The Washington Nationals, under General Manager Mike Rizzo, are doing some fall housecleaning.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rizzo, given the official "boss" title immediately after the successful Steven Strasburg negotiations, finally has carte blanche to put his stamp across the entire organization.
These first few moves are probably only the first wave of dismissals, opening positions that Rizzo can fill with "his guys", the backbone of what he (and all Nats fans) hopes is the renaissance of baseball in the Nation's Captial.
First, outfielder Elijah Dukes' handler, James Williams, was dismissed. I guess the Nats thought Dukes was ready to ride without training wheels.
To be fair to Dukes, he seemed like he had picked up a thing or two while he was in exile on a minor league assignment during the middle of the season. And he had a pretty solid September. It should be interesting in the spring whether he's given a job, or has to fight Justin Maxwell, Roger Bernadina, Willie Harris, et al for right field.
Or, if Rizzo thinks they have to look outside the organization for a right fielder. Dukes is still young (25), under team control for two more years, and shows his considerable skill often. But even as his plate discipline re-emerged in September, his power (eight home runs in 416 plate appearances) did not.
Thursday, Jose Cardenal, one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, was let go. He had been operating as special advisor to assistant general manager Bob Boone.
"If you are a baseball person, you know that it's going to happen with the new GM coming up and them wanting to clean house," Cardenal said. "They knew I was close to Jim [Bowden]. I have nothing but positive things to say. The Lerner family treated me well."
What will bear watching is if Boone himself is spared in the housecleaning.
Then Friday, word comes out that a trio of minor league instructors have been fired. John Stearns, formerly manager of Double-A Harrisburg, Rich Gale, pitching coach for Triple-A Syracuse, and Gulf Coast coach Cesar Cedeno have all been relieved of their duties in the organization.
Stearns, joined the organization in 2006 and guided the Senators to a 70-72 record this season. Gale started the season with Class-A Hagerstown but ended the season in Syracuse after Steve McCatty was promoted to the big leagues.
Cedeno was a baserunning and outfield coach for the Gulf Coast league team.
All of these moves coincide with Mike Rizzo's stated goal of developing a better overall system for training the drafted talent into competent major league-ready players. It also gives him a chance to mold the system to fit more with his vision of planning for the organization.
Of course, he still has to hire an assistant general manager, several pro and minor league scouts, and oh yeah, a field manager. But finally, after four years of floundering, at least someone has the authority to develop this franchise with a consistent, unified vision. Call it "The Plan 3.0".