Results tagged ‘ Mark D. Lerner ’
By Mark D. Lerner
Vice Chairman & Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals
Thanks so much for submitting your questions this past week. I always enjoy hearing from fans, and have always said we have the best fans in baseball! I plan on sharing on our social channels throughout the offseason, so I hope this will be the first of many conversations!
Let’s get right to your questions:
Why haven’t you cut Jonathan Papelbon yet? His act was embarrassing to a Nats fan. I will not attend or watch a game until he is no longer on the roster.
I knew this would be the first question, so let me tell you what our thinking is right now. This continues to be a tough one. The incident between Jonathan and Bryce Harper was an unfortunate and unacceptable blow-up between two very passionate players. Luckily, they put it behind them almost immediately. It was probably easier for them to do that because they know each other in a larger context: as teammates who both want to win. I know both players would love to have that unfortunate moment back. We have asked Mike Rizzo to determine what roster best puts us in a position to win a World Series. He will certainly do that based on talent, and what’s best for our clubhouse moving forward.
What are you going to do now that Jordan Zimmermann is gone and you might lose Doug Fister? Is Tanner Roark back in rotation? Or Lucas Giolito ready?
We are always looking to improve our starting rotation. The good news is that we have some strong young arms in our farm system that may prove that they are ready to crack the roster as starters. We also have stockpiled enough young talent all around that we have players other teams may want to trade in return for a pitcher or two. I think we are going to have a very interesting and competitive Spring Training in 2016.
Mr. Lerner –
Per Twitter, I am asking a question that my season ticket partner and I have had for years. Is the Curly-W clock in right/center going to get hands again? The clock was such a nice and what seems to be a relatively cheap feature. Also, what about the Curly W in the center field grass? I have read that the answer was due to it damaging the lawn but I am not sure I buy that. I had even put a Curly W in my backyard and tweeted it for encouragement. We have concert stages that leave marks.
I love the clock, too, but there has been an ongoing maintenance issue and I’m sorry to say it looks like it’s impossible to fix. I’ve been told the parts are just not available. It’s actually a pretty complicated issue, believe it or not, and we’re looking at designs to replace it with something else, no later than the All-Star Game in 2018.
As for the field, I think fans loved seeing the Curly W the same as I did, but players complained about the erratic bounce the ball made off the edges of the design so, of course, the groundskeepers stopped cutting it into the grass. Can’t argue with that.
Thank you for taking my question, Mark…It seems as though a strategic error was made last season with the failure to add the necessary pieces to make the playoffs. Mike Rizzo mentioned at the trade deadline that budget constraints were a factor in the decision not to add talent, other than Papelbon, who played at no cost. I can only assume that Scherzer’s $210MM salary had a lot to do with limiting the available budget, and you have his salary on the books for another 13 years. What is being done to allocate the necessary funds to on-field talent this year to avoid a repeat of last season? Thank you.
We will never go crazy on spending for spending’s sake, but I think we have a proven history of smart spending on talent we believe will help us win now and in the future. That really is our test at this point. We are constantly looking for ways to get better, and we ask Mike Rizzo and his staff to make honest assessments about the value of the talent available.
Will the Lerner family be willing to sign high profile free agent(s) this season?
I think the fans know we will never be shy about spending money and will never rule anything out. These types of investments — and they are truly that — are large-scale decisions that have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. But to close yourself off from any of those investments with a blanket statement wouldn’t be prudent, or in the best interest of the team. We have great trust in our baseball operations department and the guidance they provide, and we won’t close any doors.
The Nats refreshed the team’s uniforms several years ago. I personally feel the set has been a success for the most part, but also could be improved in some ways. How do you feel about them? Do you see any enhancements/additions in the future, or are you content with this set?
It’s funny, now anywhere I travel I run into folks wearing Nationals team merchandise – Curly W caps, jerseys, T-shirts. I think we have developed a pretty popular logo and brand. We are open to alternate designs down the line, but currently we are sticking with what is proving to be popular.
