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Mike Rizzo: 'We want to start winning'

Today will be Mike Rizzo's first opening day as non-interim general manager, and he hasn't thought much about that. The team he's been assembling for a year will debut today, and at the end of last week I had a chance to get his general feelings on today and the season.

On thinking about this being his first opening day as full-fledged general manager:
"I haven't. I don't see any change in what I've done this year from what I did last year. I go after it, you just jump in with both feet. In every sense of the word, I was the GM last year. Although this year gave me a full offseason to prepare for spring training. That made it go much smoother. I'm not much on remembering anniversaries and dates and that type of thing. It's just baseball 24-7. It's been great to interact with players so closely. Jim and I have had a great relationship this spring. We're certainly on the same page being the GM, the manager, the coaching staff and the players. That's a good feeling.

On his feel about the team:
I feel good. Spring training, we trained right. We built our pitchers up the right way. I think we're going in the right direction as far as getting to the peak preparation for opening day. I like the last couple of days, the team that's going to be the team is together and performing well. We're an optimistic group. There's a bounce in everybody's step, an excitement. We're planning on playing well.

On his expectations:
We want to win starting April 5. We want to start winning. We want to expect to win. We want to prepare to win. And we will do so. We're going to prepare to win. We're going to try and win as many ballgames as we can. We're not talking about any type of thresholds other than go out there every day and win that game on that day.

Has it taken work to give the organization as a whole that mindset?
It has. It's a change of culture. It's an attitude. I think that with that in mind, we've brought in players with that type of mindset who've done it before that can teach the people who haven't done it before to how they do it -- how they win, how they win on a daily basis, how to prepare to win championships and a World Series.

On a change in perception in how the Nationals are viewed inside baseball:
I think that's a better question for people outside. All the people that speak to me, all the general managers, they see what we're doing. If you're knowledgeable about the game, they see definite philosophies and patterns being employed. Everybody to a person that I've talked to and discussed with are really excited and admire the way we're going about it.

On how closely things have gone to his plan:
So far, the early results are good. We're never satisfied here. We can always -- I can always do things better. I can always expect for the people underneath me to do it better. We're really in the beginnings of this transitional phase to change the culture. I like the early returns. The people that we've brought in have been terrific in helping that move much faster than if they weren't here. We feel that we're headed in the right direction.

On how far along they are now:
It's a tough question to answer. We're at last place right now. We were in last place last season. We want to become world champions. In between that, what we're trying to do is become a team that is consistently in the hunt to make the playoffs. That's the first goal, is to grow an organization and to grow a team that plays the game the right way and has a chance to win every day. And then you try to become a continual playoff contender every year. And that turns into you want to become a continuous champion every year. We're at the beginning of it. We're coming into opening day with a clean slate and a brand new philosophy and a brand new attitude. 2009 is behind us. We're going to start this thing off April 5 and take it to whoever we're playing on that given night.

On if you can show progress in ways other than win-loss record:
We want to win every night we can. It's important to win games. That's what we come out here for. That's what the fans come out to see. It's the most important thing, is to win games. Progress is measured at different stages in different things. But we're all about winning, and that's the only thing that really matters, is winning games.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 5, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
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Next: Obama will wear Nationals jacket for first pitch


Rizzo says everyone to a person around MLB (that's 100 percent) admires the way Rizzo and the Nats are building the club. Unanimity is hard to achieve these days (just ask the President). Rizzo should be congratulated on getting every single knowledgeable person in MLB to admire his work, and to become excited about his approach too! It is gratifying to see such amazing progress in a short time.

"If you're knowledgeable about the game, they see definite philosophies and patterns being employed. Everybody to a person that I've talked to and discussed with are really excited and admire the way we're going about it."

Posted by: EdDC | April 5, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

It's easier when you're dealing with people who actually know what they're talking about.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 5, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Player moves have been interesting ... the timing of putting JZimm on the 60-day immediately at the start of spring training. While waiting to do that with the Wang and Flores.

Makes one begin to suspect that he might be available sooner than people expect.

I guess we must also continue to hope that he doesn't rush things ...

Posted by: periculum | April 5, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo wants to win??? How about us fans that have sucked up these poundings by the Phillies for 5 years now. I dont get how the team trots the same garbage pitchers out there and expects to win.

OH LETS JUST WAIT FOR STRASBURG.....He isnt a lock to be good and even if so he is 1 of 5 starting pitchers needed. All the pisspoor seasons this team has had and they cant muster any decent pitchers to trot out there for OPENING DAY!!!!! Its been 5 years of garbage, please help me!

Posted by: Redskins2Win | April 5, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse


I was just kidding. First, no one is admired by everyone he or she talks to. That just doesn't happen in the real world or even the baseball world. Second, no one should boast that he or she is admired by everybody. So on the first count, the statement is false. On the second, it is immodest. That's all I was trying to say--sorry to be so obscure.

I mean, realistically, the Nats are a joke until proven otherwise. I hope the Nats do show MLB how to build a team. That would be great. But until that starts to happen, the Nats' approach simply cannot be unanimously admired.

Posted by: EdDC | April 5, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, if Rizzo wants to win, first thing he's going to need is some pitchin'. Enough to hold the opponent to less than 11 runs would be a start.

Posted by: MartinZook | April 5, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

We all know that the Nats are struggling to win games and become a good team. Why is it that two years in a row, the National League has to schedule the Phillies to come to town for opening day to pound the Nats? And it doesn't help DC fans, who are crying for a winner, to put up with all the fans from the opposing team. Why not bring in a team similar in mediocrity to play the Nats, such as the Pirates? At least, that would make for an interesting game as well as to enjoy the opening festivities. With games like the one today, you might as well as have left before the first pitch was thrown!

Posted by: disappointed | April 5, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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