Over the past few years, “InRizzoWeTrust” has been the motto of the Washington Nationals for a while, and in 2019, the Nationals won the World Series. However, it’s been downhill ever since. It’s easy to look around Nationals Park and see how things have gone over the past few seasons, and there have been a lot of changes on the field, but the motto of In Rizzo, We Trust, has never really been put to the test until now.
One could say that the Nationals are in a re-building year or “re-tooling,” however, their current record should spotlight where the Nationals are and how much more work the team has to do to regain its standing in the NL East and around Major League Baseball. The “window” closed back in July, but shouldn’t the Nationals have been built to have long-term success? Was the strategy that Rizzo and Co the right one? I am not a GM for a good reason; however, I look around the NL and even American League and see other teams constantly building and having long-term success no matter who the players are and wonder why this hasn’t been the strategy for the Nationals.
You don’t have to look too far to find an example of consistently building success. All you need to do is look at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers have been contenders for seasons after seasons, all while developing their farm system, so it is possible. The Dodgers have won seven straight NL West titles dating back to 2013, capped by a record amount of wins during the season, while maintaining a top-five farm system of six straight years despite never having a pick higher than 18th in the draft. Their homegrown stars that aged out or left in free agency are replaced with young, homegrown talent and stars again and again. Okay, they were beaten in the playoffs by the Nationals and then the Braves, but there is no denying that the Dodgers are in a league of their own for player development.
You can’t say that revenue and spending on payroll have made the Dodgers successful year after year. Yes, that is part of the reason but not the whole story. According to Baseball America, the Dodgers have had constant prospects in the top 50 since 2016. Not only has the team had these prospects in their system, but the Dodgers employ an army of professional and amateur scouts. Both on the amateur and professional side of the organization, the Dodgers are aggressively seeking athletic, versatile players that hit for average and also have strong plate discipline. There is a belief that these players can teach those players to add power with swing tweaks if the contact skills and at-bat quality. They don’t rely solely on veterans to fuel their team.
In an article titled: “They’re the Model:’ How the Dodgers’ Player Development Machine Rolls on,” in Baseball America back in April of 2020, Kyle Glaser highlights that the Dodgers even focus on the food and stadium conditions that they provide their minor leaguers. “… the Dodgers to bring in among the most, and often the best, coaches and development staffers. It also allows them to provide their minor leaguers with better nutrition and facilities, setting the foundation for superior physical development. The Dodgers’ five non-complex league affiliates—Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Tulsa, high-Class A Rancho Cucamonga, low Class A Great Lakes, and Rookie-level Ogden—all play in ballparks that were built within the last 25 years and rank among the best of their respective leagues in terms of facilities quality. This year, the Dodgers will have traveling chefs for every affiliate from Rookie-level Ogden through Double-A Tulsa, expanding a previous program. The two levels that don’t have a chef, the Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate and Triple-A Oklahoma City, will receive catered meals from high-end providers such as Whole Foods.” The question is whether the Nationals are focused on even these smallest details? Don’t worry: #InRizzoWeTrust
As the Nationals start their rebuilding process, the front office shouldn’t just concentrate on one area; there should be a hard focus on rebuilding everything from the ground up and being aggressive in free agency, which is a part of baseball success. It’s really hard not to worry and place trust in Rizzo because the Nationals have had success leading up to 2019, but what cost did the team pay? Are the recent hires that the Nationals have made over the offseason enough to jump-start the systematic change needed to create a positive player development program?
Can fans truly believe that Rizzo’s plan is the right plan for the Washington Nationals at this point time in their history? Over the next few years, we will see if “In Rizzo We Trust” is something that Washington Nationals fans can still trust, or is it time to come up with a new phrase? We will just have to wait and see…