After a 1-6 start to the 2023 MLB season, the prospects for the Washington Nationals looked bleak. But in the weeks since, the club has rebounded with a 17-18 run that has general manager Mike Rizzo pleased with the progress he's seen his young ballclub make.
"Yeah I see the progression, I see some development [of] some young players, some of the skill set that we've been working, they've been working really hard at improving portions of their game. I like what I've seen so far," Rizzo said on Wednesday during his weekly appearance with 106.7 The Fan's The Sports Junkies, which is presented exclusively by our partners at MainStreet Bank — Cheer Local. Bank Local. Put Our Team in Your Office.
"You wanna win every game, you wanna win every game you're supposed to win and when you don't it's disappointing but the big picture is that this young core is starting to show that they belong in the big leagues and that they can perform at the big league level and I think that's an important step for us," Rizzo told The Junkies.
On March 29, the PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus gave the Nationals a projected finish of 61-101. After a quarter of the season, the Nats have seen those projections rise to 64-98. A small gain, but indicative of a team that has beaten expectations after 42 games.
"We are playing good baseball and our goal is to win games this year and beyond and we haven't put our best foot forward every night but you see the effort level is there and the excitement is there and these guys play very hard and very fast and sometimes they make mistakes," Rizzo said. "But they're usually making mistakes at 100 miles per hour with their hair on fire so that's the ingredients of a good young team that's getting better."
But the Nationals took a tough loss on Tuesday night, allowing a two-run walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lose 5-4 to the Miami Marlins, something Rizzo called part of "the cruelty of the game."
With the news that Anibal Sanchez was retiring after 16 seasons in the big leagues, Rizzo took time to pay tribute to the Nats' 2019 World Series-winning pitcher.
"A great career, a better human being, he was a key component to that '19 team, pitched some solid baseball for us throughout the season and then in the playoffs was great," he said. "But he really galvanized that clubhouse, was a big part of the fun, enjoyment that those guys had after victories. He started a congo line and the sunglass thing, he was a key component in all that tomfoolery that was going on after we were winning all those games."
Rizzo was also asked about the controversies around New York Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Toronto Blue Jays after he was seen looking toward the first base coach when reliever Jay Jackson was caught tipping pitches on Monday night. And the GM talked about Yankees' starter Domingo German's ejection Tuesday for using a banned substance, what pitchers can use with rosin, the PitchCom technology and the difference between being a competitor and being a cheater.
Listen to the full interview on the player above!
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