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August 8, 2013

Painting the Black

Rating Rizzo

by R.J. Anderson


On the night of the trade deadline, the Nationals lost by 10 runs and fell to 11 games behind the division-leading Braves. News broke, less than 24 hours later, that general manager Mike Rizzo had agreed to a long-term extension, which gave him a new title (President of Baseball Operations) to go with a presumed raise. The announcement came at an inopportune time: Washington had dropped nine of its 13 contests since the All-Star Game, and 14 of its past 20 overall. The popular preseason pick entered Wednesday with 2.3 percent postseason odds. Predictably, Rizzo's extension caused a few to express incredulity:

Ascribing Rizzo's success to blind luck is an oversimplification, albeit one with merit. Rizzo did have the good fortune—and good sense—to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper first overall in consecutive drafts. However, that is not reason enough to deride his tenure as the decision maker in D.C. Luck is never more of a four-letter word than when used to describe someone's achievements. Yet every successful GM has benefited from good luck at some time or another, and Rizzo is no exception.

In fact, there are parallels to be drawn between Rizzo and two other well-regarded GMs. But first it's worth noting how overstated his role in obtaining those top picks is. Rizzo joined the Nat

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