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Posted at 7:05 AM ET, 02/21/2011

Mike Rizzo on the effects of the Nationals' offseason

By Adam Kilgore
Morning roundup

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.

rizzo.jpg

"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.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 21, 2011; 7:05 AM ET
 
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Next: Bryce Harper will play right field, Jayson Werth will see action in center

Comments

"They're sure to look more imposing walking off the bus."

More imposing than all the way back in 2008 when according to Zuckerman they were ready to take on the Redskins?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 21, 2011 8:27 AM | Report abuse

A day late, but a nice lighthearted article in NY Times about tryouts for the racing Presidents -

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/sports/baseball/21mascots.html?ref=sports

“You’ve got to like to be the center of attention and have zero shame,” one of the judges, the mascot coordinator Corey Inganamort, said. “Do have absolutely no shame? Good. Then this job’s for you.”

Comparisons to being a Nat expected but not really welcomed.

Posted by: utec | February 21, 2011 8:51 AM | Report abuse

After many conversations with a convincing colleague, I have come to the conclusion that the Nationals are wasting their time starting Ivan Rodriguez instead of Flores, Ramos or Norris, and that signing Werth, while making them somewhat better in the present is a foolish move - even in years 3 and 4 of this contract much less than 5 through 7. I am unimpressed with Rizzo after being optomistic. It is sad that the Nats farm system has less in the pipeline than the Yankees and Phillies (who will forever draft lower and empty it out routinuely for trades).

Posted by: weissa | February 21, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

So, weissa, what were your colleague's convincing reasons?

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 21, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"It is sad that the Nats farm system has less in the pipeline than the Yankees and Phillies (who will forever draft lower and empty it out routinely for trades)."

I don't disagree (well, except with the "forever" part), but that's comparing apples to beef jerky. The situations aren't remotely comparable, because not even Minnesota got the treatment the Expos got. They were at worse than zero when the Lerners took over, and as we know, didn't exactly get off to a quick start, which is unfortunate, but arguably a rookie mistake.

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 21, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

On the reputation in the player community, if Rizzo thinks that it is somehow good, he's huffing glue. Underspending, last place finishing, DOA on Opening Day rosters every year, no history of winning, no energized fan base. Owners with no will to win, no scheme to employ even after 5 years of running the club. Players cannot be thinking that this club is a great place to be. And Rizzo did not exactly treat Adam Dunn so graciously.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 21, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Everything was peachy around this time in 1969, remember? http://www.todayinbaseball.com/cms/022111-manager

Posted by: todayinbaseball | February 22, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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