- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2008

The only way the Washington Nationals are going to persuade free agent superstar Mark Teixeira to come to the District is by showing him a way out.

The path agent Scott Boras traditionally lays out for his clients is simple: Go to the highest bidder. But if the Nationals finish as the top bidder for Teixeira, their offer likely must also include an out clause — a way for Teixeira to bail on the club if it is as pathetic three years from now as it is today.

That should make Teixeira a National hero, so to speak — he could serve as leverage to force the Lerners to improve their product. The $200 million man then becomes the representative of the little guy, the fan in the stands. How funny is that?

Of course, it could go the other way: The Lerners could have had their fill of Teixeira in three years if there are no tangible results to show for their investment. They could be more than happy to let him go on the market again.

Either way, Washington’s only real chance to get Teixeira to play for them instead of the Boston Red Sox is to convince him the Nationals will be the Red Sox very soon — and assure him that, if they are not, a winning franchise with deep pockets will be able to sign him three years from now.

The Nationals’ bid for Teixeira, reportedly around $160 million over eight years with speculation that it could reach $200 million over 10 years, received mixed reviews at baseball’s winter meetings in Las Vegas.

The Nats regained a portion of the credibility they lost over the past several seasons — they’ve been the joke of baseball — by stunning everyone with their financial commitment to Teixeira.

Not everyone was impressed. Yahoo’s veteran baseball writer Gordon Edes called the Nationals “losers” and compared their chase of Teixeira to the pursuit of Alex Rodriguez by Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who in 2000 foolishly signed A-Rod to a $252 million deal.

That was eight years ago, though, and a $200 million deal today hardly is comparable to a $252 million deal made then. And, anyway, it may be better to be made fun of for spending too much money than for not spending enough.

You have to wonder where team president Stan Kasten stands in all this. The tension between Kasten and the Lerners is not believed to have eased since the season ended, and Kasten’s name has repeatedly come up as a candidate for the vacant president’s job with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Kasten told the Toronto Sun during the winter meetings that Paul Beeston, the former Jays boss and current interim chief executive officer who is doing the hiring, should take the job.

“You and I both know what needs to happen,” Kasten said. “Paul Beeston has to stay with the Jays. I’ve said it before, and I truly believe that is what’s going to happen. I’m endorsing Paul Beeston for the job.”

That’s not the you’ve-got-to-be-crazy sort of denial you might expect from someone who has been president of the Nationals for less than three years, a man who owns a piece of the franchise.

It must have driven Kasten crazy to have Boras be the center of attention at these winter meetings.

Years ago, Cadillac Bud Selig called a temporary halt to the winter meetings because they had become dominated by agents. Judging by the coverage from Las Vegas, these meetings were the Scott Boras roadshow - and everyone else was a bit player.

Kasten, remember, has made it clear many times that he thinks the game would be better served if agents were not part of the process - period. In 2005, Kasten said salaries had gotten out of control “largely due to the pushing and prodding of agents.”

He went on to say, “It’s not agent abuse which is the problem. It’s the highly skilled, highly competent, highly ethical agents; they’re really the problem for all of us who love sports. If you’re a highly skilled, highly ethical practitioner, your main goal in life is to look out only for the best interest of your one client at a time - period. Nothing else matters - not the interest of the team, the player’s teammates, the community, the franchise or the sport.”

This whole Boras-Teixeira dance must have been like chewing broken glass for Kasten, who may be looking for his own out clause.

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