Aug 12, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo prior to the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With today being Election Day, we decided to form our own Washington Nationals presidential cabinet under Mike Rizzo
Today, all eyes are on Washington D.C, but they aren’t on the Washington Nationals. Instead, everyone focuses on the White House as they head to the polls to vote for the next President of the United States as well as local officials in their community.
Regardless of your political party affiliation, voting is extremely important and everyone should go out there and cast their vote. With that being said, this got me to thinking what a baseball presidential cabinet would look like.
Over the last five years, the Washington Nationals have won three division titles and they have the general manager with the longest tenure of any team in the NL East in Mike Rizzo. Rizzo has built a foundation that has allowed this team to compete for playoff spots year after year.
Even though the Lerner family is the owners of the franchise, we are not going to make them the president for this topic. Instead, Rizzo is going to be the president, which sense because he is already the President of Baseball Operations.
So, if I had the chance to pick the cabinet for Rizzo, here are some of the suggestions I would have for certain departments in the cabinet. As a reminder, you can share your proverbial Washington Nationals presidential cabinet in the comments section below.
Jun 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker (R) talks to general manager Mike Rizzo before the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Last offseason, the Washington Nationals made the decision to hire Baker as their next manager. Baker was clearly the right fit for a veteran laden team that needed a leader in the clubhouse. After Matt Williams struggled with a talented team in 2015, Baker helped the team win 95 games in 2016 and another NL East title.
Since Baker joined the Nats, one of the qualities I have liked about him is his ability to utilize every single player on the 25-man roster. If you are on the roster, Baker is going to find a way to get you in the game because he knows you will make an impact at some point, whether you are a superstar or a player coming off the bench.
All season long, the players were talking about how great it was to have Baker as the manager. Everywhere he goes, winning seems to follow him. By getting the Nats to the playoffs in 2016, he has now been a manager in the postseason with four different teams (Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nats).
While Baker has lost nine consecutive winner take all games, including Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers this season, he still is the perfect leading manager for the Nats. Last night, he was named one of the three finalists for NL Manager Of The Year.
Plus, Baker proved that Rizzo and ownership made the right decision in hiring him over Bud Black (now the manager in Colorado). While he only has one year left on his contract, he is the perfect manager for a win now team that is trying to advance past the first round for the first time.
Jun 27, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) throws to first after the force out New York Mets third baseman Wilmer Flores (4) during the eighth inning at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated New York Mets 11-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Normally, the United States has one Secretary of Defense. But, for this discussion, I decided to go with two players who were consistent defenders on the left side of the infield. According to Fangraphs, third baseman Anthony Rendon and shortstop Danny Espinosa were tied for the team lead in defensive runs saved (eight).
This past week, the Washington Nationals finished tied for the league lead as a team in fielding percentage with the Giants (.988) and their 73 errors were the second lowest in the league. The 73 errors were 17 lower than the team made in 2015 (90 errors – 16th in the league).
Rendon is a Gold Glove finalist this year and for good reason. If you go back to 2014, he made six fewer errors this season (nine) than when he finished in the top five in MVP voting in ’14 (15).
As far as shortstop goes, the main reason the Washington Nationals kept Espinosa at shortstop instead of Trea Turner was because of his defense. While he made 18 errors this year, his defensive WAR of 1.6 (according to ESPN) was the highest mark of his career.
It will be interesting to see what the Nats do at shortstop if they go out and acquire another center fielder this winter. With that being said, as bad as Espinosa was at the plate at times, he made great defensive plays at shortstop. Rendon and Espinosa appear to be one of the best, if not the best left sides of the field defensively in the National League.
Oct 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning during game one of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
One of the roles that the secretary of state has in our government is to travel around the world and go to other countries as the diplomat. From a baseball perspective, I interpret that as who is the face of a particular franchise.
Despite a down year, Ryan Zimmerman locally is still one of the faces of the Washington Nationals. However, from a national perspective, I would consider that the casual fan looks at Bryce Harper as the face of the Nats.
If we take the secretary of state perspective from a more literal standpoint, than it would be tough for Harper to be in this role since he is not on the preliminary roster for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
The 2015 NL MVP had a great start to the 2016 campaign, but it all began to slow down after Harper reached base seven times in a game at Wrigley without getting a hit. Since September 1, Harper only hit one home run, which has to be alarming.
Regardless of how Harper finished his season, he is still the player that most fans wish would be in this role a few years from now if he signs a mega contract to stay in Washington D.C. for the long-term future. Plus, he is still the hitter most teams fear in this lineup.
If healthy, Harper is still one of the best hitters in the game. It remains to be seen how much the reported shoulder issues had an effect on his season. While no one should expect Harper to repeat the 2015 season every year, he still is one of the best players in baseball.
Oct 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning during game one of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
In our government, the Secretary of the Interior’s job is to watch over the natural environment and to protect the resources that we have. From a baseball sense, I interpret it as someone who protects the mound on a start-by-start basis. That would make this honor go to Max Scherzer.
Even though Scherzer didn’t win any of his two postseason starts this year, he still is the one pitcher on the Washington Nationals that people expect great things to happen when he is on the mound. It could be two no-hitters in 2015 or a 20-strikeout performance in 2016.
Scherzer is one of the three finalists for the National League Cy Young Award as he tries to win the second Cy Young of his career. This season, Scherzer led the National League in wins, Innings pitched, and strikeouts.
With Stephen Strasburg’s injury concerns during the latter portion of the season, Scherzer was relied upon more than ever to stop long losing streaks. But, that is why he makes $210 million.
In the second half this past season, the right-hander went 10-1 with a 2.86 ERA and had 120 strikeouts in 15 starts. Despite not winning Game 5, he did have seven strikeouts and only gave up the one solo home run to Joc Pederson in six plus innings.
Heading into his age 33 season, Scherzer is still one of the best, if not the best starting pitcher in the National League. He has 13 home wins in 31 starts in D.C, but he is still the pitcher fans should feel comfortable watching when he takes the mound at Nats Park.
Apr 2, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals first base coach Davey Lopes (15) in the dugout against the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
For this conversation, the secretary of transportation is going to be who helps the Nats advance from base-to-base the quickest. For this honor, it goes to new first base coach Davey Lopes. Right out of spring training, the Washington Nationals put an emphasis on being aggressive on the bases.
In 2015, the Washington Nationals stole the second fewest bases in the National League (57). This past season, the Nats had 121 steals, which was fifth in the NL. Of course, that number is going to go up when you have Trea Turner on your roster.
Once Turner came up to the big leagues, he was a stolen base machine. The rookie, who was named a Rookie Of the Year finalist last night, stole 33 bases in 39 attempts. That was 12 more than the second highest total on the Nats (Bryce Harper had 21).
While the Washington Nationals were able to hit over 200 home runs as a team (fourth in the NL with 203), their aggressiveness on the bases led to more run scoring opportunities rather than relying solely on the long ball.
Last offseason, Baker made two great coaching hires when he got Mike Maddux to be his pitching coach and Lopes to be his first base coach.