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Ladies and Gentlemen, GM Mike Rizzo

So, acting General Manager Mike Rizzo had his introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon. Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten sat at a table in front of the assorted TV cameras, big-event-descending media types (editorial comment: I want my little team back!), etc. The "opening comments" part was pretty standard. Rizzo thanked the Lerner family for "entrusting him" with the "valuable keys" to the franchise. He called the franchise's future bright. He called the new job an honor. What follows is the Q&A part, transcribed quickly (but hopefully with a fair level of accuracy).

Q: When did you realize that you had the ability to become a general manager?

RIZZO: Well, right or wrong, I thought I had the ability to be a general manager a long time ago. I knew I had the player evaluation part of it down early in my career. I always considered myself as a good leader. I always thrived under pressure. This is a pressure-cooker job; don't think it's not. It's 24-7. There's a lot of tough decisions that have to be made, and there's not a lot of lamenting after they're made. So I thought I had a good foundation, and then when I did get into the front office job I was smart enough to learn what I didn't know. And it was vast.

Q: Mike, what was your dad's reaction?

RIZZO: It was good. Good reaction. He was very, very emotional.

Q: For the last five months you've essentially been acting under two roles. Are their plans now to add more staff?

RIZZO: Well, yes, we're gonna take that under advisement. We'll have our meetings with the board and with Stan and we'll map all that stuff out. And like I've said in the past, the Lerners have given me all the resources I've asked for to get the people in place that we need, and I don't see that changing now.

Q: You mentioned you knew the player evaluation side before the front office job. What in particular have you learned most in the last months?

RIZZO: I think the vastness of the job. You have to really know how to budget your time. You have to really be time-sensitive, and you have to be the leader of 500 employees, including players. It's a vast job, and it's a job where you really have to learn how to delegate. When you're used to doing everything yourself and making all the decisions, that sometimes becomes one of your greatest dilemmas.

Q: The last couple of days a few other names have been thrown around. At any point did you think you might not be here today?

RIZZO: Um, no. I always felt I would be the choice. I didn't know if they knew it yet. But I always felt like I was the choice. I have a confidence level in myself and I thought I was well-prepared for the job, and the one thing I kept drawing on -- the Lerners are good business people, and I knew they would pick the right guy for the job. With that in my mind, I always thought it would be me.

Q: You mentioned the holes of this team. What are the priorities for changing the roster?

RIZZO: In the immortal words of Stan Kasten, pitching, pitching and pitching. We understand that we have a very talented young starting rotation. That said, we need an anchor at the top of it. So some kind of veteran starting pitcher would help. You know, my philosophy is speed and defense especially up the middle, and have your big mashers on the corner. So we're going to take that into account. Of course we have to stabilize a resurgent bullpen but a bullpen that has not performed up to standards. That's another priority.

Q: Stan, you guys as an organization had obviously been looking at other GM candidates, too. When did you decide on Mike, and what was the deciding factor?

KASTEN: Let me say, I would say in the last couple weeks it was becoming clear that this was the likelihood. I think from Day 1 Mike was a very strong candidate, a very strong candidate. As I said, the last couple weeks it was becoming clear that that's what the board was moving toward. I don't know when they finalized it; certainly in the last week I have felt that. And as soon as we got the Strasburg stuff completed, we met Tuesday and finalized our arrangement.

Q: When you first hired Mike, was there a part of you that thought, 'Future GM material?'

KASTEN: I'll say this -- I didn't know if he was material, but I certainly knew he wanted it. In fact when I hired Mike that was one of the things people said about him, both pro and con. He really wants to be a GM. I spoke to friends of mine who said, 'This guy is driven to become a GM.' I didn't know if he'd become one, but I knew that was certainly something important to him. I don't think he would have been a GM three years ago; he clearly is a GM today, because of what he's experienced, because of what he's done, because of what he's learned in the last three years.

Q: Stan, along those lines, how important is it to have this stability?

