- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

There seems to be a growing sense around baseball that the Washington Nationals are in varying forms of disarray.

After spending no money on offseason roster improvements, the major league club is performing down to expectations with the worst record in the National League.

The new ownership group, nearly 10 months after taking control of the franchise, is getting more than it bargained for and now is realizing how much it’s going to cost to sustain a viable organization.

The volatile general manager and the smarmy team president apparently don’t get along and are being forced to work together by the owners.

Scouts aren’t being paid on time. Front-office employees are bolting or being fired by the minute. Ownership is pinching every penny. And overall morale is at terrifyingly low levels.

Or so it would appear.

All those charges were raised in a lengthy expose of the Nationals organization by foxsports.com last week. It was a thoroughly detailed and well-researched piece, and it raised some legitimate concerns about the current and future state of this organization.

But it failed to make a few key points, and because of it outsiders might have emerged with a view of the franchise that’s a tad overblown. Such as …

• The mass turnover in the front office isn’t all that uncommon when a new owner takes over any professional sports team. These guys spent $450 million of their own money to buy the Nationals. Don’t they deserve the right to keep who they want and dismiss who they want?

• The organization as a whole already was beset with problems during the four-plus years it was owned by Major League Baseball. MLB gutted the front office, farm system and support staffs, and some of those who were left to run the organization often were underqualified and overwhelmed with responsibility.

• Jim Bowden and Stan Kasten, while certainly unlikely partners at the helm of this ship, actually have more in common than most think. They might have different styles in running a club, but their goal is the same: build a championship-caliber club for the long haul.

Now, there were some legitimate issues raised by the expose. There have been payroll issues. The Lerners have added an exorbitant number of layers of protocol when it comes to expenses. Some former club employees were not treated with appropriate dignity on their way out.

But let’s not forget what a massive undertaking these people got themselves into when they purchased the club. If the current operation is being classified as “disarray,” then the previous incarnation of the organization would have to be called pure anarchy.

It takes time to build a first-class ballclub, on the field and off it. For the most part, fans have been willing to accept “The Plan” as it relates to improving the on-field product. They also should be willing to accept it as it relates to improving the off-field product.

The Lerners have had less than 12 months to turn a mismanaged franchise into a success. Just as it’s unfair to judge them on the team’s won-loss record already, it’s unfair to judge them on everything else so soon.

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