December 2010

Season’s Greetings from Jayson Werth

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Click here to see a special holiday message from new Nats OF Jayson Werth.

Some Reaction to the Jayson Werth Signing

Heading into the weekend, we’ve compiled five of the best reactions from around D.C. and the baseball world following the Nationals signing of outfielder Jayson Werth. Did you find a reporter’s take somewhere that we missed? Let us know in the comments…

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“The Werth signing should send a signal to other free agents that Washington is serious about competing.”

-Phil Wood (MASN)

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“The Nationals’ biggest free agent acquisition ever.”

-Adam Kilgore (Washington Post)

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“Werth’s talent and athleticism are undeniable.”

-Jerry Crasnick (ESPN.com)

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“The Nationals put themselves back on the baseball map Sunday [December 5].”

-Ed Price (AOL Fanhouse 

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“[The Phillies] lose a really good player and key contributor to their superb three-year run as the class of the National League.”

-Phil Sheridan (Philadelphia Inquirer)

 

In Case You Missed It: Mike Rizzo On Jayson Werth

If you haven’t signed up for the Nationals Insider emails (register), you missed a great letter straight for EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo’s desk earlier this week as he personally addressed the signing of Jayson Werth and the start of Phase Two in the Nationals’ evolution. Here’s the letter:
 


Rizzo.jpgDear Nationals fans:

On Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, we will introduce and formally welcome Jayson Werth into our family.

It’s always been our philosophy that championship teams are built on pitching, defense and athleticism, and I feel like we’ve made great strides over the last couple of seasons through the draft, acquisitions and trades. I firmly believe we’re building the foundation of a team that will be a long-term contender.

Jayson is an ideal fit for our ballclub. He’s a middle-of-the-order bat, an above-average athlete and elite defender. He will win us games on both offense and defense. Jayson, like Ryan Zimmerman, is the prototypical National League player that we covet and he has made it clear to us that he wants to be part of a baseball renaissance in the Nation’s Capital.

Jayson’s signing stunned the assembled baseball universe two weekends ago in Orlando. As fun as it was to make the announcement, the signing also ushered in Phase Two of our franchise’s evolution where we add the key pieces that will help us compete for division titles and championships.

We still have work to do. I assure you that the Nationals baseball operations department will continue to work around the clock to find the very best prospects and impact players to grace the field of Nationals Park on Opening Day – we’re looking forward to seeing you there.

As always, we appreciate your support of Nationals baseball.

Happy holidays to all. I hope to be in touch again in the coming weeks…


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Mike Rizzo
 

Jayson Werth Press Conference


 
 
IMG_4723web.JPGIn case you missed Jayson Werth’s introductory press conference, which aired live on MASN at 1 p.m. today, you can catch the official statements and select questions from the media here. You will see, surprisingly, the press conference progressed several minutes before Cliff Lee’s name was first mentioned. Continue reading to find out how Werth responded to the elephant in the room and hear thoughts on his new contract.

Mike Rizzo statement: It’s my honor to express the happiness and the joy of the Washington Nationals organization with the acquisition of such a fine player, a fine person and a great person in the community as Jayson Werth. He was a player that our front office and ownership identified early in the process as an impact, elite-type of free agent that we would like to acquire that would help us, not only in the short term, but in the long term, not only between the lines, but in the clubhouse and in the community. So without further adieu, it is my great honor to introduce the newest member of the Washington Nationals family, Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth statement: On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to take this time to thank the Washington Nationals organization and the Lerner family. We’re excited to be here. We’re on board for many winning seasons ahead. That’s one thing I think the fans can look forward to, is a winning-caliber type of baseball in Washington, on the field and off the field going forward. Thank you.


IMG_4688web.JPGMedia Questions:

This is a team that hasn’t done well the last three years. What intrigued you about Washington and how do you expect to help this team go into a winning season?

Baseball is a funny thing. It has its ups and downs, as many teams have had in the past. One thing I saw with the Nationals team over the past few seasons of playing against them is just a grittiness that they have, and a will to win. Although they had some rough seasons the past few years, they have some talent. It’s very young and unpolished. That’s one thing I look forward to helping along the way. I’ve always been a big fan of the underdog and I think the situation here in Washington is one that, going forward, we’re going to put something together that the city and the fans will come accustomed to love and come out and see us on a nightly basis.

Matt Stairs is a young 42 years old. Do you envision being able to play baseball, you signed a seven-year contract, into your 40’s and so forth?