Can we have the interlocking “DC” return as a home/away alternate and is it possible to sell the uniforms and caps with the interlocking “DC” logo in the team store?
We are open to alternate designs, but don’t have any current plans to change the uniforms next season. I’ll share your request for the interlocking DC logo to be made available in our stores with the retail team!
I was born in D.C., raised in Prince George’s County, MD. I still live in P.G. till this day. I, like most D.C. area baseball fans, were forced to follow the Baltimore Orioles until we finally brought a team back here to our metro area. It’s frustrating to see the Baltimore Orioles post up billboards in P.G. County (BW Parkway right at the D.C. border, and 301) as if to claim the area as their own territory simply because it’s in the state of MD. P.G. County is a part of the D.C. area, as is Montgomery County, and has no connection to the Baltimore area other than it happens to be in the same state. My question is- What are you doing to continue establishing your territory on the MD side of the D.C. metro area? It just feels like we get less attention than the VA side of the DC area. There should be a lot more presence here. This is all Nats country. O’s country stops in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
As a fan who grew up in the Maryland suburbs, I know how strong our fanbase is there. Believe me, we are going to keep growing our brand throughout Maryland and the entire DMV. We are working to develop innovative ways to reach and keep those fans. Keep your eyes open and I think you will see some additional presence through our community relations and marketing.
Any big changes/new developments you are working on at Nationals Park?
We’re always working on enhancing the fan experience – from concessions to giveaways to seating options. Last season we created the private clubs within the ballpark, K Street boxes and Club 24, unveiled the Lansinoh Lounge for nursing mothers and hosted Jose Andres’ Pepe food truck – to name just a few. We have some great things being developed during the offseason, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise!
What’s being done about security at Nats Park. I want to feel safe at the ballpark. The security staff seems as though they don’t take their job seriously.
I disagree with your assessment. Our security is second to none. Most of the comments I’ve gotten about security – both from the perspective of friendliness as well as professionalism – have been very positive. If you have specific instances, you should alert the organization immediately using the in-park text messaging system. Our staff is very well-trained and we are vigilant about providing the best and most effective public security possible, as well as the best game-day experience.
Seriously, you should have interviewed me for the skipper job! What women do you have in your team execution group? You need us! I am available if price is right!! #womentowinworldseries
I am proud that the Washington Nationals have one of the best records in professional sports when it comes to hiring. We currently have more women working in executive positions in our front office than not only any other in Major League Baseball, but than any other team in professional sports in America. I do think we will begin to see more women breaking into baseball operations departments throughout baseball, and we will see women assuming high ranking jobs on the field.
Can you share your feelings regarding last season? The thank you letter to fans at the end of the season said “Our desire to do better – to be better – burns stronger than ever.” What do you view as the biggest issue that contributed to the disappointing season?
Our family’s goal is to bring a World Series back to Washington. We strive to be a playoff-caliber team every year. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to be that last season. But we are moving forward to next season and are excited to usher in the Dusty Baker era. We have put into place several other significant changes, too, from hiring a new coaching staff to restructuring our medical team and we’re hopeful that the 2016 season will be a great one.
Why won’t the Nationals pay to have Metro run late for evening games?
We’ve consistently said that as a world-class city – and the Nation’s Capital – D.C. needs to have a world-class public transportation system and that includes an extended hours schedule like every other major American city. Currently our fans contribute millions of dollars and thousands of hours a year to WMATA traveling to and from games during our 81 home games. That usage should be reflected in extended hours.
The construction scheduled for the new spring training facility is very ambitious. How confident are you that you will be able to meet the goal to open in time for 2017? And what is the plan if it can’t happen in time?
