While the Nationals have publicly denied outside influence on organizational decisions, Thom Loverro remains unconvinced.
When the Nats announced Dusty Baker would not be back as manager, Loverro — as a contributor to 106.7 The Fan — lashed out over the move, calling it another example of why the organization is perceived as a “joke” in the baseball industry.
Loverro couldn’t pin down who, but his gut told him “somebody” was in ownership’s ear.
“Somebody was in their ear telling them that you don’t have to bring this guy back,” Loverro said. He noted the impact Scott Boras — the agent to many of the organization’s stars — has had on the Nats’ ownership group, though he wasn’t certain that was the case in the Baker decision.
On Wednesday, Nats GM Mike Rizzo — in an appearance with The Sports Junkies — laughed off the notion that Boras, or any outside force, for that matter, holds any sway over the decisions he makes.
“It’s laughable,” Rizzo said. “Anybody who knows me from Day 1 knows it’s laughable that some outside force is going to affect what decisions I make.”
But what Rizzo and Loverro are saying could both be true. Loverro isn’t suggesting anyone’s influencing Rizzo’s decisions; he’s suggesting someone has Ted Lerner’s ear. He doubled down on this belief Wednesday afternoon.
“You can’t ignore the noise, as Bill Belichick wants to, because the noise has had an impact on this franchise,” Loverro told Chad Dukes. “It’s clear that the people who are not ignoring the noise are the people [Rizzo] works for, the Lerners. And when the question comes up about outside influences, influence in the decision-making at Nats Park…
“The connection is Scott Boras and the Lerner family,” he said. “I mean, do I think he had anything to do with Dusty Baker’s firing? I have no evidence to indicate that one way or the other.”
“You’ve got a gut, though,” Dukes said.
” Yeah, I know. But that’s only because there were dots there to connect, because he has influenced them before in other personnel decisions,” Loverro said. “Usually only involving his clients, though.”
“But we would think that Bryce didn’t have the most rosy of relationships with the manager,” Dukes replied. “And that is the agent that represents Bryce, and then the manager’s gone.”
“Those are reasonable leaps of faith,” Loverro said. “What I do know is the connection between the ownership and Scott Boras, and I do think, whether it’s Scott Boras or somebody else, that somebody’s in Ted Lerner’s ear giving him advice that’s contrary to what Mike Rizzo wants to do.”
When Dukes pressed further into who could have Lerner’s ear, Loverro said, “It could be a family member. It could be a nephew.”
“Look. I lived through the Peter Angelos era when the two sons, John and Lou — when Peter first bought the [Orioles] — were basically calling every personnel move that the club made,” he said. “Every single move. And these were two kids out of college. That’s my personal example of a situation where you just don’t know where the owner is getting their information from sometimes.”
“I have no idea who it could be,” he went on to say. “I just have a feeling that somebody is giving them advice. Whether it’s one of the other Lerner family members, a friend, but there’s somebody in Ted Lerner’s ear. I mean, because the Dave Martinez press conference was basically the Ted Lerner Show. Mike works for the Lerners. I don’t know how much longer that’s gonna happen, but right now Mike works for the Lerners. And what he will do is defend the organization and not come out and publicly acknowledge some of the stuff that most people know goes on behind the scenes.”
Come 2018, the Nationals organization could potentially experience substantial identity changes. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy will both be free agents after the season. The architect himself, Mike Rizzo, isn’t signed beyond next year, either. The thought of Rizzo walking was cause for Loverro to frame Washington’s success under the GM in the proper perspective.
“They’ve come so far, so quick as an organization of stability on the baseball side,” Loverro said. “Well, the reason for that is Mike Rizzo. I maintain that the difference between chaos and credibility with this organization is Rizzo. I mean, let’s remember who he replaced: Jim Bowden, the Clown Prince of Major League Baseball, the franchise gravedigger.”
“Jim Bowden, who assembled baseball teams that resembled motorcycle gangs, who was such a dysfunctional general manager that other general managers in the league would not talk to him sometimes when it came to make a trade,” he said. “He had to use proxies to talk to other general managers sometimes in order to make a trade he wanted to do, because the other GMs didn’t trust him at all and wouldn’t even talk to him.
“So that’s what it was before and we forget that, and we should never forget that, because the Lerners liked Jim Bowden. He was like a family member to them. And the only thing that got Jim Bowden out was a Dominican baseball scandal, or he might still be there.”
Loverro characterized Rizzo as a tough guy, but not one who’s “insensitive to what the media says.”
“He’s fairly accessible,” he said. “If you see him on the field at Nats Park, I’ve seen national baseball writers who have trashed him in public go up and he talks to them. He’s not a grudge guy, and I know for a fact, based on my own personal experience, if you write something he doesn’t like, he’ll let you know it, and then he’ll move on.”
“That’s the way, ideally, it should be,” Dukes said.
“That’s the way I would want it to be,” Loverro said. “I don’t want some guy, if he’s angry with something I wrote, giving me the soft sell. I want to know. It might not change anything in my mind, but when I show up at Nats Park, part of why I do it is so if anyone has a problem, they can take it out on me. All they’re gonna do is yell at me.”
“So he doesn’t hold a grudge when it comes to criticism, but he’s aware of it,” he added. “Does it direct what he does? No.”