Of course, in my career, I’ve played with some guys that played into their 40’s and older guys. I’ve seen what it takes to keep yourself in shape, the things that need to go on on a daily basis to ensure that your body makes it. I think that was one thing that the Lerner family was on board with was taking care of yourself and the things that need to happen in the clubhouse and the things that players are going to need. But my grandfather played 19 years in the Big Leagues. My uncle played a long time. I feel like I’m really young in the game. I feel like I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me. I have no problem seeing myself, maybe not play as long as Jamie Moyer has, but definitely into my 40’s.

Do you feel any added pressure signing such a long contract, such an expensive contract, one of the richest in baseball history?

Anytime you go on the field and you play for a team, there’s going to be pressure. I’m coming to this team and this city to be involved in something much greater than you’ve seen here before, I think. The owners are on board, Mike’s on board, Jim’s on board, we’re all going in the same direction. I don’t foresee any undue pressure. I’m going to go out and play my game and come to the field every day ready to play. I look forward to going to war with the guys that are in the clubhouse and getting the job done.

With the Phillies you were part of a star-studded lineup. How comfortable are you with the idea of having more of a weight on your shoulders now, both on the field and off?

I look forward to it. I’ve been playing this game a long time. I’ve played in World Series, I’ve played in postseasons. The thing about baseball is you play it day in, you play it day out–162-game schedule, a lot of things get overlooked. The one thing I can control is the level of intensity and just the overall willingness to play the game on a day in, day out basis. I look forward to playing with these guys. We’ve got a talented group, like I said. Just a little polish here and a little polish there and I think we’re going to be good.

Have you talked to Ryan Zimmerman yet? If not, what have been your impressions of him, playing against him the last couple of years?

He’s a great player–All-Star, Gold Glover–I think the people who’ve seen Ryan Zimmerman play know the type of player he is and the caliber he brings to the field. I have talked to him. I’ve known him before I came here so I think he’s excited. I know I’m excited to play with a guy like that. There are guys coming with a lot of talent as well, so it’s going to be good. I keep reiterating that but I do feel strongly about the talent that’s on this club.

You hit the cover off the ball last season. Are you excited to come make this your home in terms of the ballpark?

I am. I’ve always said this is a great place to hit. I love hitting here; I think the numbers have shown that. It’s a good division to hit in. I’m glad I’m staying the in the NL East–I know the parks, I know the teams, I know the pitchers. It’s a good situation for me and my family as well.

What is important to you as far as being a leader in the clubhouse?

The things that are important to me in the clubhouse are things that I’ll keep to myself and I’ll share with my teammates. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early.

What do you think the timetable is, realistically, for this team becoming a contender?

The thing about this team is I think there are some pieces of the puzzle that could be put together and make this team a winner. I was ensured by the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo that they’re going to take the steps needed to go get those players and to fill the roster accordingly, not with just anybody, but with the right, talented guy and the right mix, the person that will make the clubhouse a complete place. That was important to me and that was one of the things that led me to sign here–that they’re on board for winning. They’re a winning family. It’s a true success story–Mr. Lerner shared with me his life that he’s had and I foresee them taking the proper steps and getting the guys that are really going to help this club get to the next level.

What was the one thing the Nationals really sold you on, that really drove the deal home, and secondly, do you have any reaction to what’s going on in Philadelphia this week with Cliff Lee coming back?

I missed that in Philly. What happened?

I’m sorry. What was your first question? All right, well obviously, this is my first chance at getting free agency. I worked so hard over the years, went through so much, a bad wrist injury that went misdiagnosed for a couple seasons, and I missed an entire season due to that. So when you get to free agency, you have the chance to do something special for yourself and for your family. There are a lot of things that go into it, but obviously the years were important to me. I have the chance to come to a city, guaranteed to be here for a long time. The no-trade [clause] was a big deal for me. I have chance to set myself and my family up for years to come here and just have more of a solid base. One thing people don’t realize is, from season to season, if you do have a family and kids, it’s really tough to have normalcy. That was one thing I was able to obtain here. The length of contract was very important. A million things go into it, honestly, but the one thing I think that was very important was the length and the willingness of the owners to win. That was something else that really drew me to Washington. And of course the team, I think the team is going forward. They’re going to be really good–to have the talent that they have in the Minor Leagues and the Draft, the steps they’ve taken the last few years to really set up the core of the organization from the bottom up. I think it’s a really good situation for me, I think it’s a good situation for the team and I’m excited to be here.

Did the opportunity to play down the road with Harper and Strasburg play into your decision?

Again, the young talent in this organization is immense. With the length of the contract that I got, I felt good about the chances of this organization winning over the course of my contract. That was very important to me because I’ve been to the postseason a lot the last few years and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we play for, that’s what you work out all winter for, that’s what you get to Spring Training early for. I hate to lose, so I’m here to win and that’s for sure.

