Nationals owner re-pledges commitment to winning in letter to fans

Chris Lingebach
August 01, 2018 - 7:00 pm

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


The Nationals caused some understandable confusion with their approach to the trade deadline, neither buying nor quite committing to selling.

There's a reason for that, says Mark Lerner, managing principal owner of the ball club, in a letter to fans.

Dear Nats Fans,

Since my family was awarded the team twelve years ago, we have been steadfast in our commitment to provide fans with a first class experience at Nationals Park — and that includes putting a quality product on the field each and every year. That commitment remains unchanged.

In spite of a player payroll that exceeds $200 million — the 2nd highest in baseball — and exceeding the luxury tax threshold, so far this season has not lived up to everyone’s expectations. The trade deadline forced us to take a hard look at the roster and contemplate whether to keep the team we have for the remainder of the season or make significant changes.

At the end of the day, my family and Mike Rizzo decided that we just couldn’t give up on this team. We couldn't look ourselves in the mirror knowing that we had simply thrown in the towel on a team full of talent and heart.

The business of baseball is not always pretty. These are tough decisions — decisions that our organization does not take lightly. But I believe in this team. I believe in the twenty-five guys that we have in our clubhouse. I believe in Davey Martinez and our coaching staff. And I believe in our fans — that you will continue to embrace this team. Show up, cheer loudly, wear red knowing that the guys on this team need to hear you each and every game.

Our goal has not changed — we want to bring a World Series trophy to Washington, D.C.

That’s what our fans rightly expect. And that’s what my family expects.



Lerner's letter comes after weeks of uncertainty about whether the Nats, sitting uncomfortably back in third place in the NL East, would be buyers going into the July 31 non-waiver deadline, or, for the first time in more than seven years, legitimate sellers.

While Washington traded off reliable reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs, the club declined to go all-in by selling off more valuable assets that would yield more substantial down-the-road returns. They were caught in an ideological struggle, not bad enough to punch out and replenish the farm and long-term health of the roster, but not quite good enough, either, to justify gearing up for a 55-game blitz down the home stretch.

General Manager Mike Rizzo spoke candidly to The Sports Junkies about the organization's collective thought process, and what it would have taken to consider trading away its stars, including free-agent-to-be Bryce Harper.

"In this case, we had a lot of deals in place set up if we were going to go in that direction," Rizzo said. "But we decided not to go in that direction, because the player return wasn't worth the risk of abandoning this 2018 season."

"We never got to the point where we said, 'If we get x player back in a trade, we're gonna blow this up,'" he said. "It never got to the point where we had that close of a deal to get it done. We had ideas and discussions about five or six players, and I guess there was a scenario that, if everything went well, we would have gone in that direction. But it had to be such a circumstance where we felt the risk of abandoning this season was so worth the future in '19 and beyond that we were gonna blow it up, but it never got to that point."

So they'll continue to ride the lightning. About a third of the season remains, and the Nats are now down to 55 games to close a five-game gap.

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