KASTEN: Yeah, it's been a hard year to be stable, and hopefully this is that transition from instability into something more long-lasting. It's critical to me, it's critical to the Lerner family to build something that is long-lasting. And so yeah, we've had our bumps and bruises. Once we turn the corner we'll be able to laugh about these last few months, and I think that time is getting much much closer.

Q: Since you've been here you've gone through the drafts, some trades and a big negotiation. Which of those three did you come here prepared for, and which have you grown into?

RIZZO: My niche was always the draft, so I knew that part of the business probably the best. I negotiated a lot of contracts, millions and millions of dollars worth. The most recent contracts had a few more zeroes in them than what I'm used to, but the negotiating process was the same. On the trade front, that was probably the most inexperienced I was in the role, but a player is a player is a player.

Q: Stan, with the Strasburg process, was that at all something that affirmed to you Mike was GM material?

KASTEN: No, I felt that way before that, and I will tell you we have spoken to each other prior -- we were going this way irrespective of how Monday turned out. And I can tell you that, we said that to each other last week. In fact, let's face it, if this hadn't worked out on Monday, that falls on me and the owners. That would have been me. Let's just say Mike bailed me out on Monday.

Q: Mike, what's the thought with Jim Riggleman and his interim tag? Is that the biggest priority moving forward?

RIZZO: Well, I certainly like what Jim has done. I'm the one who made him interim manager. It was my decision. He's an old school baseball guy with a lot of new ideas. He's certainly going to be a candidate for the permanent managerial job, but that's a discussion we're going to have after the season is over and throughout the winter.

Q: Mike, there's been a lot of discussion within baseball in the last 10 years about old school and new school. Where do you stand?

RIZZO: I'm really a baseball hybrid. We do a lot of sabermetric calculations --

KASTEN: Oh, you've got to hear Mike talk about VORP and WHIP. No, he's really getting good at that stuff.

RIZZO: I'll throw WHIP at you, there's no doubt.

KASTEN: Yeah, no kidding.

RIZZO: But it is a hybrid, though. It's another tool. It's another piece of the puzzle. I always err toward my own two eyes rather than a computation, but as we've seen with our great young staff, the guys that grind it out with me every day 24-7, is that we do utilize all facets of scouting and player information.

Q: When did you think, 'I want to be a GM?'

RIZZO: It started with a conversation I had as a minor league player when I was released out of the California Angels minor league system. I talked to the baseball guy I knew best, my dad. And he was a scout and an evaluator himself. I was leaning toward signing another minor league contract with another team and continuing my playing career. And he sat me down at the kitchen table, we went over my career path, and he said, 'Mike, you could be a minor league bum your whole life. You're not gonna play in the big leagues. You're not talented enough for that. But you can be a good baseball guy as a coach, a manager, a scouting director or ultimately a general manager.' I think it started early in my baseball career, and it was a driving force in me getting to the position I'm in today.

Q: A lot of people have given you acclaim for the Nyjer Morgan acquisition. Going back to the new-school old-school question, in what different ways did you evaluate him and what were some of the things you looked at before you made the trade?

RIZZO: We were looking for a specific type of player. We evaluated that our outfield defense was not acceptable. We needed a true center fielder, a plus-plus defensive guy with range and speed who could make up for our lesser defensive guys on the end. Adam is a consummate professional hitter but struggles in the outfield with range as we know. We knew we needed a guy that could range and play extremely good defensively. The list is small of available guys that are 80 defenders with speed and, to get lucky, a guy who can hit at the top of the order. The specific center field candidates weren't there, so we went outside the box a little bit and Nyjer Morgan was a guy I always liked with the Pirates. I liked his energy, I loved the way he went after it between the lines, and we kind of focused in on him as our future center fielder. And we did the computations and we did the calculations and we had several scouts go in and see him. And as luck would have it, Nate McLouth was injured for several games at the beginning of the season and Nyjer played center field. We got an evaluation from a couple guys on his center field play, and one thing led to another, and we started negotiations for the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a trade I believe will be helpful to both organizations.

Q: You talked about your father. What was the best piece of advice he gave you?

RIZZO: Don't lie. That's the big piece of information he's given me. Don't lie, and always tell the truth, and be true to your convictions. Those things I've taken with me in my career.