Last night at the Wizards game, did you get a chance to speak to any of the other athletes from the D.C. about what it’s like to play in the city?

I haven’t, but the last few years I’ve played here and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. I know it’s a big sports town. You look at the Caps, their fans. They’re doing pretty good on filling the seats. I think if you put the product on the field, and you win the ballgames, the fans are going to support it and show up. I think that was evident in Philadelphia when I went there. I got there in ’07 and you see the type of place it is now, after we won there. So you win the games, you put the product on the field, and the fans want to come see you. I think it’s going to be an exciting time for the city and the organization and definitely for the players, to play the games with the seats filled.

You’ve not only been a late bloomer, you’ve continued to bloom over the last two or three years and a lot of your stats have gotten better. Why is that? Just seeing more pitches?

I’ve been saying for a long time, the more I play, the better I’m going to get. I think that’s been pretty evident. I think seeing pitches is an important part of the game, wearing the opposing team’s pitchers down, getting to the bullpen early. The more pitches you see, the more apt you are to pick the ball up better. As time goes on, I think it makes you a better player. So it’s definitely a part of my game that I’m looking to extend throughout the clubhouse and the team and an approach that we can work on.

You said all summer and into the fall that the Phillies can do anything they want, and Scott [Boras] backed you up, in terms of money. I know you just joked about nothing happening in Philadelphia, but because of what happened in Philadelphia this week, do you feel vindicated at all because of the money that was thrown out, and maybe bitter at all in terms that they did have all that money?

I’ve definitely moved on the past few months here and I’m excited about being a National. Obviously the news in Philadelphia is that they got their boy back, I guess. That’s fine. I think that’s good. I like that. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. They make their plays and we’ll make ours. Over the course of time, you’re going to see and the people of the city are going to see that the Washington Nationals are for real and they’re going to bring the type of baseball that is going to bring championships to the city.

 

Werth shares his thoughts


IMG_4656web.JPGIn the middle of a jam-packed morning that included meetings with Nationals top executives and a photo shoot, Jayson Werth sat down to answer a few questions for us. Here’s what he had to say about the D.C. area and the upcoming season:

Nationals: Welcome to D.C. How is D.C. treating you so far? Last night you went to the Wizards-Lakers game. They showed you on the Big Screen. What was that like?

JW: Fortunately for me, I come from a town similar to this one that’s a good sports town. The fans are very knowledgeable and they’re very supportive of their guys and last night was evidence of that. Washington is known as a good sports town, their fans are very knowledgeable and they gave me a good ovation.

Tell me about your approach to the plate. You see a lot of pitches.

I think that’s one thing that’s very important that gets overlooked in the game. You work a pitcher, you see a lot of pitches, you get a whole lineup to do that, more often than not, you’re going to be into the bullpen early. Especially in the three- and four-game series where you’re playing these teams, you see the guys in the bullpen more, you can get that 6th inning guy, that 7th inning guy. You do that more often than not, you’re going to get yourself in good situations. You’re going to be on base, and once you’re on base, you can score runs. It’s definitely a part of the game that I think is a big part. It’s something I like to talk about and hopefully, we can get everybody on board with that.

Another big part of your game is your defensive ability. You can play any outfield position. Tell me how you developed that.

I came up in the Minor Leagues as a catcher, then I moved to the outfield. When I got to the outfield, I hadn’t really played a whole lot of it. I wanted to get a feel for it, so I played all the positions and it came natural to me, fortunately. I think I started in left field, moved to right field, and played a little center field. Pretty soon, I’m in the Big Leagues and playing all three. Defense in the outfield is another part of the game that the fundamentals of it are not taught at a younger age. Cutting off the balls in the gap, keeping guys with singles, not letting runners score from second, charging the ball–there are a lot of things, fundamentally, that can be done out there that the average fan probably doesn’t see.

Coming up as a catcher, where you have to pay so much more attention to the details, where you are calling the game and you also have a part in how the defense is lined up, does having that insight as a catcher help you at all in the field?

No. It’s kind of two different animals. There is not a whole lot going on in the outfield. When you’re catching, pretty much every pitch you’ve got something to think about. Not that you don’t in the outfield, but you pretty much position yourself at the start of the at bat, and as the bat goes on, you move around a little bit, but there’s definitely a lot less going on in the outfield than there is behind the plate.

How important to your game is having a presence on the base paths?

