It always pains me to utter these words, but former Nationals general manager turned ESPN analyst Jim Bowden made a great point earlier this week. While discussing arguably the only interesting storyline left in this winter’s offseason scuttlebut, Prince Fielder’s future, Bowden pointed out that not only are the Nationals the All-Star first baseman’s most logical landing place on paper, but that it also just makes sense for the club to sign him given where the team’s front-office is in their ownership.
Here is a snippet of Bowden on his MLB Network Radio Show Inside Pitch, as transcribed by Federal Baseball:
"They have made offers, multiple offers to Prince Fielder, which they cannot deny. They know the difference that he would make in that franchise, making them an instant playoff contender. They know that. Ted Lerner, the owner, is 86-years-old, he wants to win, and he'd like to win now and the Lerner family would like to see him win. Here's the biggest problem: Mike Rizzo's prepared to step up and get this thing done, but this is Ted Lerner's baseball team, and they do everything by a vote with a board of directors and the board of directors are mixed."
I bring this up not to imply that the Nationals are desperate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have been shocked with how incredibly patient both the Lerners and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo have been this winter. On one side Rizzo has been careful not to overpay for the tempting but overpriced players available on the market, even though he knows that the club is very close to its potential first ever playoff berth. And on the other, the Lerners have put their full faith behind Rizzo, allowing him to use his expertise and judgement without forcing the issue even though they can almost taste the playoffs.
While that may seem like a rather simple idea, for general managers to be patient and for owners to give them their full trust and support, the sad truth is that there are way too many owners and general managers that don’t stick to their guns and do their job right.
I bring this up simply to point out the fact that if you are the Lerners, you have to believe that this is your time to capitalize on what the Nationals have built because so far the investment plan has gone almost exactly according to plan. The team took its bumps and bruises in the early going, but seven years into the franchise the club has their own state of the art baseball stadium, a top-of-the-line manager with a track record of World Series success, and a bevy of homegrown talent including arguably the best YOUNG starting pitching rotation in baseball. Heading into their eighth year as a franchise, the team is fundamentally strong from the bottom up, incredibly talented, and just one or two pieces away from being real competitors.
If you were the Lerners and you aren’t going to pull the trigger now, when would you ever?
The time is right to make that investment in the team’s future. Ted Lerner had to know going into this venture that given his age, if he wanted to truly enjoy the fruits of owning a winner, they would have to turn the team into a competitor within the team’s first ten years of existence. They have bided their time and been incredibly patient, but they also got into this business for a reason and that is to win. And because of that, I think Bowden is completely right. The time to win is now. We all know it, Rizzo knows it, and the ownership knows it.