Q: Was there a moment in your career along when you said, I can do this, I can be a GM?

RIZZO: Well, I don't think there was ever a light bulb moment for me. I do know you take it day-by-day out on the road. I was an area scout for 11 years, so I tell future scouts, you better like yourself because you're with yourself all the time on the road. And that's about it. It's not a very glamorous lifestyle for those guys driving up and down the road. You go at it day by day. I did get up every morning with an attitude: I'm going to beat somebody today. If that means going to an extra game at night or driving 200 extra miles to the next game tomorrow, that's kind of the attitude you have to have. I think my self-motivation is probably the thing that's gotten me where I'm at right now.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 20, 2009; 5:54 PM ET
 
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Next: Rizzo, Two Perspectives

Comments

Great stuff, Chico!

Now let's get a curly W tonight!

Posted by: mo_dc | August 20, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"editorial comment: I want my little team back!"

OMG, Chico. This was priceless!!
I totally laughed out loud when I read that.

Buncha bandwagoners! Where were you in May? GET OFF HIS LAWN!!


Posted by: NatsNut | August 20, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Great attitude MikeR!!...the exact background that will make you a successful GM for a longtime to come...Nats are fortunate to have you on board! Heartfelt Congrats....Go Rizzo! Go Nats!!

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Was stan k on board for rizzo? Check out his comment about the "board " moving towards the decision. Stan sounded like he wasn't even in the loop.

Posted by: swanni | August 20, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Stan: "I don't know when (the board) finalized it." gee, aren't you the company president, stan? Shouldn't you know when the board made such an important personnel decision? Were you not involved in the process?

And Chico! -- why didn't you follow up on that statement?!

Posted by: swanni | August 20, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

FYI...the Mets released Livan Hernandez this afternoon.

Posted by: BGinVA | August 20, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Little teams rule!!

Great one, Chico! And great transcript, too! This is like manna from heaven for me.

Posted by: Juan-John | August 20, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Will Strasburg watch the game tomorrow vs. the Brewers??!! How cool would that be?

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I would think that being Nat's President, Stan is on the board.

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | August 20, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Mock keeps getting better and better ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Mock retired 1st 6 batters...3 of them on strikeouts! Pretty good start....

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

4 with Brewers, 3 at Cubbies, 3 at St. Louis, and 1 game with SD to complete August. Wonder how it will end?

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Mock looks better than Lannan right now ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

My prediction we win at least 5....

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Will rest(go back to sleep) more this early AM..Hope to see better results today.....

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Chico: Thanks for the fish (the transcript). Good stuff.
Rizzo really has seized on the opportunity and taken full responsibility for the GM job since spring; Now that he's secured, maybe the worm is starting to turn for this team.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Mock retires 1st 9 batters....4 Ks...Perfect so far....

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow, we're going down so fast, only 24 pitches thrown by Hammel.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

fyi, away from the cameras, stan talked today in far greater depth about the GM search. though, in vintage stan style, he refused to name names. still, plenty interesting. i'll provide a transcript on the journal tomorrow.

Posted by: chicoharlan | August 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

@fbacolo: That's on you.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

perfect no more.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

"he refused to name names": would like your guesses when the transcript goes up on NJ.

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 20, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Bergmann's wife is in the booth w/ Charlie & Dave. She must be lovely, because C&D are falling all over themselves to talk to her.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

"Lovely" may not be a sufficient descriptor.

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 20, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Jason Hammel has a no-hitter.

I'm posting this so we'll get a hit soon.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Zimm walked so it kind of worked.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | August 20, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

There you go, Rachel - thanks, it seems to have done the trick!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | August 20, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

@joemkt: Didn't want to sound overly sexist - never seen or met her, so have no pre-concieved notions. She was promoting a good Nationals-sponsored charity (school supplies for DC kids), so she deserved the time in the booth.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

@Rachel: You evened (then bettered) the hit score - thanks. No runs though - bummer.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it always seems like anytime someone mentions a perfect game or no-hitter, minutes later, it's gone.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh - no walks pls.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | August 20, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

nice job, stopping that no-hitter rachel. thanks.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 20, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

MASN! WHY are you cutting to commercial now!?!?!?

