at the end of July to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies backfired badly, as erstwhile closer Drew Storen, who had played impeccably until then, imploded after moving to a set-up role while Papelbon fought with opponents and teammate, ending his tenure with the team by being suspended for the entire final week of the season. The Nationals missed the postseason by a wide margin and one day after it ended, on October 5th, Rizzo dismissed Williams and his entire coaching staff.

Rizzo first tried to hire Bud Black to succeed Williams, but the two sides could not agree on a salary, and he turned around to snag a dark horse candidate in Dusty Baker, whom most observers considered to have retired for good. It turned out to be an inspired choice, as Baker led the team to consecutive division titles in 2016 and 2017 - only to be ousted from the postseason at the Division Series stage both years. Baker retired (presumably for good) after the second year and Rizzo turned to someone completely different to lead the team in 2018 in Dave Martinez, who was getting his first crack at managing after years as a bench coach. Rizzo's window for success was closing fast by that point, as a number of key players led by OF Bryce Harper were set to become free agents at the end of the year, while the competition from the other four teams in the NL East was unlikely to stay just perfunctory for a long time. On April 4th, he was rewarded for the team's recent success - at least in the regular season - with a two-year contract extension taking him through the end of the 2020 season.

The Nationals' confidence in him was rewarded, as after a disappointing season in 2018 and a poor start in 2019, following the departure of superstar OF Harper via free agency, the Nationals caught fire and played as well as anyone in baseball after their first 50 games. They then showed a remarkable ability to come back from deficits in the postseason and ended up winners of the first championship in franchise history when they defeated the Houston Astros in 7 games in the 2019 World Series.

On September 6, 2020, he was ejected from a game by umpire Joe West. He was in his suite in the upper deck of Nationals Park at the time and complaining loudly about the umpiring crew's decisions, particularly those of home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. However, in an empty ballpark, his unkind comments could be heard on the field, and West instructed stadium security to have him removed.

Rizzo is the son of Phil Rizzo, a minor league player and longtime scout.

Preceded by
Jim Bowden
Washington Nationals General Manager
Succeeded by

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jamal Collier: "Nationals, GM Rizzo agree to extension", mlb.com, April 4, 2018. [1]
  • Howard Fendrich (Associated Press): "Nationals, GM Rizzo earn 'I told you so' World Series title", USA Today, October 31, 2019. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Nationals' year of reckoning includes overlooked free agent: GM Mike Rizzo", USA Today Sports, January 17, 2018. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Even after World Series title, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo enters 2020 season as a lame duck", USA Today, July 14, 2020. [4]

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