Dombrowski backs Girardi after Rizzo remark

June 23rd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo called Phillies manager Joe Girardi a “con artist” for saying he had legitimate reasons to ask umpires to inspect a third time for foreign substances on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Rizzo believes Girardi only wanted to mess with the Nats’ ace.

“What are we, idiots? Of course he was,” Rizzo said on Wednesday morning on 106.7 FM The Fan in Washington.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made a point a few hours later to meet with reporters on the field to defend his manager.

“That’s not Joe Girardi,” Dombrowski said. “It’s totally improper for [Rizzo] to say that, in my opinion. I’ve known Joe Girardi for a long time. I’ve known Mike Rizzo for a long time. I’ve known [Nationals manager] Davey Martinez for a long time. He’s the first player I ever traded for. I’ve known Max Scherzer for a long time. I have the utmost respect for all of them. Joe Girardi is the furthest from a con man of anybody that I know.”

Girardi shrugged his shoulders at Rizzo’s jabs.

“I don't have a problem with it,” he said. “Obviously, he's going to protect his club and he's entitled to his own opinion, but so am I. That's the bottom line. That's America, right? You know what? People who know me, that's who I worry [about regarding] my character. I mean, I know Mike from friendly passing. He's always been nice to me. But Mike doesn't really know me. And I don't really know Mike. So I'm worried about what my family feels about my character.”

Major League Baseball on Monday began to enforce Rules 3.01 and 6.02(c) and (d) regarding foreign substances on the baseball, after pitchers dominated through the first two months of the season. The overall Major League batting average (.236) was on pace to be the lowest in baseball history -- one point lower than in 1968, when MLB was prompted to change the height of the mound.

Umpires told starters that they would be inspected twice. Girardi requested a third inspection in the middle of the fourth inning because he said he never saw Scherzer run his fingers through his hair repeatedly like he did Tuesday.

Umpires found only sweat in Scherzer’s hair.

“It’s embarrassing for Girardi,” Rizzo said. “It’s embarrassing for the Phillies. It’s embarrassing for baseball. Yes, he was playing games. Hey, that’s his right. Gamesmanship. It had nothing to do with substances. He had no probable cause to ask for it. The umps shouldn’t have allowed it. But it happened, and you’ve got to deal with it. This is what we’re gonna have to deal with.”

But Dombrowski said he spoke to the Commissioner’s Office on Wednesday morning. He said they told him that umpires agreed that Girardi’s request was legitimate because they also noticed Scherzer going to his hair more.

Gamesmanship? No way, Dombrowski said.

“The last thing you’re going to do with Max Scherzer is try to throw gamesmanship on him,” said Dombrowski, who was the Tigers’ general manager when Scherzer pitched there. “Because Max Scherzer is going to bristle up and he’s going to go at you even more. That’s his makeup. That’s how he is. That’s how he’s been successful. That’s how, to me, he’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. So you’re not doing it for that reason. You’re doing it because you legitimately think that there’s something going on. … Again, if the umpires didn’t think there was at least some validity to it, they would’ve said to Joe, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that. We don’t think that’s the case.’”

Dombrowski said he had no plans to talk with Rizzo on Wednesday.

“I've known Mike for years,” he said. “He's very ... emotional ... that's a great word. If I see him, I'll talk to him. But I'm not going to go out of my way.”

Girardi said he had no regrets, despite being criticized harshly in some circles. The only thing that seemed to bother him was the response from some Nationals coaches, including hitting coach Kevin Long. Girardi and Long worked previously together with the Yankees. He said he had no plans to reach out to anybody on the other side.

“I mean, obviously, you're going to take a lot of heat for it,” Girardi said. “But if I worried about taking heat about things I did in this game because I think they're right, that's the wrong thing to do. Right? I told you, I have a ton of respect for what Max has done in this game and how hard he's worked. I know what he does, how hard he works. He gives you 200 innings every year. He's a Hall of Famer. But I have to do what's right for our team.”