Thom Loverro: Nationals' Rizzo should be honored

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Photo - Alex Brandon/AP
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is a candidate for executive of the year.
Alex Brandon/AP Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is a candidate for executive of the year.
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

By all rights, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo's name already should be inscribed on baseball's various executive of the year awards. The presentation -- or, in this case, presentations -- should be a formality.

But the awards, unfortunately, may come to symbolize something more than just Rizzo's excellence in turning what had been baseball's 12-step program into a contending franchise.

It may wind up being a referendum on the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg.

That would be terribly unfair. But emotions continue to run high about Rizzo's decision to shut down Strasburg as part of his recovery from Tommy John surgery more than two years ago. That may turn the award into a lightning rod of controversy.

The other honors -- MVP, Cy Young, manager of the year and rookie of the year -- are voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America, but executive of the year is a different process.

There are two generally recognized such awards -- one from the Sporting News and the other from Baseball America.

The Sporting News award is voted on by general managers, assistant general managers and other front-office personnel.

The first one was won by Branch Rickey with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1936. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith received the award in 1943. Last year Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin shared the honor with Detroit's Dave Dombrowski.

Baseball America, which has been honoring the game's top executive since 1998, also chose Melvin in 2011.

Rizzo should garner both honors for 2012. But the Strasburg shutdown is such a provocative move, it conceivably could affect voters.

Consider the comments that came from two different baseball telecasts last week about Strasburg. Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass called the shutdown a "travesty" and declared that he hopes the Nationals "get crushed."

Then up in Baltimore, Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne called the Strasburg removal "an abomination" and said it is "terrible for baseball."

This is rich coming from Thorne, who probably never used the word "abomination" to describe any of the five losing Orioles seasons he has watched since he began calling games in Baltimore in 2007.

"Guts" might be a better description for what Rizzo has done, along with the vision to build a championship contender quicker than anyone could have imagined. He should be honored for that.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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