Actually, I see it getting better. I was fortunate enough to work with Davey Lopes in Philadelphia. Davey, like myself, has moved on, so hopefully, that will be an advantage for us. One thing he taught is smart base running. If you look back the last few years, Philadelphia led all of baseball in stolen base percentage. I think we set a record there one year–maybe ’08 or ’07. The one thing he taught is, you want to run with a purpose. You want to run to be safe. You’re not just out there running to run. If you can get in scoring position, take advantage of the other team and you can score more runs. That’s the name of the game. That’s one thing I would like to adopt here–aggressive style of base running, going first to third, stealing bases but being safe. It’s definitely a big part of the game.

You saw a lot of the Nationals over the last couple of years. What did you see from the other side of the diamond? Who are some players you’re looking forward to playing with?

One thing about the Nationals the last few years is they’re a great team. Inexperienced in a sense, young, but after you have a few years of playing under your belt, if you have the talent, which I believe this team does have, that bodes well. Obviously guys like Ryan Zimmerman–he’s a cornerstone third baseman, he’s the face of the franchise, he’s a quality player, everybody knows that. But you’ve got guys like Ian Desmond. I think he’s got a lot of talent and he’s got a chance to be a really good player in the Big Leagues. With the staff, like John Lannan, and of course, Stephen Strasburg is coming, we’ve got a lot of talent, young talent. The more you play, the more experience you get, the better you’re going to be, especially with a team like this.

Do you look forward to being able to share your baseball knowledge with some of the other, younger guys?

These guys are all professionals. They are good baseball players. We are going to work well together, coming from a place that had a lot of talent and has been in the postseason the last few years, anything that I can share, my experiences, my knowledge of the game. All in all, I think it’s about showing up here every day, playing hard, working hard, playing the game the right way, and winning ballgames. I don’t see this team too far off from that.

What can Nationals fans expect from Jayson Werth?

Hopefully a lot. I’m coming to play every day. I love the game of baseball. I’ve been playing it my whole life. I found a home here in Washington. I’m excited about the opportunity. We’ve got great owners. We’ve got a great opportunity. I plan on being one of the guys that’s out there every day leading the charge. My goal is to win as many World Series as possible and I plan on doing it.

 

Welcome to Washington, Jayson Werth!


_MLP2718web.JPGMinutes ago, Jayson Werth arrived at Nationals Park for day one of the Werth era. The morning could have begun with anxious introductions and a few uneasy formalities, but thankfully the Springfield, Ill., native felt right at home as racing president Abe Lincoln ran to greet him as he stepped from the car. The two are already fairly familiar with each other and looked to be immediate friends. Not only do they both hail from the same town and carry the same tall, slender physique, Werth was also the spokesperson for the 2008 campaign to support the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation of his hometown. Werth also recalls taking field trips to infamous Lincoln sites as a child and even claims he had a stuffed “Abe” above his locker in Philadelphia at one point. What the two don’t share in common in a shaggy beard, at least not anymore– Werth sported a freshly shaven face at Nats Park today. Expect Werth to root for Abe all season long in the President’s Race. There is no word yet on who Abe’s favorite Nats player is yet, though. We’ll keep you posted on that, as well as the other events of Werth’s day, including an exclusive interview, so stay tuned.

Until Next Time…So Long from the Winter Meetings

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8

Good morning, Natstown. The Winter Meetings are all wrapped up, and now we are getting ready to board a plane to head home to Washington.  

This morning, the Winter Meetings concluded with the annual Rule 5 Draft. Mike Rizzo and his staff feel really good about the players we selected: right-handed pitchers Elvin Ramirez and Brian Broderick in the Major League phase, and right-hander Michael Allen in the Triple-A phase of the Draft.

For those fans who arent familiar with the Rule 5 Draft, check out this link.

Its always entertaining to watch the mass exodus that takes place as soon as the final selection is made in the Rule 5 Draft. Almost instantaneously, everybody rushes the draft room doors then the taxi stand at the hotel in an effort to get out of town.

What an exciting five days since we arrived in Orlando on Sunday we head back to The District having added one of baseballs top outfield sluggers and three Rule 5 pitchers, and foundations have been laid that may lead to additional signing or trades that could impact the Nationals organization in 2011 and beyond.

I, personally, cant wait for Spring Training to begin in a mere two months!

One quick update… Got word that both Rick and Ken Eckstein are doing well today, following yesterday’s kidney transplant. Rick is up and moving around and may be able to head home from the hospital as early as tomorrow. What an amazing story.

Thanks to everybody who took the time to read my blog from the MLB Winter Meetings. This is something I hope to do from time to time to give fans an inside view of the Washington Nationals.

Minor League Affiliates In the House!

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8

Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings is in the books. It was another busy day in the Nationals team suite. Everybody had their jobs to do, but Rick Eckstein was never far from our thoughts.  

