Rich Tandler's Nationals blog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Real Owner Can't Get Here a Second Too Soon

In another article on the site, a reporter answered a question from a reader who wanted to know why Jim Bowden didn't increase the team's offer to Dodgers pitcher Odalis Perez. The answer was very telling and points out why the Nats can't get a real owner a second too soon:
The Nationals increased their offer to Perez. According to a source, they offered him a three-year deal worth $20 million. However, team president Tony Tavares said they are not going to overpay for a pitcher. Here's what he said last week about the free-agent market: 'One of the difficulties that we are faced with, honestly, is the marketplace, which is getting out of control. Since the marketplace is jumping up so much, [we don't want to be a] contributor to the problem. We have backed off on some players, who we thought were worth x but are signing deals for x-plus.'
Perez re-upped with the Dodgers for three years and $24 million. So, in the eyes of Tavares, $6.6 million a year is not overpaying but $8 million a year is. If the team's payroll is even as low as $50 million, that's a difference of less than three percent of the total.

You have to draw a line somewhere, says Tavares. Well, you do if you're run by committee and you're competing against your owners for players, you have to draw a line. Do you think that the Dodgers and the other teams that were interested in Perez were going to allow the Nationals to fairly compete for Perez' services? If you followed the Vlad Guerrero saga in Montreal, when everything possible was done to keep him from resigning with the Expos even though he wanted to stay, you know the answer to that one.

MLB's ownership of the Expos has been shameful. One small example: In September of 2003, they were in the heat of the race for the NL Wild Card spot. The travel-weary (this was the first year of Puerto Rico) team was gassed. A couple of September callups from the minors would have given them a little more depth and flexibility. To be sure, it wasn't as though Terrmel Sledge would have carried them into the playoffs, but perhaps the prospective AAA MVP would have given them a spark.

But, no, said MLB. They had spent their budget on the team and there wasn't a dime more. Let's see, a few major-league minimum salaries, and extra hotel room or two on the road, maybe $150K, maybe a little more. That's about five grand per "owner", not even chump change to these guys. But no was the final answer, for reasons financial and, one could easily deduce, otherwise, and the Expos faded down the stretch.

The Nationals need a real owner as soon as possible. A real owner would have the option to open up the checkbook and bump up the offer to a Perez. He would be able to act without going through a committee that has every reason to prevent him from improving his team. He would recognize, hopefully, that a team in need of a starting pitcher just might have to pay more than "market value" for a pitcher because that player is more valuable to his team that it is to the restof the "market".

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