From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Kicking off the offseason
Hello everyone. Happy autumn.
November 11 is always a special day on the calendar. Veterans Day provides a solemn opportunity to reflect upon, and honor this nation’s true heroes and their lasting legacy of sacrifice. The Nationals organization is proud of our strong relationship with Veterans, and of our lasting commitment to the military as a whole.
Well, another fantastic World Series ended almost two weeks ago and we are now officially in the midst of the offseason. But the good news is that as the chillier temps roll in, we are also two weeks closer to Spring Training and Opening Day, 2014!
I’d like to congratulate the Red Sox on their remarkable season and third championship in 10 years. To ascend from last place in the AL East to World Champs in 13 short months is no small feat.
Boston’s “worst-to-first” narrative should serve as offseason fuel for every owner, general manager, executive, player and fan. We are reminded that baseball is never stagnant, and anything is possible.
Of course, while the game’s collective eyes were on three-plus riveting rounds of October baseball, Mike Rizzo was hard at work putting the finishing touches on our list of managerial candidates.
What was noteworthy, as Mike told us later, was that he had much more trouble whittling the list down to a manageable number than compiling the original list, which contained 50-plus names.
And while I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on any individual candidacies, I do feel comfortable saying that our game is flush with distinctive managerial talent.
I enjoyed meeting, talking with and asking questions of these gentlemen. I learned something from each, and was inspired by their progressive views, enthusiasm for the game and, specifically, this job in the Nation’s Capital.
As you know, we officially named Matt Williams the Nationals’ fifth field manager on October 31. We are ecstatic to have Matt on board. Perhaps it is cliché, but Matt is the right man, at the right time, to lead this team to greater heights.
Matt’s distinguished playing career speaks for itself. A five-time All-Star who claimed four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Matt played in three World Series and owns a ring from arguably the best Fall Classic (2001) of the last 20 years.
In talking to Randy Knorr, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark at the Williams press conference, all four were excited for both Matt and the organization.
Ian and Tanner knew a lot about his career, but what was interesting was that they gained this knowledge as young baseball fans. All four mentioned Matt’s work as a coach on Kirk Gibson’s dynamic coaching staff in Arizona.
Matt did not wait long to integrate his family locally. In all, he spent more than four days in DC with his wife, Erika, and daughter, Madison. They even joined some friends for Halloween trick-or-treating on Capitol Hill. It was fantastic to see the Williams family so eager to explore everything that DC has to offer.
I think everyone agrees that Matt made a terrific first impression at the press conference. He worked in a few brief meetings with Mike, but Matt and his beautiful family also investigated places to live and schools for his young daughter.
- Congratulations to Ian, who won his second consecutive Silver Slugger representing NL shortstops on Wednesday evening. I know Ian values this award because it is voted on by National League managers and coaches. As Nationals fans who watch him every day, we are all aware that Ian plays the game “the right way.” So, it nice to see that his leadership and passion for the game are admired throughout our league. Incidentally, Ian was the only infielder in baseball this season to achieve 20-homer, 20-stolen base status. Each of baseball’s other eight 20-20 players were outfielders. Ian should be very proud. Is there any doubt that he has been the best shortstop in baseball the last two seasons?
- I was, however, disappointed to learn recently that Denard Span was denied what would have been his first Gold Glove. I just don’t see how a center fielder, who played in 153 defensive games and committed exactly ZERO errors does not break through. Denard made all the plays he had to, and more. Anyone else remember our 6-5 home win on August 14 against the Giants? With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Denard made spectacular game-ending, snow-cone catch to deny Hunter Pence of a go-ahead double. Remember, this is a defensive award and offensive production should not have influence. There really is no other way to say it other than … Denard was truly robbed!
- Mike is currently at the General Manager’s meetings in Orlando. I suppose we can now officially declare that the Hot Stove Season is upon us. What else is remarkable is that the Winter Meetings (also in Orlando, Dec. 9-12) are now less than a month away. Rumors, trades, signings, Rule 5 Draft … let the baseball talk begin!
My optimism remains on ‘high’ for 2014! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Until we blog again from the Winter Meetings next month…