Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Who's Our Daddy?

It looks like today's the day that the Lerner and Kasten are announced as the new owners of the Washington Nationals.
A formal introduction of the Lerners as the team's new owners could come as early as today, just as the Nationals return to Washington for a five-game homestand at RFK Stadium and city officials plan to break ground on a $611 million stadium complex along the Anacostia River in Southeast tomorrow.

Once the sale is announced, baseball has promised that the league's 29 team owners would approve the deal this month and that the Lerners would assume operation of the Nationals by mid-June.

Tom Boswell, who's probably so giddy that he can't sleep tonight, says that when it came down to it, the Lerners were Bud's choice because they're a mirror of Bud.
Selig is convinced that some types of owners tend to be far better than others. He believes that extremely wealthy single-family owners with hometown roots tend to be stable baseball stewards for generations. They are financially supportive in hard times and have a family-business vested interest in fielding winning teams....

Why would Selig believe something along these lines? He cites exemplary families such as the Fetzers in Detroit. But, of course, except for a lack of wealth that hamstrung the Milwaukee franchise, the description would fit Selig himself and his daughter Wendy. He thinks a family -- like his family -- makes the best owners. Even the Lerner family's aversion to publicity works for Bud. "I've only met Ted Lerner once," Selig said this week. He meant it as praise, a mark of modesty. Also, Selig believes the best owners hire the best executives then keep their hands to themselves. The Malek-Zients group, and their supporters, have never fit that mold for Selig. Recently, a politician called Selig to pump the Malek group and ended up making a speech about how Kasten "wasn't really a good baseball executive." According to a source, the commissioner was stunned and said, "Stan is one of the best baseball executives ever. And they are calling to tell me that he isn't?"

That's one of the most exciting things about the idea of Kasten. Even if he's not coming with Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, this franchise will be run professionally. Those ticket screwups will be a thing of the past. (and hopefully a leather-pants-wearing GM'll will be too)

Dave Sheinin writes an excellent extended profile of Kasten, which is well worth your time. It's clear that he gets it, and Sheinin relates how Kasten dealt with John Rocker's 7-train meltdown as a sign that he's got what it'll take to deal with the multitude of groups in this city.
The key parts of Kasten's strategy were to immediately distance the franchise from Rocker's comments, to agree to every meeting requested by every angry interest group, and to leave Rocker's punishment in the hands of baseball's head office. Kasten believed Rocker was not racist, just immature. "He got carried away," Kasten said, "with his own wrestling character."

Ultimately, Rocker was suspended for 14 days, but the Braves' handling of the situation drew praise.

Kasten "is a man with integrity -- that's what I took away from this incident," said former Atlanta city councilman Derrick Bozeman, a leader of the anti-Rocker forces at the time. "I didn't always agree with him. But he did what he said he was going to do. He could have hid out and said, 'Let's just let this blow over,' but he didn't. . . . I told him to save those teary-eyed stories [about his parents] for someone else. But I did get the real sense that it went deeper than just business for him."

The Post also has an extended look at the reclusive Ted Lerner, noting that he's long dreamed of owning a team, and that he once served as an usher for the Washington Senators because he couldn't otherwise afford to get into the stadium.

And there are some real encouraging signs in the piece:
"They'll pay for the best," said Jack Schwalb, president of Senate Homes in Rockville and an acquaintance of Lerner's for 40 years. "From the president to the general manager to the third baseman to the catcher . . . he'll do whatever it takes to win because he wants a champion."...

Tom A. Bernstein, a New York developer who has done a deal with the Lerners and is a former partial owner of the Texas Rangers, said the Lerners are unlikely to "pretend they've got all the information" when it comes to running a team.

"They'll surround themselves with enormously knowledgeable people who have great qualities," Bernstein said.....

Even if Mark Lerner is doing more of the day-to-day operations and wants to get more publicity as a baseball team owner, many say he'll still defer to his father. "They like to keep things on the down low," Bassin said. "That's the way they do business. They know what they have. They're not flashy about it."

So Lerner wants knowledgeable people in place who aren't flashy? Jimbo, baby, if you're reading this, and you need some help with your resume, email me. Hint: Garamond is a wonderful font.

It's hard not to be excited today. I don't know whether Lerner will be a good owner, but there's plenty of reason to expect him to be.

And regardless, he's better than what we have now! We're living in an orphanage in some old third-world country. We've been waiting for adoption for two years. And now we know that our new daddy's on his way! What's not to love about that?


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