Mike Rizzo on the effects of the Nationals' offseason
Late last week, General Manager Mike Rizzo uttered to Boz a pretty tremendous line. "Every year," he said, "we get better beef in our clubhouse." He meant that the Nationals have created a more athletic, more toolsy team in the past. We'll find out if they win more games on the field. They're sure to look more imposing walking off the bus.
Others have noticed. In years past, as pitchers threw their early-spring bullpen sessions, pitching coach Steve McCatty felt like the tallest guy around. "Now, everyone is bigger than me except [Chad] Gaudin," McCatty said. "And he throws like he's 6-5."
That's what Rizzo had it mind. The Nationals are not just, in the immortal words of Billy Beane, "selling jeans." Rizzo wanted to build a team with a defense that would help pitchers rather than betray them, a team with base runners who go from first to third and second to home. He also wanted to create a sense of competition, bringing in veterans to push for jobs. He didn't land the ace pitcher he wanted more than anything else this winter, but Rizzo did continue to build his kind of team.
"The more quality you bring in, competition brings out the best in you," Rizzo said. "It's been an important factor in how we've tried to build this thing.
"I like the look of the spring training camp. I like the energy that it's brought. On an individual player basis, I like that everyone has come into shape. I think that shows they put a lot of energy and work into the offseason. They also know that there's positions to be won and there's competition, and they better come into camp ready to go. I think they've done that. We're pleased with where we're at."
The face of the Nationals' offseason makeover, of course, was Jayson Werth. At the time, the Nationals felt the Werth contract would help open doors with free agents in the future. Now, Rizzo says he can see it starting to happen.
"I think that we've changed the perception within the player community," Rizzo said. "I think players are looking at us differently. I really do. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from players that we've and players that we haven't signed, and from been who have been with us and went to other places. In the player community, our reputation is much stronger than it was. That is important to us. The way you attract people is by players' word of mouth. We want this to be a destination place to be. We believe the players are starting to think this is a destination place to be. We think that the good reputation that we have in the front office of being a good franchise and a good baseball front office that respects players behooves us. Because I think it will attract players."
FROM THE POST
I would be stunned if you read a better piece all spring than Boz's appreciation of Livan Hernandez. "You've got to play with the game," Livo says. "You can't let the game play with you."
Over the weekend, I wrote about Jordan Zimmermann's quiet, competitive demeanor and his comeback from Tommy John.
And Dave Sheinin explored the reasons why the Phillies found Jayson Werth expendable after he helped them win two pennants.
| February 21, 2011; 7:05 AM ET
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