- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Nationals 2013: Waiting for ‘that nudge’: In Rizzo’s plan, talent runs deep at every position
The grease boards, as he calls them, are stored in Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo’s office. The markers he uses on them have been worn out, replaced, and worn out again.
On the boards are the plans for the path of an organization.
For the next three years, those plans are specific. They’re littered with lineups, complete with projected statistical splits. They include a cost analysis for the players who will be arbitration eligible each year, meshed together with those who provide cost certainty. There are grades for each player, and what kind of performer the organization thinks they will be in that stage of their career.
The level of detail is immense. It’s a living, breathing picture of what the Nationals could look like, not just this year, but the next several years if things go the way Rizzo envisions.
“The worst thing you can do, I think, is when you have a plan in place and early returns don’t work, abandoning it and having another plan on the fly,” Rizzo said one day this spring. “These are plans that I work on and think about every day. It’s all I’ve got. It’s what I do.”
The boards, the plans, they’re why Rizzo chafes a little when it’s suggested that certain moves signify a change in the team’s strategy. Yes, the Nationals want to “win now,” and are in a financial position to do things they might not have in the past. They also want to win for the next several years.
Building a team that can withstand the barrage that 162 games brings is difficult. Giving that team the right pieces to see it through to a World Series championship is so immensely challenging that 97 percent of major league baseball teams will fail at it every year.
But to build more than a one-year contender, to find the formula that gives a team the ability to compete in the present year with the foresight to feel it will compete for several, that is the goal. And not just the cycle teams often run with three good years, two down ones, and, if they’re lucky, three up again.
How difficult is that? In the past 13 years, baseball has crowned nine different champions. The only two teams that have made it as far as the League Championship Series more than four times in that span are the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.
The process of reconstructing an organization from the bottom up, much the way the Nationals did after they moved to D.C. and were bought by the Lerner family, is one that requires steadfast patience. In a results-oriented business, and it’s difficult to weather that storm.
But the 2013 Nationals may be one of the finest examples of what it can look like when it’s done right.
“I think the plan has come to fruition just the way we envisioned it,” Rizzo said.
Of the Nationals' eight starting position players and five starting pitchers, only right-hander Dan Haren is on a one-year deal. Catcher Kurt Suzuki can become a free agent after the season if his option does not vest or is declined. Seven were drafted, three acquired in a trade. Only Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Haren were free agent signings.
Two years ago, when Rizzo was projecting the 2013 roster, that No. 5 starter spot was filled internally by one of the team’s prospects, but injuries (left-handers Sammy Solis and Matt Purke have undergone elbow and shoulder surgeries in the past year) stalled that from coming to fruition.
Suzuki was acquired after Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury and the Nationals felt Jesus Flores wasn’t up for the starting job. Rafael Soriano wasn’t on the Nationals’ wish list when the offseason began, but the way they could structure his deal (with half of the money deferred until 2018) to add more depth to the back end of their bullpen allowed them to fit him in.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- Nancy Pelosi washes immigrants' feet in humble Holy Week act then promotes on Twitter
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.