The report from Gordon Edes at Yahoo Sports, so far confirmed by no one, is that Mike Rizzo is about to be fired and replaced by Arizona Director of Player Personnel Jerry DiPoto.
I'm a fan of Mike Rizzo, but I'm not so wild about him that I can't imagine anyone better. The issue isn't whether Rizzo "deserves" to be fired. We're not talking about a greeter at Wal-Mart. There are exactly 30 MLB GM jobs, and if the Nationals' brass is convinced that he's one of the best 30 GMs on the planet, he should be out.
Rizzo has a lengthy body of work going back more than a decade to his time in Arizona. He had some tremendous drafts, but at least some of that was classic "checkbook scouting," getting the best players because his owner gave him the resources to do so (Justin Upton, Stephen Drew). Still, he found Brandon Webb, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Quentin, and others and built a team that nearly made the World Series almost totally on the strength of his drafts.
Rizzo apparently shined in the Strasburg negotiations, doing his part to make a great deal for the team. He attacked problems like the bullpen and defense and made the team better. He's shown a willingness to adjust, for instance correcting an excessive bias against flyball pitchers (passing over Tyler Clippard and Jason Bergmann for Kip Wells, for instance). He made the deals that had to be made at the deadline, getting something for Nick Johnson and Joe Beimel.
I've nitpicked some things, like sending useful Ryan Langerhans to Seattle and his over-emphasis on "clubhouse guys." He's not an effective media spokesperson (if you care about that sort of thing).
My biggest disappointment is that Rizzo hasn't committed to a rebuild. By not trading Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn, indeed apparently committing to them as the core that will return us to the 73-win heights of 2007, he's either massively over-evaluating his own talent (which I dooubt) or setting his goals way, way too low.
All that said, if Rizzo isn't given the permanent job, he's been treated pretty badly by the Nationals. He came to DC as the presumptive Bowden replacement-in-waiting. He didn't go shopping for the jobs that came open in the meantime. He certainly hasn't had a fair chance to show what he can do to build a team, taking over the Nationals too late in the off-season to really execute a plan.
And now, like Manny Acta, Rizzo is being left to twist in the wind week after week until finally leaks from within the organization tell us the writing is on the wall.
Maybe Edes's article is hogwash. But probably it isn't. Most likely at least two people with the Nationals talked to him. Or DiPoto talked, which would be idiotic.
Bottom line, the team needs to stop dithering and make a hire. And now is a good time to do it, as the draft signing deadline is really the time when teams out of contention turn the page on the current season and begin focusing primarily on the off-season and 2010.