“If you’re not in, you’re in the way.”
That was Nationals GM Mike Rizzo’s explanation for trading Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs prior to the deadline and then designating Shawn Kelly for assignment. The latter move came after Kelly threw his glove in frustration and glared into the dugout during the Nats’ blowout win over the Mets Tuesday night.
After initially standing by his pitcher’s excuse that he was upset with the umpires, manager Dave Martinez abruptly changed course Wednesday morning. The skipper called Kelly’s actions “disrespectful to the organization” when he addressed the media regarding the DFA. But let’s get back to the guy who now pitches for the Cubs.
If you saw today’s Rundown, you may have noticed the bit about Kintzler’s strong locker room presence and willingness to speak up when it came to his role and usage. Though he had spent only one year on the dot with the team, the 34-year-old was a leader to whom other pitchers looked for advice on their approach and mechanics. He was also on a pretty club-friendly deal that could have seen him return next year for as little as $5 million.
But while that all might play well with the man named Rizzo on Kintzler’s new team, reports coming out of Washington are saying that the pitcher’s style rubbed his old GM the wrong way. And it was apparently more than just being vocal about his usage, as Mike Rizzo reportedly confronted Kintzler with suspicions that he was the anonymous source for stories about dysfunction in the Nats clubhouse.
Perhaps the most prominent of those was Jeff Passan’s 10 Degrees column from Monday in which the internal culture in Washington was referred to as “a mess.” Passan cited one source for that particular quote, but said the account was corroborated by three others who “fear[ed] the organization would punish them for speaking publicly.”
“I’ve never talked to that Jeff Passan guy in my life, so that’s an interesting accusation,” Kintzler told Grant & Danny on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday morning. “I know for a fact that someone got him to admit his source was not a player, so it wasn’t me. I’ve never talked to that guy in my life.”
“I always thought I was a good teammate, and everyone in that clubhouse thought I was a good teammate,” Kintzler said. “When someone tries to say something about your character as far as how you are in a clubhouse, that hurts a little bit.”
It was a pretty shocking turn of events for Kintzler, who was traded to the Nationals on deadline day last year and who re-signed with the team as a free agent last winter. To top things off, his birthday is August 1. Maybe the trade was just Rizzo’s gift to Kintzler, though even a move to a better atmosphere with a team that has actually won a playoff series can be tough to digest.
“I thought I did a good job there, and new beginnings today. And it is what it is, put it behind me, and can’t wait to face them next week.”
And it’s not as if the Cubs’ clubhouse is perfect, especially if you believe what Alex Rodriguez had to say Sunday night. But you have to think a culture fostered by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and rife with teachings of the late Ken Ravizza is going to be more favorable than what feels kind of like old-school megalomania in Washington.
Though Rizzo didn’t come out and say that Kintzler’s purported snitching played a role in his trade, he told 106.7 The Fan that the Nationals “want players who care about the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back of the jersey.” Seems like an odd thing to say for a guy who also employs Bryce Harper.
Not that I’m even trying to knock Harper, I’m just saying that if there’s anyone people would point to as sort of a me-first prima donna, it’s the Home Run Derby champ.
“The culture here has been so good for so long,” Rizzo said Wednesday about the recent moves. “We’ve had so much success over the last seven years that we’re not going to let anybody interfere with that success. We’re not going to let any one person derail what we’re going to do.”
Well now it all makes sense. Rather than hanging it on one or two guys, they’re just going to keep letting everyone collectively derail what they’re trying to do. I’m only kind of halfway joking because the Nationals just can’t seem to get out of their own way when it comes to truly capitalizing on “so much success over the last seven years.”
And it’s not like these hasty personnel moves over personality conflicts are anything new for Rizzo. He has presided over several tumultuous and/or disappointing managerial tenures, with Martinez now standing as the fifth full-time skipper in a decade of Rizzo’s general management (John McLaren, who was interim manager after Jim Riggleman resigned, would make six total). Riggleman, Matt Williams, Dusty Baker. Heck, Martinez isn’t even the Nats’ first Davey (Johnson, 2011-13).
Not that any of that has anything to do with the price of gas in Temecula, though I suppose it should all serve to reinforce confidence in what the Cubs have established at 1060 West Addison. There are flaws, no doubt, and they’re always looking to change and improve. But when you talk about how they’ve become a destination for free agents, it’s about more than just how they treat players.
As we’ve seen with Dexter Fowler and others in St. Louis and now Kintzler in Washington, not every organization is a great fit for every player. And maybe Kintzler will yet prove to be some sort of divisive presence in Chicago and we’ll all end up being like, “Whoa, Mike Rizzo was right.”
Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But, hey, if Kintzler really is a snitch and he’s looking for a new source for his juice clubhouse gossip, I can think of a non-credentialed outlet *wink, nudge* that would love to get more inside access than the Cubs will grant.