This is going to be such a wonderful complex for our team, our fans, and the Palm Beach community. We’re really excited for this new chapter for our organization and are happy to have such wonderful partners in the Astros organization. The new facility will feature Major League-size practice fields, minor league-size practice fields, batting cages and pitching mounds. The stadium itself will significantly improve the fan experience with 6,400 ticketed seats and 1,250 ticketed berm seats, as well as suites, party decks, concession stands, team store, a picnic area and outfield attractions. The Palm Beach location also has lots of flights to and from D.C. and features expanded hotel and restaurant options. It is an aggressive timetable. Our organization, and the Astros and our contractors are very aware of what needs to be done. The local governments and our new neighbors have been great and are engaged in working to meet the deadline to open our doors to fans for 2017’s spring training.
Why do you believe Dusty Baker is the right man for the job?
There was unnecessary confusion and misinformation during the hiring process because of so many false reports. We were thrilled to bring Dusty on board. He is a fantastic addition to the team and we are incredibly excited to see what he will bring to the clubhouse. He brings nearly 50 years of professional baseball experience with him – he is among the winningest managers in baseball history. He has deep postseason experience, both as a manager and as a player – and has produced seven postseason teams, including five division championships. He’ll help create a clubhouse focused on winning and he’s a lot of fun to be around. We think players and fans will really connect with him.
Many people have pointed out that MLB has had very few African-American managers. What are your thoughts on how baseball can become more diverse at all levels?
Diversity at all levels helps make the game better. We support MLB’s efforts to enhance diversity within the management ranks and believe it is important. We’re proud to have Dusty. Dusty is the best person to be our manager right now. Period. Of course, we are also proud that our most recent coaching hires have made us more diverse.
I see that NatsFest has been expanded to two days and now has a winter theme. Why did you make these changes and how will NatsFest be different this year?
We think everyone will really enjoy the new and improved WinterFest experience! Two days – December 12 and 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the DC Convention Center – with new winter-themed games and photos with Santa – and old favorites like the Kids Press Conference, Player Story Times and autograph sessions. Dusty Baker will be attending, as well as players. Tickets are available at nationals.com/NatsWinterfest – $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $35 for adults and $22 for children 12 and under.
We heard from fans that the one-day only model was difficult given how busy families are during the holiday season. Expanding to two days gives our fans more options. We also looked at the calendar and realized that given the timing, it made sense to incorporate a winter theme along with fan favorites from previous years.
Your manager just made dismissive comments about allegations of domestic violence allegedly perpetrated by a former player of his. My question: what are you planning on doing about it, knowing that silence or a vague non-apology is not acceptable?
The Nationals and MLB take domestic violence very seriously. We support the policies the league has put into place regarding this issue. Dusty gave the eulogy less than a year ago at Darryl Hamilton’s funeral, whose death was tragically a result of domestic violence. He has personal experience with domestic violence, and seen the repercussions of it to those very close to him. He was in no way condoning or trivializing the allegations. Dusty was sharing his personal impressions of Chapman based on his experience managing him for the Reds, and commenting on the man he knew then. He has clarified that his hope was that Chapman, the Chapman he knew, had not committed the reported acts of violence.
The Nats had great success and overwhelming crowd participation when Take On Me was played during the 7th-inning stretch. Now, it seems it’s hard to get much involvement and participation has dwindled. Why is Take On Me no longer played and will you ever bring it back to the 7th-inning stretch?
Thanks for this question. We’ve heard from many fans that they would like a larger variety of songs incorporated into the game experience, so we’ve experimented with different things. We’re working on what will be played next season and appreciate your feedback!
Given Wednesday’s announcement by MLB regarding proposed netting guidelines, what sections will be impacted at Nationals Park?
We take the health and safety of our fans very seriously. We’ve been told by MLB that our current netting meets the standards proposed this week.
I am writing to you from my office at Space Coast Stadium on another picturesque day in Viera. Sorry, I know you’re all facing some pretty tough weather back in D.C. We just wrapped up Day 4 of our Pitchers and Catchers workouts and the full squad is just about complete. The position players will all report by this evening, get their physicals tomorrow, and on Thursday we’ll get them all out on the field together for the first time.
