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What Will It Take To Make Baseball Take Washington's Nationals Seriously? or Is The Pursuit Of Mark Teixeira Enough?

If you were to judge the current state of the pursuit of free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira by what you read this morning in, say, the Sunday New York Times, in an article by New York Times' writer Michael S. Schmidt entitled, "Yanks Keep Eye On Teixeira And Wait", you'd be led to believe that the 28-year-old switch-hitting Teixeira is choosing from a three team field of suitors which includes the Boston Red Sox, whose recent drama-filled negotiations have spilled over into the press, the Anaheim Angels, who are described by Mr. Schimidt as, " of the front-runners," and New York's Yankees, even though as the article's title hints, the Yankees have not yet made the monetary value of their "interest" in Teixeira public knowledge.

Mr. Schmidt cites two sources "in baseball with knowledge of the matter" who claim that the Yankees are, "...for the moment...unwiling to pay him more than the $160 million over eight years", that several teams in the chase initially offered last week, while also noting that Boston owner John Henry and LA Angels' owner Arte Moreno may have already gone as high as $170 million over the same eight years...

Now right about now you might be wondering? Uh? Aren't the Washington Nationals still alive in the chase for Teixeira? Well you wouldn't know it by reading the New York Times, and granted it's a NY paper with a Yankee slant, but you'd think the Nationals deserved at least a mention, especially if you've read's Lyle Spencer and Bill Ladson's collaborative effort on an article entitled, "Teixeira's decision could come soon", where they write that "geography and family" will play a role in the decision, and claim to have spoken to:

"...members of the D.C. media, familiar with Nationals owner Ted Lerner, who think the Nationals are the club most likely to approach Boras' early target of 10 years and $200 million."

Another NY-based writer, Bill Madden of the New York Post wrote an article this weekend entitled, "Mark Teixeira saga drags on as Scott Boras looks for that 'One Dumb Owner'", where Mr. Madden writes that while the big-spending Angels and Red Sox are still in the mix, he suspects Boras may have identified the Washington Nationals as this year's target, describing the DC ballclub as:

"a perennial doormat...desperate to generate enthusiasm from their disillusioned fan base with a high-profile signing."

...and Mr. Madden goes on to write that, "Indeed...":

"...the Nats' Ted Lerner more and more looks to be emerging as this year's prime candidate for the "One Dumb Owner" (in the mold of Texas' Tom Hicks) Boras always seems to bamboozle into onerous contracts they immediately come to regret."

So, no one outside DC is taking the Washington Nationals seriously. The New York Times denies, or at least ignores, the Nationals' interest in Teixeira. The New York Post thinks Washington is making a mistake of A-Rod-in-Texas-sized proportions in even pursuing Tex, and's Buster Olney would seem to agree with the Post's Mr. Madden, as Mr. Olney is on record describing the Nationals' pursuit of Teixeira as "lunacy".

But Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's article today entitled, "Just By Pursuing Teixeira, Nats Are Making a Move", however, claims that it's not so important that the national media pays attention to the Nationals' attempts to sign Teixeira, (which Mr. Harlan admits is a longshot) as it is important that Washington let its players and fans know that they are willing to spend with the big teams, with Mr. Harlan going so far as to write that even if Teixeira doesn't ultimately choose to come to DC:

"...either way, as Teixeira and his agent, Scott Boras, sort through the various offers, Washington already has bolstered its self-image."

Newly-re-signed DC outfielder Willie Harris lends support to Mr. Harlan's claims in a quote Mr. Harlan includes in the article where Mr. Harris explains what he thinks the team's pursuit of the top free agent on the market means:

"' definitely shows the rest of the players -- everybody else in the clubhouse, everybody else in the organization -- that it's time for a change'...'Whether we get Tex or not, just trying to get him shows everybody else in the clubhouse that it's time to win...God knows, I hope Tex comes here.'"

I wrote a while back that I didn't really think the Nationals were going to spend the way they'd have to in order to get Teixiera, and therefore, allowing fans to thinks they were actually in the chase for Teixeira could backfire on the franchise, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that, (at least according to unnamed sources), their interest in Teixeira was for real, (whether or not I think upwards of $20M per is a wise investment for a team that's still not rebuilt to the point of being competitive)...and I'll admit that following the reports of DC's involvement in the pursuit of Teixeira has kept me interested in the Hot Stove news this winter in a way I haven't been in recent years...but will that pursuit be enough? If Washington doesn't sign Teixeira, and goes into Spring Training with big questions remaining at first...two questionable pitchers and an injured outfielder as the only additions to the roster...and a boatload of young, unproven pitching to choose from for their starting rotation...will the fact they would have been willing to spend a lot on a free agent if said free agent had been interested in playing for them be enough? Will it be enough if DC loses 90-100 games again? Will you be satisfied that DC tried? Or angry that they once again came up short?

-- (ed. note - "Maybe people will start to take DC seriously when they read that the Angels have dropped out of the race?'s Jerry Crasnick's article entitled, "Sources: Angels stop pursuing Teixeira", claims that "a baseball source" says the Angels, "withdrew their eight-year offer."...Now it's East Coast teams only, unless LA's bluffing like everyone thought Boston was when they reportedly walked away from the negotiating table late last week, only to quickly return and restate their continued interest in Teixeira...Who knows? The Hot Stove is full of lies...thanks for the link, Lou.")