So I'm reading New York Times' writer Harvey Araton's article entitled, "Suffering and Snobbery As Cuban Pursues (the) Cubs", in the Sports Of The Times column in the Times' Sunday Sports section, where, after detailing "Maverick" owner Mark Cuban's personal history and his history of attempts to buy controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs from the Tribune Company, and concluding that Cuban will most likely not ever be able to take over the North Side of Chicago's long-suffering team, Mr. Araton offers the "self-made billionaire" some other options:
"How about in Washington, where the recently relocated Nationals are already another administration in need of imminent change?"
...(ed. note - "First of all, I love it when sports writers go political, subtly...")
...How about, Kansas City, Seattle or the Texas Rangers?, Mr. Araton continues, and Mr. Cuban responds via email, telling the Times' writer, "...at this point and going forward, my only interest is in the Cubs," but for me, the Times' writers' mention of the Washington Nationals, and his judgement that after almost three years under the control of the Lerner Family and the collection of local business owners they represent, the Washington Nationals were no better off than the moribund franchise that left Montreal in 2004 for what promised to be a better future in DC, was far more important than any of Mr. Cuban's future plans.
Sure, some will argue that the franchise is well on its way to rebuilding the team's farm system with the high draft picks and prospects they've acquired in nearly three years of selections and deals, and along with the reward for this past season's futility, (in the form of the #1 overall pick in the '09 Draft), the Nationals' collection of pitching prospects, at least, is far superior to that with which they emigrated south from Quebec, Canada...
...But the rebuilding effort has not yet translated into success on the field, where, even with the surprising first-half success in 2005, the Nationals are just 284-363 since relocation, losing a disastrous 102 games in '08, and now even the commitment to build through the draft, which the Lerner group outlined upon purchasing the franchise, was called into question this year when #1 pick Aaron Crow got away over a difference of less than $1 million dollars after a protracted and at times ridiculous (or at least soap-opera-ish?) negotiation...And now Washington is acting as if it will sincerely attempt to sign free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, (or even outfielder Manny Ramirez, depending upon whose reports you read), to a contract which could end up upwards of $25-$27 million per for as many as six years...(ed. note - "...and if that kind of money is available now, why wasn't it available for Crow, yet another digression, I know...")
...The fanbase might be appeased by simply seeing the Nationals' name included in articles about the MLB Hot Stove, but the risk here is that when Washington comes up empty, (which in the cases of Teixeira and Ramirez, I suspect they most likely will), the DC Faithful, who are already tuning out in record numbers on radio and TV, might just give up hope all together and become as jaded and cynical as their American League neighbors to the north, who annually argue for the removal of their owner, who, much like the Lerners, provided the city with a beautiful ballpark and the promise of future success, but consistently failed to follow up on those promises with anything even remotely resembling a competitive approach to roster moves in the form of trades or (truly significant, substantial) free agent signings.
The start to the '08-'09 offseason for DC does hold promise however, with the Nationals' acquisition of 24-year old pitcher Scott Olsen and 29-year old outfielder Josh Willingham from the Florida Marlins, but as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell points out in his article from last Friday entitled, "Step One Is Just The Start", only if the trade is the first in a series of moves meant to rebuild the faltering parts of the DC roster, or as Mr. Boswell puts it, (also noting the comparison to Washington's regional rivals):
"Baseball is watching to see whether the Nats will develop their market or alienate it as badly as the Orioles, who have needed years to rebuild goodwill. To see if Ryan Zimmerman re-signs as free agency approaches. To find out if President Stan Kasten, on the short list for team-building jobs, finishes The Plan or feels stuck in a bad fit and, sooner or later, skips. To see if free agents light up, or laugh, when Washington is mentioned."
(ed. note - "Ahh, The Plan...But please, can Mr. Rizzo negotiate with Zimmerman for practice, or something?...")
The answers to all these questions will start to surface Monday, when those free agents who have already been offered contracts have taken the weekend to mull them over and make a decision, setting the bar for future deals this winter, or maybe when we move on to the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas early next month... How much, if any, involvement the Nationals will have in the dealing and signing remains to be seen...(ed. note- Maybe Mark Cuban wouldn't be such a bad idea, but would he have to join the Manager and infielders on the mound for meetings until the Home Plate Ump walks out to break it up?)...