Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo was named Executive of the Year by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It is well deserved.
Rizzo is the third member of the Nationals to win a major post season award in 2012. Outfielder Bryce Harper was selected NL Rookie of the Year and Davey Johnson won the award for Manager of the Year.
Besides the Lerner Group which bought the team in 2006, Rizzo has done more for baseball in Washington than anyone. From the time that he took over as permanent GM in 2009, Rizzo has built a team that was one step above expansion into a playoff contender. His best move was signing Johnson as a special assistant in 2009, then making him manager in 2011.
The 2012 Nationals enjoyed their first winning season since coming to Washington in 2005 by winning an MLB best 98 games. The Nationals won their first NL East pennant and advanced to post season play. Washington suffered a heart breaking five game NL Divisional Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In his four years as the Nationals GM, Rizzo has drafted and signed some of the best young talent in baseball. Three of his top draft picks are now on the 25 man roster. They are pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen and outfielder Bryce Harper. Strasburg is the ace of Washington’s pitching staff. Storen is expected to be the team’s full time closer in 2013. Harper is the team’s starting center fielder.
As for trades, Rizzo made a big one last off season in acquiring pitcher Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics. Gonzalez became the Nationals first 20 game winner with a 21-8 record and was third in voting for the NL Cy Young Award. In the regular season, Rizzo made another trade with Oakland that brought catcher Kurt Suzuki to Washington. Suzuki did so well in helping the Nationals win a pennant that he may be their regular catcher next season.
The only thing that Rizzo could be criticized for is putting Strasburg on a pitch limit of 160 innings and sticking with it despite Washington having a chance to win it all. Strasburg was in his first season back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow and the team did not want to overwork him. There are those inside and out of the organization who feel that sitting Strasburg was a mistake and may have cost the Nationals a championship.
Despite the Strasburg decision, Rizzo has made more right moves than wrong. He has done so every year since 2009. Washington is the only team that has improved by at least 10 wins every year since then. Going into this past season, the Nationals had the top ranked minor league system in baseball per the 2012 Prospect Handbook. In 2007 they were ranked 30th. This is progress.
Rizzo will receive his award in January. It is well deserved and may be the first of many.