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.
Remember, its not like the Nats were second in their offer to Mark Texiera? Nor to Zach Grienke? They were first. Probably exactly for the reasons you just listed. However, since Boras can't stand Bowden its likely Bowden doesn't really know what is going on on the other side of things. Which means he doesn't know anything.
Its possible Fielder himself may prefer Texas. He can DH or play first base there. This is a team that just came off of a world series appearance. And its not a completely "white" starting lineup. And especially since there is no Jayson Werth in Texas. The poor way Jim Riggleman handled Nyjer Morgan, two white guys against a black guy with a personality? And its said that Morgan is Fielder's best friend on the Brewers?
It may be that we can add another barb and attach it to the poor contract Jayson Werth was given. He may be one primary reason there won't be a Prince Fielder (nor any black African American player of consequence) in DC.
@lerici Lots of interesting points here. A few questions though.
- Are you saying that there is a race problem in DC? That African American players wont want to play in the organization in general? Or they wont want to play alongside Jayson Werth? If you think this, could you give some examples why?
- I think in general the racial climate is a lot calmer in Washington, D.C., than Texas...but do you mean organizationally?
- What do you mean that the Nats lineup is completely "white?" Are you not counting Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa or Wilson Ramos?
@TheNatsBlog You're taking it too far. I do believe there is a RECENT problem in the organization when compared to the past. Consider the rosters under Frank Robinson, and Manny Acta? Yes, given that players talk and Morgan loves to talk? Then there was the Dukes, Milledge fiasco which may in part have led to this. Two players like that can spoil the milk for the rest. Bernadina sent to the minors for Ankiel? NO bat, never had one but ended up fielding the best he ever had in his entire career. Why did Ankiel immediately get selected start? Over Morgan? (while he was still with the club) Over Bernadina? Maxwell got plenty of chances but someone could point to that.
Ramos is definitely Hispanic as is Espinosa and there definitely 2 - 3 times more Hispanic players than African American players in the MLB. That is considered different.
Desmond and Espinosa have been with the organization since they entered baseball. Desmond the longest as he was drafted by Montreal.
@TheNatsBlog@lerici Whenever the race angle comes up, blog commenters react as if _they_ are the ones that need to be convinced there is or isn't a racial problem. It's the players' impressions that matter,and if Milledge, Dukes, Morgan, etc feel that the team treats black players poorly, then that's a problem that the team faces. What we as blog readers/commenters thinks is immaterial.
@lerici Def. a good idea for a post. I'll see what athletes I can get access to.
I do think that Hood and Goodwin will certainly have shots to start in the Nationals outfield. Do you think Morse will stay in LF? or on the Nationals? I'd be shocked if he was he was their left fielder in three years. I don't think anyone is sold on Harper being a CF either, so I think Hood and esp. Goodwin have a strong chance to be starters if they develop.
@TheNatsBlog And its highly unlikely that Destin Hood, Brian Goodwin, and Michael Taylor would make the starting lineup in the majors. There likely won't be any room unless Werth retires or a plethora of injuries occur. Albeit getting someone young like BJ Upton would make the problem seem less severe. But would Upton or even Bourne come? IMO the right thing to do would be ask some African American players how the Nats as an organization looks to them?
Again interesting points.
I think the Dukes and Milledge situation had nothing to do with race. Those two players were huge potential guys who never panned out. Milledge has struggled to stay on ANY mlb roster and Dukes was never picked up by anyone (and has had multiple run ins iwht the law since).
Now the Morgan situation is an interesting one. I have it on good authority that the Nationals wanted to get rid of him well before they signed Jayson Werth, so I don't believe there is anything there. Also, to me it is clear that his behavior upset me as a fan, irregardless of his race. However if you are asking the question had he been white would some have considered him a "gamer" like so many poorly talented white outfielders are...that I don't know. I would say I doubt it, but fans do subcontiously accept certain behaviors from some people and not others.
Some of the Nationals young outfield prospects are African American, however. Destin Hood, Brian Goodwin, and Michael Taylor are all considered potential MLB players in the next few years.
I have to say, though, I really don't think there is any significant evidence that an African American player wouldn't sign with Washington, as you suggested. But agian, I'm always open to hear arguments.
Well, you're right, but I think part of patience and wisdom is to be smart about the long-term effects of how you spend money. If the Nats signed Fielder to a long-term deal like he's asking for, that's going to be _two_ contracts (his and Werths) in 2018 that will be piles of money for guys who won't be any good. Plus (hopefully) Zimmerman, Strasburg, Harper, etc, and that could be a real problem for the team. By waiting, they might be able to get him down to a 3-5 year deal, where you can at least figure he's likely to be still suiting up by the end of the deal.
@kcrusch Good points. I think you need to view the long-term deal of Werth and a potential long-term deal of Fielder in a certain perspective. No one thought Werth would be as bad as he was in 2011, but I think in general even the Nats front office viewed it as a short term investment by purchasing credibility. By making that big splash they established themselves as major players in the market, a team that could and would make a $100 million deal at any moment.
Fielder is another short term investment with potential long term gains as well. By signing him they make themselves playoff contenders which in itself will open doors for them. Will it cripple them in the long term? It's possible, but we really don't know. The Lerners have deep pockets and who is to say that Fielder won't have a long career.
Like I said in the post, it's a risk. It's a decision that needs to be discussed. But given where the Lerners are in their ownership, I think it's time to pull the trigger and let the team compete.
@TheNatsBlog I agree that the nats had to overpay to get Werth to establish credibility. That's fine, but now that the point's been made, that contract will be out there in 5 years still chewing up payroll.
You can make a short-to-medium term Fielder commitment for all you want -- it's having his AND Werth's contracts as dead money in 2018 when they're trying to keep Strasburg, Harper, Zimmermann, and Zimmerman around that worries me greatly.