Archive for December 6, 2010

The Nats: Overspending into Respectability

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

So if you’re not into baseball you won’t care that the Washington Nationals just signed a guy names Jayson Werth to a 7-year contract worth $126 million. A lot of people, especially baseball experts and columnists, are all aghast…oooh, they paid too much…ooh, he’s already 31, ooh…now the price for all baseball free agents will skyrocket.

None of these experts get it, nor do many of the fans. First of all, really, what the hell does anyone care how much the Lerner family, the owners of the Nationals, pays a player? Is it your money? No. And as for the Nationals driving up the price for other free agent players, do I really care that the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees now have to pay more to stock their little dream-teams? If so- too bad and good. I do not care that the rich boys now have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Did the Nationals need to do this? You bet they did. Nobody in baseball can compete with the monster teams that throw money at players like drunken sailors. To break into this little club and no longer remain mired with the image of a small, parochial little baseball town, the Nationals needed to make a statement- and they did.

The Washington metropolitan area is not a small market. Actually, it’s the 4th largest metro area in the nation. It’s about time the Lerners started paying top dollar free-agent contracts to improve the team. Six years of promises of building a farm system and stocking up the team with draft choices has netted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, two possible future hall-of-famers (and a lot of other, talented but lesser-known players)- but nothing that would lead to an immediate improvement of a ball club that lost 96 games last year and considered it an improvement.

In addition to the players you draft and develop, you have to buy a few as well. So, in one fell swoop- the Nationals have sent a message to baseball—yes, we will compete with you. Yes- we will overpay if it’s necessary to get into the game. It says to our homegrown all-star 3rd baseman, Ryan Zimmerman who was upset we let slugger, Adam Dunn go to the White Sox…no, Ryan- we do care. We will build a good ballclub around you and, see, you really do want to stay past the 2013 season and sign a new contract with us.

And if baseball insiders such as the new, obnoxious GM of the New York Mets, make fun of us in Washington for spending a gazillion dollars on a player most of the geniuses don’t deem to be worthy of the big contract- does it occur to any of these brilliant men- that other players might actually like to play for ball clubs that pay top dollar? As word spreads that the Washington Nationals are overpaying spreads among the athletes and their agents…don’t you think D.C. has just now become a lot more attractive to them?

A lot of the experts don’t think Jayson Werth merits such a long, rich contract; that by its end he’ll be 39 and a washed-up has-been. So what? If he gives us 5 productive years and the length of the deal is what it took to get him here- who cares if he’s not productive at age 37—it would still have been worth it.

So for you inside baseball men gathered in Florida for the start of the sport’s winter meetings today- go ahead and laugh at the Nationals all you want. Make jokes about Washington’s deficit spending. Mock our efforts to play with the big boys and get some of the top talent in the game.

But get ready to open up your checkbooks- because we just made your financial lives a living hell. Maybe it’s the populist/anarchist in me, but I am having serious trouble conjuring any sense of sympathy for a bunch of rich, fat men who have lorded over the sport for decades on end.

We just stuck it to your respective pocketbooks and hopefully, we’ll stick it to you on the field too. Deal!