- - Sunday, July 28, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Not long after Ted Lerner and his family purchased the Washington Nationals, he returned to his alma mater, George Washington University, for a sports forum and shared the stage with another alumnus, New York Yankees president Randy Levine.

Levine told the crowd that because of the pressures of New York, the goal of the Yankees every year is to win the World Series.

To which Lerner, in 2007 replied, “I might add we’re not really concerned with winning the World Series this year.”

Ted, it might be time to be concerned.

I know you and the family have professed to be concerned now about winning the World Series. When you hired Dave Martinez as your new manager in the fall of 2017 — after firing Dusty Baker, the manager who took you to the postseason, the path to the World Series, in the two years he was here — you made this statement, “We have been very clear about our goals as an organization.”



Those goals, I presume, according to your president of baseball operations, Mike Rizzo, are to win world championships.

But maybe not. I know you probably think that being the sixth-highest spending team in baseball should be enough to accomplish that goal. But the reality is that here we are as the July 31 trading deadline approaches, and it is also clear to everyone that, for better or worse, it’s not enough. You’ll need to do more to accomplish those goals you claim to have been very clear about.

Unless those goals have been replaced. Are the goals you professed to be real clear about before — are they now amended to include winning world championships, as long as you don’t have to spend money that goes over the luxury tax threshold?

After all, Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington this spring that “it’s a pretty severe penalty if you go over and it’s been our goal all year to stay under that.”

So I guess that’s your primary goal now — not to pay a penalty for the opportunity to win a world championship.

Yeah, you win the fatter wallet award. When is the parade?

Watching your team play, even during its remarkable comeback from a 19-31 start, it should be abundantly clear to you (after all, you’ve owned a baseball team for 13 years, so I assume you’ve learned something) that you are missing an important ingredient for postseason success — a great bullpen. A bullpen to be feared — and not by your own manager.

The Nationals have two-thirds of the pieces they need to finally get past the division round — a strong lineup and, in particular, three great starters. No one, save for the Los Angeles Dodgers, can compete with the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

But postseason baseball is tightly played, as you must be aware of by now, and to take the ball from any of these three starters and hand it off to the bullpen by prayer would be a failure of your alleged goal of world championships — but proof of your goal to win the fatter wallet title.

You’ve handcuffed Rizzo in the past at the trade deadline. In 2015, you refused to let him add payroll at the trade deadline and you wound up with Jonathan Papelbon. It’s a competitive market for bullpen help right now, and unless you take the handcuffs off and not settle for trade table scraps, your Washington Nationals might not even get a chance for their regular early postseason exit.

At least the family wallets are fatter.

You could always use those savings, of course, to sign Anthony Rendon to a long-term contract. Remember that?

Ted, what was the point of wanting to own a sports franchise in the first place? You’ve wanted to own one for decades. You bid for the Baltimore Orioles back in the 1970s. You tried to buy the San Francisco Giants and move them to Washington. You made an attempt to buy the Washington Redskins after Jack Kent Cooke passed away.

Was all that really just to zip up your change purse when the time came to step up and spend more? To go for it?

What are you waiting for?

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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