Washington Nationals Executive Vice Present of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo today was named the Executive of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rizzo will officially receive the award, presented annually since 1967 by the Boston chapter of the BBWAA, at a ceremony on Jan. 24 in Boston.
Rizzo’s 2012 Nationals led MLB in victories (98) and run differential (+137) en route to ending D.C.’s 79-year postseason drought. Four Nationals players earned All-Star status, three won Louisville Slugger Silver Sluggers and another won a Rawlings Gold Glove. Upon entering the postseason fray, Rizzo had a hand in acquiring 21 of the 25 players on Washington’s NLDS roster.
Thanks largely to pitching, defense and athleticism, Rizzo’s Nationals have won at least 10 more games than the season prior each of the last three years (59 wins in 2009, 69 in ‘10, 80 in ‘11, 98 in ‘12). The last team to do this was the Boston Red Sox from 1906-09. Thus, Rizzo’s Nationals are the first team in over 100 years to accomplish this feat without the benefit of an artificially deflated win total associated with a work stoppage.
Prior to the season, Washington’s minor-league system was named the best in baseball per the 2012 Prospect Handbook, which is published annually byindustry insider Baseball America. Washington’s No. 1 ranking stands in stark contrast to the 2007 season, when the Nationals’ system ranked 30th.
Rizzo’s commitment to scouting and player development yielded the talent required to obtain hard-throwing lefthander Gio Gonzalez from Oakland in a six-player deal that included a quartet of home-grown prospects. Gonzalez subsequently signed a contract extension that runs through at least 2016 (club options ‘17 and ‘18) en route to leading MLB with 21 wins and finishing third in NL Cy Young voting.
The 27 year-old Gonzalez joins an impressive haul of 20-somethings either signed, acquired or extended by Rizzo: Tyler Clippard (28 years old on Opening Day ‘13), Ross Detwiler (27), Danny Espinosa (25), Bryce Harper (20), Wilson Ramos (25), Anthony Rendon (22), Drew Storen (25), Stephen Strasburg (24), Ryan Zimmerman (28) and Jordan Zimmermann (26).
In November of 2009, Rizzo convinced Davey Johnson, one of the game’s iconic minds, to sign on as Senior Advisor and help revamp the Nationals’ on-field operation. Little more than 18 months later, in June of 2011, Rizzo appointed him field manager. Last week, Johnson was named NL Manager of the Year by the BBWAA after completing his first full season at the Nationals’ managerial helm.
Rizzo was instrumental in the early success of the Arizona Diamondbacks and left a long-lasting footprint on the organization that won a World Series Championship in 2001. Brandon Webb (2006 Cy Young winner), Carlos Gonzalez, Chad Tracy, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Dan Uggla, Micah Owings, Tony Pena, Mark Reynolds, Conor Jackson, Miguel Montero, Chris Snyder, Carlos Quentin, Max Scherzer and Brett Anderson were signed by Arizona under Rizzo’s watch.
Rizzo, who is entering his 31st season of pro ball, joined the Diamondbacks prior to their inaugural campaign in 1998. He previously enjoyed stints with the Red Sox (1992-98, area supervisor, international scout and major league advance scout) and White Sox (1986-92, Midwest and Southeast territorial scout). During his White Sox tenure, Rizzo inked future two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas.
Raised in Chicago, Rizzo is a third-generation scout who learned the game from his father, Phillip, who is currently a Senior Advisor with the Nationals, and his grandfather, Vito, who was a semi-pro player and longtime scout.