Posted by: mrm0to | August 20, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Way too fast a hook ... he is pitching a great game.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Good job, umpires, good job. Totally blew that call. Not even close.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

BinM,

YOU MISSED the great WaPo article about the players' wives/fiances/gf's? Check out JD Martin's hotty ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Umpires-2, Nats-0

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Can't afford any walks ... at least this team can't ... just goes to show ya ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

stupid umps

Posted by: BGinVA | August 20, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

BinM,

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/16/AR2009081601528.html

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

WP same as a walk.

walk, single, double, wild pitch = 2 runs.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Mock's at 91PT through 5IP; He's done. Cue Clippard, Burnett, Bergmann.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

BinM,

Sexist or not ... they all look pretty hot to me.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Hammel, after 5 only 56 pitches. That's what you strive for.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

jarah bergmann interview:

http://www.masnsports.com/ml/video.php?show_id=143115

Posted by: NatsNut | August 20, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

@peri: Thanks for the link - I'd already read the article, but the included image didn't sway me.

Posted by: BinM | August 20, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

BinM, the link that NatsNut gave shows a smokin' hot lady ... sheesh you must be Bill Clinton in disguise ... :) jk

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Another 1 run game ... Colorado is tough.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

easy now I didn't post that link for ya'll to get all slobbery and gross.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 20, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I hate playing the Rockies. Ugh, Guzman.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

it's not so bad. couple months ago it would easily be 8-0 rockies right now.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 20, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

"easy now I didn't post that link for ya'll to get all slobbery and gross.

Posted by: NatsNut"

The play-uhs get the hot lookin' babes ... who divorce them within 2-3 years after their playing days are done. Kind of SOP ... interesting reading about former O Delino DeSheilds.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

3 hits, 2 walks, and 11 strikeouts ... great game by the Nats pitchers so far!!!!

Day-and-night from yesterday.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Jarah Bergmann : gone if he keeps pitching like this ... his playing days will be over ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen explodes again ... sigh ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

ugh. why do we have to be so bad. it's depressing.

Posted by: rachel216 | August 20, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Right now they aren't bad ... although the pitching has improved ... it will be a lot better next year I suspect .... it isn't quite good enough.

This is just getting beat by a better team ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Why was Burnett removed after getting the 1stguy out?....Then Bergmann got hit....Was this a bad timing to change a pitcher?...now down 1-4....ugh.

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Burnett's pitch count was around 35. He may have to pitch tomorrow or the next day. He's not a starter he doesn't get 4 days rest.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Thanks pericukum...thought he got hurt also...wasn't watching the game..only the boxscore...anyway good to know Burnett and Clippard pitched well tonight except for Bergmann in relief...as we're on verge of losing 3 straight to the Rockies a better team in the series we've played w/them this year...So on to the next series w/the Brewers...Mock pitced a pretty good game...

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

sorry for wrong spelling above "Periculum"...

Posted by: fbacolod29 | August 20, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

The best team won the series. Hopefully, they will do better in the four game series against the Brewers.

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

And sorry to say NatsNut ... but Jarrah Bergmann is one smokin' hot lady from just anyone's perspective ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Tomorrow JD Martin ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

the nats are 3-15 combined against the marlins and rockies. hope that doesn't keep them from the wild card.

Posted by: surly_w | August 20, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

"the nats are 3-15 combined against the marlins and rockies. hope that doesn't keep them from the wild card.

Posted by: surly_w | August 20, 2009"

Hopefully it won't count next year when Wilkie and Storen follow the starter ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so we signed Strasburg, we've named Rizzo the GM which is great, now when does the front office sign Frank Howard to be part of the organization. I'll be at the ballpark Sat. for his bobblehead, but signing Hondo would be make for a sweet trifecta this week!

Posted by: reverendnat | August 20, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Be nice if Frank were on board ...

Posted by: periculum | August 20, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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