Is the "Teh Lerners are teh cheep" era over yet? After the Washington Nationals outbid (overbid?) the rest of the league to acquire Adam Dunn (2yr/$20) last winter, only after their 8-year/$160-$180 million dollar offer (depending on the source) to Mark Teixeira was effectively rejected when he opted to sign with the Yankees? After the Nationals aggressively pursued and signed free agent pitchers Jason Marquis (2yr/$15) and Matt Capps (1yr/$3.5+) and fell just short of reaching Aroldis Chapman's asking price with what was reportedly a 5-year/$25M dollar offer...and DC GM Mike Rizzo said it was his decision to end the team's pursuit of the Cuban left-hander, not the owners', as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell quoted Mr. Rizzo stating in a January 11th 2010 Nationals Journal article entitled, "Nats were 'in it to the end' with Chapman [Updated]":
"According to Rizzo, the front office -- not the Lerners -- drew the line on how much Washington was willing to offer. 'At a certain price point, the risk-reward wasn't worth it,' Rizzo said. 'We went up to a price point I was comfortable with, and at the end of the day we fell a bit short.'"
The Nationals also inked two 1st Round picks in the '09 First-Year Player Draft, signing the no.1 overall selection, former SDSU Aztec starter Stephen Strasburg to a record-setting 4-year/$15.1M dollar deal within minutes of the August 18th signing deadline for this year's picks, and selecting and signing Stanford Cardinal closer Drew Storen with the 10th overall pick, quickly agreeing on a $1.6 million dollar signing bonus, and using the compensation pick they received after failing to sign RHP Aaron Crow, the '08 Draft's 9th overall pick, to add a major-league ready closer to save games for their future ace. Oh, and they also agreed on a 5-year/$45 million dollar deal with the Face of the Franchise©, Ryan Zimmerman, who says he wants to be here when they finally turn things around...
I only bring this up now (because I'm bored with no game today and all afternoon to read about the Nationals) because I read two articles today that talked about the Nationals' owners...
I only bring this up now (because I'm bored with no game today and all afternoon to read about the Nationals) because I read two articles today that talked about the Nationals' owners, one an article at SB Nation.com by Andrew Sharp which asked the question, "What's More Valuable: Owner's Money? Or Money Player?", and the second an article by staff reporter Jeff Clabaugh at the Washington Business Journal's site entitled, "Forbes worldwide billionaire list includes 14 from Washington area", which announced that the 316th person on their billionaire list was, "Theodore Lerner, of Lerner Enterprises. The commercial real estate tycoon, and D.C. resident, (who) has an estimated net worth of $3 billion," and is also the managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals.
The SB Nation's Mr. Sharp's article starts close to home for me with a look my hapless (7-56) hometown New Jersey Nets who are about to be bought by #40 on Forbes' billionaire list, the richest man in Russia Mikhail Prokhorov, and are also going to receive the no.1 pick in next year's draft as a result of their on-court struggles, and Mr. Sharp asks, what if they could have one or the other, a number-one-overall-type pick, a sure thing, or a billionaire owner who's willing, "...to shut up and sign the checks," for whatever a team needs to field a winner. "What if the Nets fans had to choose?" Mr. Sharp asks, and what if fans of teams in other sports had to make the decision?
"In baseball," Mr. Sharp writes, using Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals as an example, the answer is easy,"...having a billionaire owner is worth more than a hundred top draft picks, because at the end of the day, that owner can simply buy those draft picks, or let them mature in someone else's farm system, and then buy them...The best talent goes to the highest bidder, period." I agree with Mr. Sharp, it's hard to even argue that in baseball a free-spending owner isn't far more valuable than any one pick or player, and one only has to look at the Yankees' owners, the Steinbrenner family with their free-spending ways, or on the other hand the Texas Rangers when they employed the current Yankees' third baseman or the San Francisco Giants with their old left fielder to see what one good player alone is worth in the Majors. (ed. note - "Just have to mention that the idea of MLB teams letting players, "mature in someone else's farm system" and then signing them once they've developed is sure to provide any Montreal Expos' fan with a moment of remembered pain, but it's not like that in the nation's capital.")
The Nationals are building through the draft, and though they've only recently turned to free agents, and have yet to make a move into the international market (does Chien-Ming Wang count, really?), DC GM Mike Rizzo has made clear that what he and team President Stan Kasten want is made available to them by the team's ownership. Signing top draft picks and supplementing their core players with free agents where appropriate has always been the Nationals' plan, well, since late '06-ish. Clearly in baseball, having an owner who's willing to build a team this way is more valuable than any one player, but what about other sports? Check out the rest of SB Nation.com's Mr. Sharp's article. And since there's no new Nationals news to read tonight, and Strasburg's next start isn't until Sunday, check out what Caps' owner Ted Leonsis had to say about the SB Nation.com writer's opinion of whether an owner or a star is more valuable in the NHL. The Capitals, as Mr. Sharp points out, have both the pick and the owner in Alex Ovechkin and Mr. Leonsis, do the Nationals have the same in Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Mr. Lerner?