Nationalize the Nationals of the National League
If Washington is going to bail out Bear Stearns & Co., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, then it may as well bail out the Nationals, too. I mean, why not? Aren't the Nats just as important to Washington and inept as those four financial firms?
Well, whether the Nationals are nationalized or not probably makes little difference as the club has faltered under the ownership of Major League Baseball as well as the Lerner family. Private, quasi-private, or public, I don't think it much matters.
If you're looking for failure, try these facts on for size. The Nationals...
- failed to sign their first-round draft pick Aaron Crow,
- finished with the worst record in the majors,
- compiled the lowest attendance in the first year of a new ballpark in the post-Camden Yards era, and
- produced the lowest TV and radio ratings in all of baseball.
Oh, and two weeks ago, the Nationals fired five of its six coaches (all but pitching coach Randy St. Claire). That's right, Pat Corrales (bench), Tim Tolman (third base), Jerry Morales (first base), Rick Aponte (bullpen), and Lenny Harris (hitting) were all booted. The club also dismissed strength and conditioning coordinator Kazuhiko Tomooka and video coordinator Tom Yost. I guess somebody or a bunch of bodies had to be the scapegoats as the owners, team president Stan Karsten, general manager Jim Bowden, and manager Manny Acta obviously were not to be blamed.
Other than all that, the organization had about as good of a year as those in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
The only consolation to this year's disastrous season is that the Nationals now own the first overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Washington also has the No. 9B selection as compensation for not coming to terms with Crow by the August 15 deadline (or September 22 if you're a client of agent Scott Boras).
The first prize could be a big one. While lots can happen between now and June, there is little doubt that the top prospect at the moment is righthander Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State. Strasburg, 20, was the only college player to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic baseball team in Beijing this past summer. The San Diego native leapt onto the national scene when he struck out 23 against the University of Utah at Tony Gwynn Stadium on April 11. While the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder's fastball has been known to reach triple digits, many scouts rank his knee-buckling curveball as his #1 pitch. Strasburg also throws a slider that touches the high-80s.
Strasburg won't come cheap as his "advisor" is none other than uber-agent Boras. Knowing that the Nats would face a public relations dilemma if the club failed to sign its No. 1 pick two years running, you can count on Boras using such leverage when asking for perhaps as much as an eight-figure MLB contract next summer.
Although I thought the Lerners once owned the largest stake in MBNA, the credit card behemoth, I was informed by Chris Needham, the proprietor of the former blog Capitol Punishment, the family that owns the Nationals is of the same name but different. Instead, Ted Lerner is the founder of Lerner Enterprises, the largest private real estate developer in the Washington, D.C. area. While the other Lerner family sold out to Bank of America a few years ago, these Lerners are apparently learning on the job. The Lerner family is a minority partner in Lincoln Holdings, LLC group, which owns 100 percent of the NHL Washington Capitals and the WNBA Washington Mystics and 44 percent of the NBA Washington Wizards and Verizon Center. I'll let you be the judge as to whether any of these franchises have been successful.
Where's Barack Obama and his promises of change when (and where) you need it most?