Thursday afternoon, Ted Lerner walked towards the exit of the house clubhouse at Nationals Park, the place he had simply sat and applauded from the entrance row because the baseball membership he owns launched the seventh supervisor of his household’s 12-year stewardship. Might he cease and speak a bit concerning the course of that led the Washington Nationals to Dave Martinez, the newest skipper charged with — gulp — profitable a World Series right here.
“I usually say no,” Lerner stated, moderately politely.
Please. Pretty please.
Thursday was about Martinez, after all, as a result of the Nationals have entrusted their loaded roster to the 53-year-old baseball lifer for a season wherein there isn’t any objective — by their very own unequivocal statements — aside from profitable the World Series. But the day of Martinez’s introduction was, actually, much more concerning the Lerner household and its 92-year-old patriarch.
“These things aren’t in a vacuum,” stated the Lerners’ free-agent-to-be basic supervisor, Mike Rizzo. “This isn’t a one-man show.”
Well, not technically. It’s simply that one man issues greater than the remainder. This is the franchise of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, proper? Those are the boys whose photographs adorn the huge concrete partitions that make up Nationals Park.
But that so misses the purpose. Those gamers, they’ll come and go. This is, now and going ahead, the franchise of Theodore N. Lerner. We hear from him solely not often, if in any respect. But always remember whose imprint is on this franchise greater than some other.
“His involvement is like any other major decision we make in this franchise’s history: It’s a group decision,” Rizzo stated. “The ownership group, which includes Mr. Lerner, and with the executive branch, which includes me.”
But as we get to know Martinez and achieve a really feel for a way he’ll deal with the membership, let’s be clear about one thing : If the Lerners didn’t personal the group, and Ted Lerner didn’t present a very powerful counsel, and the baseball operations division made the selection, Dusty Baker would nonetheless be the supervisor.
And he isn’t.
Washington Nationals followers vent some frustration after information broke that Dusty Baker wouldn’t return to handle the group subsequent season. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)
“It was difficult, and we had a lot of consultation,” Lerner stated. “I think everybody was unanimous of the decision.”
The determination to take away Baker after two division-title seasons wherein he gained 95 and 97 video games — but didn’t advance previous the division sequence, every time with an excruciating, easy-to-second-guess loss within the fifth recreation — casts a shadow on Martinez’s tenure, pretty or unfairly. In Martinez’s favor is the truth that Rizzo and his workers satisfied possession that they needed to give the brand new supervisor a three-year deal — regular for the business, outlandish for the Nats.
“It was something that I felt was important for this manager at this stage of our franchise, that it needed to happen,” Rizzo stated. “Beyond that, it was the market value for good, young, intelligent managers.”
Hurdle cleared. About that good, younger, clever manager-to-be: In order for Martinez to put on the Curly W cap and sit behind the crimson microphone Thursday, the household that owns the group needed to discover a consolation stage with him. He had been via this course of earlier than, again within the fall of 2013. There could also be no possession group in baseball that’s extra concerned within the choice of its supervisor, together with eating with Martinez final week at Morton’s on Connecticut Ave. Lose the Lerners, and also you lose the job.
“We just thought there was a lot of energy, a lot of talent, and that he’s worked with one of the great managers,” Ted Lerner stated, talking of Martinez’s outdated boss with the Cubs, Joe Maddon. “We think that he’s ready to move. He knows that we want to win a World Series. It’s not a matter of stopping along the way.”
This has now develop into an edict from possession: Win all of it. Ted’s spouse Annette, son Mark and daughter Marla Tanenbaum had been amongst those that joined Lerner within the entrance row at Thursday’s information convention. When Martinez acknowledged his objective — “We’re here to win a World Series,” he stated — the household clapped, and the entrance workplace adopted. When Martinez stated bluntly, “We’re going to get it done,” Annette Lerner stated, “Yay!” and raised her palms.
When the Lerners purchased the Nationals from Major League Baseball in the summertime of 2006 and commenced this odyssey, Ted Lerner was 80 — with a lot forward of him. The course of his entrance workplace entered then was one of many first strip-it-down-and-build-it-up efforts the league had seen this century, pre-dating these undertaken by the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, who simply occur to have gained the previous two World Series.
All this time later, there’s a sense not of desperation, however at the least of mortality. Who is aware of what number of Fall Clbadics any of us have left, even these on this facet of 92? The dozen World Series for the reason that Lerners purchased the Nats have produced eight totally different champions, together with the Cubs, who gained for the primary time in 108 years, and the Astros, who gained for the primary time in group historical past. What Lerner and his household have discovered is that, though somebody has to win yearly, that process can appear impossibly arduous.
“There’s no question about it,” Lerner stated. “It seems like every year, it’s a new winner of the World Series. It’s not like the Yankees and the streak they had. You have to work your way through it, and get the right combination, and some additional talent, maybe. Perhaps we can get there.”
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Perhaps they are going to get there below Martinez’s steering. Perhaps not. Rizzo was requested to match the method that led to Martinez to those who led to Matt Williams, then Bud Black (who by no means signed his deal), after which to Baker, and the overall supervisor was capable of joke, “We’re good at it. We know what we’re doing. We’ve had a lot of practice at it.”
But in some unspecified time in the future, you run out of possibilities to apply. Now, the Nationals are within the odd spot of getting a supervisor signed for 2 years past the person who employed him. Rizzo’s deal is up on the finish of the 2018 season. Lerner’s membership has loads of expertise in vetting supervisor candidates. It has employed a basic supervisor solely as soon as: in 2009, when Rizzo, then the Nats’ appearing GM, competed in opposition to Jed Hoyer, then an badistant in Boston (and now the GM of the Cubs), and Jerry DiPoto, then within the Arizona entrance workplace (and now the GM in Seattle).
Rizzo is the one basic supervisor who has labored right here via the 100-loss seasons to the euphoria of the primary division title to now, when division titles aren’t sufficient. So usually, Rizzo is tasked with explaining choices that he suggested in opposition to. These unanimous, group choices that appear crammed with promise on a day resembling Thursday? They don’t at all times begin out that approach, and that may put on on a entrance workplace.
So, then, Mr. Lerner, would you count on that Mike Rizzo can be your basic supervisor going ahead?
“I would hope so,” Lerner stated. “We haven’t reached that stage yet. But we would hope to continue success with him.”
2018 will probably be an enormous 12 months for this franchise. Bryce Harper will probably be right here. Daniel Murphy will probably be right here. Mike Rizzo will probably be right here.
But most essential, so will Ted Lerner. Winning a World Series is just not a directive that comes from Mike Rizzo or Dave Martinez. That comes from the highest, with weight.
“That’s our objective,” Lerner stated. “No stops along the way.”