— Spring Training is one of my favorite times of year. It’s always so great to see everyone after the long winter. I truly enjoy hearing what our players did in the offseason, how their families have grown – some got married, or had children – or any of the interesting things they did in the time they were away. It’s a little like the first day of school. But way more fun.
I ran into Ryan Zimmerman in the hall outside the clubhouse just this morning. He looks great and is truly enjoying preparing to be our first baseman.
It’s also always fun to see who has worked hard all winter to grow their hair out – Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond are leading this category right now – or who has been experimenting with a new facial hair look. You’ve all seen Danny Espinosa, right? Yosemite Sam, as we call him — just one of the names they’ve come up with in the clubhouse.
— We’ve now seen the pitchers all go through two rounds of bullpen sessions. And all that’s done for me is solidify how excited I am to see these guys compete this season. To stand in the bullpen and watch Max Scherzer throwing next to Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez throwing next to Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen side-by-side with Matt Thornton – I could go on all day. It’s tantalizing to watch, and to think about what is to come.
It’s also been great to see guys like Dan Uggla and Heath Bell in camp. That these players, with such accomplished resumes, are here in our camp as Non-Roster Invites speaks to our depth. Both players have arrived in tremendous shape – Heath Bell told me he’s lost 40 pounds and participated in two triathlons this winter – and I look forward to seeing what they will do during the Grapefruit League season. You never know how much of an impact their veteran presence can have on a club. We’re happy to welcome them to our team.
— I know I’m not the only one enjoying these workouts. It’s been wonderful to see so many of our fans lining the fences and taking the front-row-seat offered to them at Spring Training. The turnout has been fantastic and there really aren’t many better pro sporting experiences. The access for fans during Spring Training
workouts is really unparalleled. There’s no better opportunity to see these guys up-close-and-personal, and no better opportunity to get that autograph you’ve been seeking. Our guys have been signing each day after the workout. Nothing like the smile on a young fan’s face after they’ve received a prized autograph. There’s still plenty of time to plan a quick trip down here!
— Another part of Spring Training I really enjoy is that it’s a great time for me to catch up on all the movies I’ve missed. I enjoyed watching Aaron Barrett and Jerry Blevins battle it out on Twitter over their Oscars predictions earlier this week, and I got a chance to see American Sniper myself last night. Bradley Cooper was tremendous. I highly recommend it.
I also want to give a shoutout to our great staff at our complex here at Space Coast Stadium. They do a tremendous job, and we’re very lucky to have such wonderful people working for us and working to make the experience for everyone here so positive.
— We are thrilled that we’ll be welcoming ESPN’s SportsCenter here on Sunday morning, and really looking forward to them broadcasting LIVE from our camp all day. I know how eager our fans back in D.C. are to see these guys and for us to get back up north, so hopefully this will help make a cold Sunday morning that much warmer! Be sure to tune in!
— I want to personally congratulate our manager, Matt Williams, on having his option picked up for the 2016 season. Matt has done a tremendous job thus far and we are honored to have him guiding our players. The pride he takes in playing the game the right way and in helping our players reach their full potential is outstanding. I am really looking forward to watching him as he continues to lead.
Well, that’s about all for now. Don’t forget that single-game tickets are already on sale. While I’m already looking forward to the Grapefruit League opener on March 5, Opening Day will be here before we know it!
Until next time,
Well, the month we’ve been staring at on the calendar all winter has finally arrived! It’s February, and that means our guys will be filing into our Spring Training complex in Viera soon and pitchers and catchers officially report in just two weeks.
— It has been great to watch Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo and his staff work this offseason to put together our team for 2015. We were confident in all of the talent we had returning, but once again we feel like we’re in a great position entering Spring Training with the additions Mike has made.
— The most significant addition we made this offseason, of course, was signing 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. What an exciting day it was here at the ballpark on January 21st as we introduced Max to D.C. We couldn’t be more ecstatic to have installed him in a rotation that – quite honestly – is just filled with aces. Moreover, we are enamored with Max’s entire package: the player he is and the immense talent he possesses is obvious, but the person he is in the clubhouse and in the community is a large part of what made him a fit for us, too. He is a very special player and person.
