Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Phil Wood dropped an interesting aside into this morning's bellyache about why Rizzo deserves to keep the GM job on a permanent basis:
The only way something like this is palatable at all is if DiPoto gets the job and reports to Rizzo. And that's not out of the question.

I was told by a Nats' official at spring training following the departure of Jim Bowden that, once the season was over, there would be some restructuring of the front office. Titles and responsibilities would change, as would some of the faces; some of the Cincinnati guys brought in by JimBo had contracts that would expire after the '09 season and would receive lovely parting gifts, including the home version of the game.

I'm not sure I understand why Dipoto would leave the Diamondbacks if he would still have to answer to Rizzo, but there's a lot of conflicting information. Edes' sources say Dipoto is the guy, Knobler's sources say Dipoto's ready to accept, Chico's Nats sources say Edes and Knobler are wrong, Ed Price says a decision is on hold, and then Wood comes in with something out of left field.

Dipoto is either the new GM or he's not, he's either staying in Arizona or he's not -- the conflicting reports can't all be right. Or can they?

Let's engage in some crazy baseless speculation.

Assuming I'm correct in thinking Dipoto wouldn't leave Arizona just to be Rizzo's deputy, what if the Nats are planning some sort of front office shuffle that ends up with baseball operations looking something like this:

The closest recent analogue to DiRizzo would be how the briefly Theo-less Boston front office looked: Jed Hoyer (Co-GM, Major League Transactions) and Ben Cherington (Co-GM, Player Development) reporting to team president Larry Lucchino, with input from special assistants Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley. That arrangement didn't last long before Theo came back. The Orioles also tried co-GMs from 2003-2005, with few positive results.

What would this mean on a practical level? The lines of authority likely wouldn't be as rigid as my speculative org chart indicates; there would probably be lots of collaboration and crossover. Basically, Rizzo would be the guy who negotiates contracts and works on major league trades and Dipoto would be the guy who decides when Chris Marrero is ready for AAA and works on an organization-wide system of player development ("Nationals Way"). Rizzo and Dipoto get to overhaul their areas of authority and bring in their own people for their respective sides of the front office. The Nats get to have Dipoto's player development and evaluation talents without losing Rizzo's scouting and negotiation skills. And sitting above it all like a proud papa -- Stan Kasten.

DiRizzo benefits Kasten in several ways. First, Kasten finally has people he trusts running baseball operations, leaving him free to focus on the business side. Second, all final baseball decisions would be approved by Kasten. As president, Kasten already has nominal final say on decisions, but with DiRizzo, Kasten would be the one with the power to break a tie. Third, a traditional GM could once again capture the Lerners' ears and become an independent power source contrary to Kasten. DiRizzo minimizes the chances of that happening. Fourth, with two subservient co-GMs jockeying for attention and power, Kasten gets to be the one behind the scenes shaping the organizational philosophy.

DiRizzo comes with its own set of risks. The organization may suffer for lack of a single strong voice. Like Beattie and Flanagan in Baltimore, Rizzo and Dipoto may not get along when they actually have to work together. The bureaucratic shenanigans and competition may mean nothing gets done, especially if you throw what Bob Nightengale said into the mix. Kasten may make bad decisions when DiRizzo presents him with competing alternatives. Atlanta's mid-'90s success was more a lot more Schuerholz's doing than it was Kasten's.

Why would Rizzo or Dipoto agree to this sort of situation? Would this mean the Lerners are stepping back a little bit and letting Kasten be Kasten? Would this be good for the team? I don't know the answers to these questions. All I know is that I can see how DiRizzo might make Kasten smile. I know it makes this guy smile.


Andrew Stebbins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Stebbins said...

Rizzoto would be an interesting combination but yesterday the Post, I believe, mentioned that Rizzo would want to bring along an Asst. GM who was more skilled in contract negotiation (someone like Jed Hoyer, perhaps?).

Kevin said...

I wish I'd though of Rizzoto. So obvious.