May 14, 2010

Bryce Harper and the Tao of Rizzo

"Talent without character doesn't work. Your lack of character will make you stumble somewhere along the line." - Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo

Never have I seen a clearer statement of Rizzo's organizational philosophy. The Rizzo ethic stands in clear contrast to Jim Bowden's "Tools uber alles" approach and penchant for giving talented but troubled ballplayers a second home. Based on the early results, you'd have to call this a clear win for the Tao of Rizzo, wouldn't you?

Here's the thing, though. The corollary to Rizzo's first sentence is "Character without talent doesn't work either." In fact, I'm pretty comfortable asserting that a lack of talent has tripped up many more ballplayers than have been laid low by a fundamental character deficiency. Given a choice everybody wants high talent, good character players. That's about as uncontroversial as wanting smart, good-looking kids.

The question is, what ratio of character to talent do you need to be a success? More importantly, if character is what we do when no one is looking, how the hell do you measure character? On a practical level, it becomes a circular argument: "Mike Rizzo puts a premium on character, so any guy he brings in must be a good character guy." Likewise, doesn't Rizzo have to say that any player he pursues has good character? After all, if you value character you wouldn't be interested in fractuous trouble-makers.

On the flip side, other teams might rightly suspect that any player the Nats are looking to unload comes with some baggage. (Josh Willingham improved his batting stroke this offseason by clubbing baby seals, you know.)

In conclusion, no one questions Bryce Harper's talent. So the more you see Nationals' front office-types defending Bryce Harper's make-up, the surer you can be that he'll be holding a Nationals' jersey in June. After all, if Rizzo's interested, Harper must be a good guy; and if Harper wasn't a good guy the Nats wouldn't be interested, right?

1 comment:

AppleDawg said...

This over-reaction to his attitude is laughable

The guy is 17....let me repeat that...he is 17

He is also arguably the most talented player at that age EVER. EVER.

Many, MANY players have similar attitudes that maybe are just not as public as Harper....

So this idea that Harper is so over-confident that we should be worried is a joke