Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Very Good Sign

When the Cleveland Indians made their fine run in the Mid to Late 1990's, they did so by locking up their young core players to multi-year contracts. And, in many instances, buying out their best talent's arbitration elgible years. Then Cleveland Indians GM, John Hart, was the first executive to operate this way in earnest. And, it worked. The Indians competed by building around those core guys--Selling Out nearly every game at Jacobs Field for years--appearing in the Post Season 6 out of 7 years, making the World Series in 1997 (to lose to the Marlins--disgustingly so).

Now, Our Washington Nationals are following the same scenario. Today, locking up Right Fielder, Austin Kearns on a 3 year contract extension with Club Option for 2010, although the total sum has yet to be released. Considering that Kearns was asking $4.24 Million in arbitration, the deal must be around $16 Million-$24 Million, if it runs the full course (I will update later-when the final number comes out). Whatever the contract turns out to show, its a reasonable sum, considering the hot off season Free Agent winter season, we all experienced over mediocre talent
[UPDATE--Kearns contract is for $16.5 Million (for the guaranteed 3 seasons--$3.5 in 2007, $5 Million in 2008, $8 Million in 2009 with a Club Option in 2010 for $10 Million or a $1 Million Buyout--and no bonus clauses in the contract at all].

This coming after re-signing First Baseman, Nick Johnson, to a three year $16.5 Million contract extension last spring. Catcher, Brian Schneider is penned through 2009 for $16 Million. Most importantly, The Nationals bought out their arbitration elgible years. Nationals General Manager, Jim Bowden, considers his core talent to consist of Kearns, Johnson, Schneider, Felipe Lopez, Chad Cordero and, of course--Ryan Zimmerman. Unfortunately, Cristian Guzman is under contract through 2008. Offensively, its not a bad group to build around. Obviously though, we still need the pitching, badly. John Patterson is arbitration elgible, but I am not sure whether Washington is willing to give him an extended agreement, right now.

The Lerners and Team President, Stan Kasten, always talk about the budget. Ted Lerner stated just last week, he was concerned over rising Free Agent Salaries. Bowden talks about how you have to work within those budgetary parameters, each and every day, to make that budget work, no matter what that monetary ceiling is, yet still move Our Nationals forward.

So, what did the Nationals do? They went out and re-signed one of their own, once again--keeping him under team control as the rebuilding project moves on in earnest.

The Austin Kearns extension is a very good deal, on two fronts. Its reasonable, based on today's ever escalating salaries, but, more importantly, his new contract makes him TRADEABLE. The same with Nick Johnson & Brian Schneider, if things don't work out as planned. Or, some other teams GM comes along with a deal you just can't pass up.

Our Washington Nationals are attempting to keep their core players, allowing them to grow together, build cohesiveness, and give their fans a group of players to stand behind and witness, their development, into a WINNING TEAM.

Is it better to win by watching a team of hired guns? Or win with players you've personally seen struggle, adjust, and ultimately, succeed. Personally, I'm for the later. Johnson, Schneider, and now Kearns--could we see Chad Cordero and Felipe Lopez, re-signed long term next--sometime later in the years? Very, Very likely. Zimmerman still under team control, so Washington has no pressing need to get him under wraps. But, they will, eventually--I am sure.

If Our Washington Nationals are going to build and attempt to win from within, then Management must reward those young players who have earned it. And, today The Lerners, Mr. Kasten and Jim Bowden, did so.



SenatorNat said...

SBF understands The Plan clearly and articulates it splendidly. The Nationals are a well-managed organization with a pyramid structure. Kearns was impressed with his meeting with the Lerners who undoubtedly explained The Plan (perhaps not as well as SBF has been communicating it via personal interviews and analysis!) and wants to be a part of this system.

Johnson, Schneider, Kearns, and Zimmerman are hard-nosed throw-back types, and they form the four corners of the locker room, in would seem. Lopez and Guzman could be a tremendous duo up the middle, potentially. And if fan favorite Ryan Church were to join the ranks, then the team has a blue collar mentality, with a little urban spice, perhaps...And this is before the "Dominican Invasion" transpires, as these DR kids start pressing the veterans. The missing link for now is one of the two oft-injured outfielders staying healthy, and Nook available as PR and defensive replacement to keep them healthy!

"Pitching, pitching, pitching:" principally growing their own starters, can then be a refrain that can receive all the attention and resources needed. Recall those Swinging A's and how they brought together Vida Blue, Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman so quickly to complement a nucleus of everyday players not dissimilar to those guys in the late 60's and early 70's. "Nasty Nats"?

Trust in Kasten - All Good.

Eddie Cunningham said...

The Indians also made it to the World Series in 1995, too when they lost to the Braves. Although Cleveland fans talk about how bitter the ending to that great year of 1997 was for them, I think that ultimately they have fonder memories of that year than the fans of the team that actually best them in the Series. Almost as soon as the confetti was falling, Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga found out he would not be getting a new stadium after all and dismantled his world champions. In 2011, the Marlins might be calling Vegas, San Antonio, or possibly even Montreal their new home. Meanwhile, the Indians---even though they now have the longest World Series drought in the American League---will still be playing in Jacobs Field in front of decent crowds.

One more thing you forgot to mention. Our own beloved Livan Hernandez was the MVP of the 1997 World Series.