Although the Nationals figured to have a strong pitching staff, Rizzo displayed his salesman ability in persuading the Lerner family to spend $11 million for Jackson. The Nationals’ fourth starter has performed more like a front-of-the-rotation standout. Ownership’s supportive move on Jackson’s big one-season payday showed “they understand what Riz is doing,” Johnson said, “and everyone sees his results.”
Rizzo has even made the correct call on something that hasn’t happened yet. Before the season began, Rizzo decided to cut short Strasburg’s first full one after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Post Sports Live crew discuss the recent struggles of rookie Bryce Harper and wonder how Davey Johnson may handle him down the stretch.
Strasburg has often been dominant. For many fans and baseball reporters and broadcasters, it doesn’t make sense to consider shutting down Strasburg while he’s compiling double-digit-strikeout performances. Those people are living in the moment. They’re eager to see what Strasburg could help the Nationals achieve if he continued to pitch until the ballclub’s season ends. That’s understandable.
Rizzo, however, is in charge. He’s showing it by taking a long-term approach that’s best for Strasburg individually and the team. There’s no sense risking Strasburg’s future by pushing him too hard. Rizzo knows this, “and Riz doesn’t back down from what he believes in,” Johnson said. “When he gets something in his head, he trusts himself and goes with it.
“You look at our team right now. We talked a lot about what we needed this year [during the winter]. Riz went out and got the guys to add to what we already had. He did the work in the offseason to get us here.”
Obviously, removing Strasburg prematurely from the rotation will open a huge hole in the five-man group. I felt strongly that Rizzo should have pursued a star-caliber replacement for the star starter the team will be losing — as long as the price wasn’t too high. Ultimately, Rizzo decided against bringing in a costly short-term rental.
Former rotation fixture John Lannan is a starter-in-waiting at Class AAA Syracuse. Assuming the Nationals finish the job, a postseason rotation of Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Jackson would look just fine.
“We didn’t need to go out and make a big splash,” Rizzo said. “We made all our splashes this winter in constructing this roster.”
That was Rizzo’s plan. It was a winner from the start.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/reid.