I think Jayson Werth said it best. After he listened from the front row of the press conference to why Max decided the Nationals were the team for him, he told the Washington Post: “It was a very proud moment for me. The team that I believed in and decided to play for, and all the reasons of why I wanted to come here, were all about winning. Here we are a few years later, we have attracted the No. 1 free-agent pitcher, one of the nastiest pitchers in all of baseball, and we’ve attracted this guy in probably the biggest year of the franchise, especially in my contract, and it made me smile. As soon as he said that, it hit home. It was so relevant to me. I’ve been through that. But not in the same context. It was a proud moment. I was proud to be a Nat.”
I think we all were.
— On the other side of the excitement we all have for our new additions, like Max, there were a few fond farewells we bid this offseason, too. It will be strange to see our players lineup on Opening Day without Tyler Clippard and Adam LaRoche among them. I am thrilled that both players will continue their careers in great situations – Tyler as a key reliever for the Oakland Athletics, and Adam playing first base and DH-ing for the Chicago White Sox – and I am so thankful for all that both players did for our team, our fanbase, and our community. When we discuss the ideal type of players that we’d like to shape our team Tyler and Adam check all the boxes. They, and their families, were wonderful contributors to our organization and they won’t soon be forgotten.
And we will no doubt miss the contributions of Drake LaRoche as well! A constant, smiling presence in our clubhouse, Drake was a great reminder to us all, every day, what it is about this game that we love. He’s a wonderful young man, and I’m certain we’ll be seeing his name on draft boards in the next few years!
— I hope you all are looking forward to our 10th Anniversary season as much as I am. I am not exaggerating when I tell you we have some absolutely wonderful things in store as we celebrate a full decade of history here in D.C.
I’m sure you’ve all been keeping an eye on our 10 Days of Teddy initiative going on right now, with everyone’s favorite Racing President, Teddy, helping to unveil some of the fantastic 10-Year promotional items we’ll be giving away at the ballpark this year – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg on our plans. Stay tuned throughout the season as we look back, and revel in all that has transpired since baseball returned to our city.
— It was wonderful to see so many of you at NatsFest, which was held on December 13th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. NatsFest is hands down one of my favorite days of the offseason, getting to see and interact with so many of our great fans, as well as getting a chance to see the whole team together in the offseason. The excitement for baseball in this town is evident, and it’s especially nice to see on a cold winter day. This year’s event was no different, and as it seems every year, it topped everything that had come before it. Can’t wait to see what next year’s event will have in store for our fans!
— Starting with the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which was just a spectacular event from start to finish and a wonderful showcase of our ballpark (and the Caps won, 3-2!), 2015 has already been such an exciting year for the organization.
That continued on Wednesday as we were honored to have new Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred visit our Partnership Summit at the ballpark and tour our Youth Baseball Academy. Youth baseball and softball is one of theinitiatives the new commissioner is most passionate about, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of bringing the game to disadvantaged youths in D.C. We’re very proud of the Youth Baseball Academy, and look forward to all it can do for our community going forward.
It is, of course, a big change for baseball to have its first new commissioner in 22 years, but I look forward to what the commissioner will bring to the game as we all work toward keeping America’s pastime thriving.
— Well, it is certainly about that time. Soon my wife, Judy, and I will begin the trek down to Florida for what is one of our favorite times of the year: Spring Training. And it does appear that our favorite time of year may be taking place in a new location in a few short years. We are very happy with all the progress that has been made toward finding a new Spring Training site in Palm Beach County, along with the Houston Astros, and are hopeful we will be able to keep the longstanding tradition of Spring Training baseball on Florida’s east coast alive and well for many years to come. I look forward to showing fans what the facility will look like. Hint… It’s awesome!
I can’t wait to see what 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams has in store for his second camp. If the first was any indication, I know it will be a well-run, no-nonsense Spring and our players will be more than ready when Opening Day rolls around.
