My advice to Washington Nationals fans — words that I live by, words that I have been told by others smarter than myself are zen like in their approach to life. “Be flexible, and have low expectations.” In other words, dream about Mark Teixeira, live with Jason Giambi.
Teixeira would be perhaps the only free agent on the current market who you could rationally make the case for a long-term costly invesment (I think it is foolish to make huge investments in free agent pitchers. Two year deals, tops. The only pitchers you pay for longer than that are your own studs you grew from the start). Teixeira is a 29-year-old slugging first baseman who will help you defensively as well and, by all accounts, will be a plus in the clubhouse, not a minus. The clubhouse part is important, because if you are going to invest $100 million or more, you deserve to have to whole package. And you don’t want the biggest money maker in the room — the top dog, in most cases — to be a clubhouse problem. You need him to set the tone for the way the team conducts itself.
That should eliminate Manny Ramirez from any discussion, though, as a columnist, I can’t think of anyone I would rather see in a Washington National uniform than Manny. He would be a dream come true, a daily drama that would write itself. It should also eliminate any talk of Adam Dunn. Though he is young enough (29) and has the power numbers (40 or more home runs six straight season), he will not be the total package. Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said earlier this year on a sports talk show what most people in baseball already know — Dunn is not the kind of guy you want in your clubhouse. “Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” Ricciardi told a caller to the show. “Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players, and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here.” You can’t afford to have that guy be, in this case, by far the biggest wallet in the clubhouse for what will likely be a very long time.
Teixeira is a guy you would want around for a very long time, but it is difficult to take seriously the reports that the Nationals will be a major player for his services. Maybe circumstances will fall in a way that they could be — the Yankees fell out of the running when they traded for Nick Swisher to play first (which I thought would have been a good option for the Nationals). But the reputation of this organization within baseball, and among players in particular, is perhaps the worst in the game. Remember, when the Rangers wanted to play a joke on pitcher Eddie Guardado, the team they said he was traded to was the Nationals. He reacted in horror. So why would anyone who had the freedom to chose where he would play for the next five or six years chose the Nationals?
If the Nationals really want to add a bat, the best and most reasonable option may be Giambi, for a short-term fix (two years) and probably overpaying to get him here. He is 38, and has the steroid use baggage that comes with him, but he hit 32 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the Yankees last year. He may be a defensive liability, but this team’s desperation for offense is so great that defense may have to be sacrificed.
If somehow the Nationals can pull off a miracle and land Teixiera, they will have secured a building block for long-term success and gone a long way to repairing their image in the industry and among their fans. But miracles are a high expectation.
So remember — be flexible and have low expectations.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington on Monday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com