Friday, December 17, 2010

Mark Lerner On Commitment

The word commitment was thrown out by Mark Lerner, Mike Rizzo, Jayson Werth and even agent Scott Boras over the past few days surrounding the efforts by Our Washington Nationals to improve the baseball product on the field of play in D.C. After the Jayson Werth Introductory Press Conference, Nats320 asked Principal Owner Mark Lerner about that commitment.
Nats320: Everyone is talking commitment when it comes to building this franchise into a winner.  Your thoughts on that?
Mark Lerner: I think this (signing of Jayson Werth) makes a statement. At the end of the day it’s Jayson’s decision to make. And it’s not just a money issue for a player of his quality. Everybody knows what his stats are, everybody knows he is a winner, but I think that the fact that he did choose to come with us says that he believes that we are heading in the right direction. We know we are heading in the right direction. We know in our hearts we are going to be a winner. I think this (signing) puts another exclamation point mark next to that.
Nats320: Has it been hard to convince players to come here in the past?
Mark Lerner: I wouldn’t say it is hard. Anytime you’ve won 59 games one year and 69 the next it’s never going to be easy.  But the fact that he made this decision after we are coming off a 69 win season says a lot. He’s a smart guy. He not only knows what’s on our Major League roster, he’s analyzed the Minor League roster. We went thoroughly through it when we met him. He asked incredible questions. We had a great discussion. I think that says a lot about how he can see it coming. And he wants to be there from the beginning. 
Nats320: How important was it for you and your father to go out to California and meet with Jayson, basically, face to face?
Mark Lerner: I think it was critical. Just like what we did with Stephen (Strasburg) and Bryce (Harper). You have to meet these people one-on-one. They get to know us. We get to know them. He (Werth) blew us away in the conversation. Hopefully, we did our homework and they did the same and this will be a great partnership for a long time to come. 
Nats320: This is the 5th year of your ownership. Are you frustrated at all that it has taken more time to put a winning team on the field?
Mark Lerner: No. This is baseball. It’s a slow process. I wish it was like the NFL where you draft them and two weeks later they are in mini-camp. It doesn’t work that way in baseball--as you well know. This is a sport where you need incredible patience and stay with your game plan because if you start bouncing all over the place it’s a disaster. We’ve stayed the course even though we want to win as badly as anyone--trust me. So for us to stay on course, I think it says a lot. We are moving. It’s coming fast. 
Nats320: You’ve said a statement has been made with the signing of Jayson Werth. How does that play out across the rest of baseball as they look back at you?
Mark Lerner: I can’t really worry about what the rest of baseball thinks. I think people in the know and the people who walked up to me and Mike (Rizzo) while we were in Florida (for the Winter Meetings) know it’s a great move for our franchise. A lot of them are saying: ‘you are doing it the right way, you are doing it for the long term.’ We don’t want to be one-year wonders. And it’s very encouraging over the past few years when people have said ‘forget the W’s’, keep building it this way, you’ve got the talent coming,’ and that’s what we are planning to do.  This (signing of Werth) is an incredible day for this franchise. A player of this magnitude says ‘I want to be here’. I think that says a lot about how far we’ve come.”

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