In case you missed yesterdays blog, Rick donated a kidney today to his older brother Ken. We got word late in the day that both brothers are doing well, but our thoughts and prayers remain with them.


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Tonight, we hosted our minor league affiliates for a reception here at the Dolphin Hotel. Top officials from Syracuse (Triple-A), Harrisburg (Double-A), Potomac (Single-A), Hagerstown (Single-A), Auburn (Rookie) and Viera (Rookie) were all in attendance.  We are very fortunate to have such a great lineup of affiliates. I always enjoy connecting with the people who run those affiliates, as they are an important part of the Nationals family. Our affiliates take wonderful care of our young prospects and always work hard to sustain an environment conducive to development.

Also, I had another opportunity today to visit the baseball tradeshow. It seems like the tradeshow gets bigger each year, with hundreds of vendors offering products and services. We are proud of the Nationals Park experience including everything from the merchandise and food options that we offer to giveaways and this is an opportunity each year to see the new options available to make sure we remain at the forefront in the industry.

I will ink my final blog from the Winter Meetings midday on Thursday, following MLBs Rule 5 Draft. Then, we fly home to Washington. Stay tuned.

A Pair of Baseball Legends

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.

 

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8


I would like to start today’s blog by congratulating longtime Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne, who today was named the 2011 winner of the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. Dave, who now serves as the radio voice of the Florida Marlins, broadcast Expos games on television and radio starting during Montreal’s inaugural season in 1969. As most fans know, the Expos franchise relocated to Washington DC for the 2005 season and became the Nationals, so Dave is a big part of our franchise’s past. I had the opportunity to meet Dave when he emceed our ceremony recognizing Andre Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction earlier this year at Nationals Park. He is a true professional and is very deserving of this award.

 


Lasorda.jpgSpeaking of legendary baseball figures, I ran into my friend Tommy Lasorda in the hotel lobby the other night. It’s always great to see Tommy. There is nobody who loves the game of baseball more than him, and…what a character.

 

Mike Rizzo’s Baseball Ops staff has continued its hard work, burning the midnight oil every night in the team’s suite. I mentioned a few of Mike Rizzo’s top baseball advisors yesterday, but I should also recognize his front office folks who work day in and day out in Washington holding the operation together: Bryan Minniti, Adam Cromie, Mark Scialabba, Erick Dalton, Rob McDonald and Harolyn Cardozo are here with us in Florida, while Ryan Thomas and Mike Mazur assist from DC. These folks do an outstanding job!

 

We had our annual Winter Meetings staff dinner last night at the Dolphin Hotel. It was a great opportunity to get together with all of Mike’s staff that is working so hard at the Winter Meetings, as well as our Florida Operations staff. There are so many moving pieces and it is always a great opportunity to get everybody in one room to enjoy a nice meal.

 

Tonight, we will host our minor league affiliates for a similar gathering… more on that later.

Jayson Werth: First Impressions

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8

As we wind up Day 2 of MLB’s Winter Meetings, I wanted to take some time to talk again about Jayson Werth. His ability and accomplishments on the field have been well-documented, but I want to share what I had the opportunity to experience recently… that Jayson is also an intelligent, thoughtful and quality person.

 Just before Thanksgiving, Mike Rizzo, my father (Ted Lerner) and I met with Jayson and his representatives at Scott Boras’ spectacular offices in Newport Beach, Calif., to learn more about Jayson as a person and player. We were blown away by the questions he asked and his dedication to winning, personal fitness/nutrition and taking a leadership role, which made it easy in our minds to make the commitment that we made. His desire to help grow the Nationals into a winning organization is genuine, and he has great insight regarding the formula necessary to make that happen. Jayson is also passionate about wanting to make a significant impact in the Washington community.

 We are excited to welcome Jayson to the Nationals family and can’t wait to formally introduce him to the Washington fans and media sometime next week. We are working on those plans right now. More to come…     

A few side notes…

·         I have run into a lot of baseball folks in the lobby who have commented with rave reviews about our new uniforms. My personal favorite is the new home white uniform.

·         There is also a definite buzz about what a lot of baseball executives and scouts saw from our prospects in the Arizona Fall League. We knew what a special player we got when we selected Bryce Harper first-overall in last year’s Draft, and he showed in the AFL that he should be an impact major leaguer in the near future. But, a lot of people are also talking about what special players we have in Sammy Solis, Derek Norris, Stephen Lombardozzi, and others.

·         I’m told Jayson Werth jerseys are in production and will be available in the Nationals Park Team Store by Monday, in plenty of time for the holidays.

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