Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: Reboot ‘working just the way we want it to work’

After getting swept by the New York Mets this week, the Washington Nationals have the worst record in the National League.

But that doesn’t mean the Nationals’ rebuild isn’t working, according to Mike Rizzo.

The Nationals’ general manager spoke with reporters prior to Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to the Mets in New York, saying the club’s reboot — specifically how the organization’s young talent is performing — is “working just the way we want it to work.” 

“I think setting expectations was important when we started this process with the ownership group and with the fan base,” Rizzo said, according to MASN. “I think a lot of people understand it, where we’re at, and I really believe that the reboot is in full-go. I think that we’re in a better position than we were in 2009. A few short years later, we won the division, and I think we’re in a better position now because our minor leagues are much better now than they were then.

“And I see what’s happening with our young core group of players here in the big leagues, and our group of prospects in the minor leagues, and I see the plan, the blueprint, working just the way we want it to work at this point.”

Rizzo’s confidence in the reboot doesn’t mean he’s happy with the Nationals’ NL-worst 18-34 record (.346 winning percentage). Rizzo bemoaned the club’s defense in his chat with reporters. Washington is tied for the second-most errors in the major leagues and ranks third to last in FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved with negative-18. 

“I think that the discouraging thing is that we’re not playing good defense, and we’re not running the bases well,” Rizzo said. “And those are fundamental mistakes that shouldn’t happen at the rate that they’re happening now. So that’s the biggest takeaway I’ve seen from the beginning of the season.”

A few hours after Rizzo spoke, the Nationals — especially the outfielders — displayed the type of defense the longtime executive was unhappy about. Dee Strange-Gordon bobbled a base hit to center field in the fourth, allowing another runner to score on the single. In the seventh, Cesar Hernandez couldn’t corral a hard grounder and then Juan Soto misplayed a fly ball in right field. Then, two more runs scored in the eighth after left fielder Yadiel Hernandez tried diving for a line drive but came nowhere close to the ball. None of the final three miscues were charged as errors, but all three were plays that manager Dave Martinez believes gave the Mets a leg up. 

“They just to have come out and catch the baseball — plain and simple,” Martinez said after the loss. “It’s a big part of the game. We’ve got to limit our mistakes, we can’t give good teams 30, 31 outs. You’re beating yourselves then, so we got to play better defense.”

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