Until next time,
- It’s been great to be back talking baseball with Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo and his staff as we look forward to 2015 and focus on building our club for another 162-game — and beyond — challenge. That’s not to say that we’ve pushed 2014 out of our minds. I still haven’t recovered from the abrupt end to our season — but it has only served to fuel Mike, manager Matt Williams, and the rest of our organization to put together another great team so we can make another run at a World Series championship next season.
- The task in front of Mike and his staff is not an easy one. As an organization, and with Mike at the helm, we’ve always taken the approach that we must focus on improving our ballclub for the immediate, and long-term, future. That’s never been more important than now, as we enter a new situation for our team with many of our young, talented players having reached the Major Leagues at the same time, and obviously now potentially reaching free agency at the same time. But the way Mike has built the organization the last several years, depth has been of extreme importance and that allows us to be in a position where building our team — for 2015 and beyond — can mean that anything can happen. That’s one thing I always love about the Winter Meetings in particular: the excitement, anticipation and buzz in the air. Everyone is curious to see what each team will do, and where free agents will land.
- For us, the Winter Meetings are also a chance to get our entire baseball operations department together, and especially all of our professional scouts, for really the only time all year. It’s always so great to catch up, meet some of the new people that we’ve brought into the organization, and have so many wonderful baseball minds in the same room. Our front office staff has been working all year to prepare for this week, and it’s exciting when the ideas really start bouncing around the room.
- I’d be remiss if I talked all about the excitement of this week without mentioning NatsFest this Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We are so thrilled to be bringing NatsFest back into the District and back at the Convention Center.This is always one of my favorite events of the offseason. It’s always so wonderful to see all of our players after a few weeks apart, and of course to get a chance to interact with all of you, our great fans. I know, from all of the planning that has gone into it, that this will no doubt be our best NatsFest yet. From the new games and programs they’ve been prepping to the new space that we’ll be utilizing inside the convention center, I just can’t wait to get there on Saturday morning and to enjoy a full day of Nationals spirit with all of you.
I look forward to seeing you all soon and think NatsFest will be the perfect kickoff to the holiday season.
I hope everyone is dealing well with this cold and wintry week here in the Nation’s Capital. When it gets cold like this, I usually calculate the days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (21 days!). This week is a bit different as we are just hours away from NatsFest.
- Just as a reminder, NatsFest is on Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. New venue. We hope you can join us. I am so excited to welcome Matt Williams and an impressive roster of players to DC. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, et al. Come early, stay warm, talk baseball.
- We are also expecting a special visit from arguably our most beloved Nationals alum, … Livan Hernandez. Livan, who threw the first pitch in the history of the Nationals, completed his 17-year big league career in 2012 with 178 wins, 44 of which came as a member of the Nationals. It will be fantastic to sit down and catch up with Livan.
- Speaking of Livan, it will be fun to have another inaugural-season National in camp with us upon arrival in Viera. In case you missed it, we signed infielder Jamey Carroll earlier this month and he’ll be competing for a spot on Matt Williams’ bench. Jamey also played for the Expos, so he should have some interesting perspective on how far this organization has come as we enter our 10th season in Washington.
- As we reach the late stages of the offseason, I think it is worth remembering that most of Mike Rizzo’s key moves came quite early: Doug Fister, Nate McLouth, Jerry Blevins. Mike and his crew are still hard at work searching for the right fits. Always looking to improve.
- We recently signed four-year Player Development Contracts with both Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. Through the years, we have really valued our relationships with the Chiefs, Senators and their respective fan bases. There is a sense of organizational satisfaction in being able to establish roots in both Syracuse and Harrisburg.
- I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Frank Ceresi, who passed away recently. For those that are not aware, Frank played an integral role in developing the art program that we collectively enjoy at Nationals Park. He was an enormous baseball/Nationals fan and he will be sorely missed.
I hope to see everyone on Saturday at NatsFest.