- - Tuesday, October 2, 2018

If you want to do an autopsy on the Washington Nationals’ disappointing 2018 season, you don’t need to be a coroner.

The cause of death is easy enough to spot — just take another look at the line of Lerners sitting in the front row last Nov. 1 at the Nationals’ press conference to introduce new manager Dave Martinez.

There they were, members of one of the country’s wealthiest families and owners of the franchise, doubling down on management’s position — their position — that managers don’t make a difference in Major League Baseball.

That arrogance was at the heart of the decision to send Dusty Baker packing after two straight National League East titles and 192 wins. That arrogance was behind the team’s decision to turn a championship contender over to a rookie manager. That arrogance was evident in management’s insistence that success for this franchise is measured in World Series championships only.

By that criteria, of course, this year was a failure, as the club fell well short of even making the playoffs, much less “getting over the hump.”

You might think that a season like this one — and the obvious, glaring mistake of not bringing back Dusty Baker for at least one more season — would finally teach the Nationals owners a lesson.

But there they were again this season, five minutes after Jayson Werth’s career was over, inducting him in September into the Nationals Ring of Honor. How arrogant was that decision, considering that just a few months earlier, in April, Werth — who spent five days in jail in Fairfax County in 2015 for putting people in danger by driving over 100 mph one Sunday morning on the Beltway — was arrested for driving while under the influence in Arizona in April?

A spokesman for the Nationals Wednesday said the team was not aware of the April DUI arrest when they inducted Werth into the Ring of Honor as part of Jayson Werth Day last month at Nationals Park.

But that’s the kind of oversight that happens when a flailing team is desperate to immortalize someone on a moment’s notice, without the passage and perspective of time.

It’s the Lerners’ way of doing business, a style that has defined their ownership. Four different managers over the course of the last seven years? That comes from the top.

Ignore the advice of your top baseball man, general manager Mike Rizzo, who was wise enough to see the value of bringing back Baker for one more season? That’s the ownership.

Dismiss any notion that it might wise to show patience instead of pettiness, faith instead of foolishness, caution instead of carelessness? Ownership.

This is not an indictment of Martinez, who I believe is a good manager and who still has the backing of his players. I think these Nationals will compete for the division title again next season with Martinez in the dugout. That is not the issue.

Not bringing back a manager with 3,500 major league games on his resume for one last shot with a veteran contending team is the mistake.

Would Baker have done better than Martinez? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that Baker, over the course of his long career as a skipper, had experience dealing with the injured pitchers, the inconsistent hitters, the overall lack of depth and the undependable bullpen that were at the root of the turmoil that marked the Nationals season this year.

Speaking of turmoil, it was the media outlet that specializes in turmoil, TMZ, that revealed this week Werth’s DUI arrest in April. He was also driving with an expired registration and refused a field sobriety test.

He was charged with two counts of driving under the influence and one for driving with an expired registration. The report said all but one of the DUI violations were dropped as part of his plea agreement. He was sentenced to a diversion program, drug and alcohol screening, $1,600 in fines and a suspended driver’s license.

That plea agreement was reportedly made within days of Werth’s induction into the Nationals Ring of Honor. Werth’s old team, supposedly, knew nothing about the DUI.

In the TMZ video of the stop, Werth hands the police officer something he called a “courtesy card” showing that he was a an MLB player.

“We do a lot of work with you guys,” Werth is heard telling the officer.

That’s a level of arrogance even the Lerners can respect.

You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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