Come On, Nats

You’re champions. Act like it.

Jim Rome
June 02, 2020 - 11:00 am
Ted Lerner

USA Today


In an alternate universe, Major League Baseball has a plan together and is preparing for the start of a shortened regular season. In this universe, MLB continues to extend its horrible 2019-2020 offseason well into the middle of the 2020 calendar year.

It almost seems like they are going out of their way to figure out ways to jack up things and make themselves look bad. And there is no better example than the Washington Nationals.

I know it was a few months ago, but the Washington Nationals won the World Series. It was an amazing achievement for a group of guys who turned their season around and simply refused to be beaten in the postseason. So brass, so clutch. So badass. So impressive.

For years, the Nationals had been clowned as the team that would find a way to lose, the team that could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and would choke up when it mattered most. But last year’s team changed all of that. That crew was one of the most clutch teams ever. Time and time again, they came through when so many others have imploded. 

And in so doing, completely changed the image of the team.

And then… the Washington Nationals owners went Washington National again. The Athletic reported over the weekend that the team was going to cut the stipends of minor league players for the month of June.

For context, the minor league players were initially going to receive $400 per week in June, but the owners wanted to save money, so they reduced that to $300 per week over seven teams.

For more context, the Lerner family which owns the Nationals is worth a reported 4 billion dollars. Four billion. With a B. And they were looking to save a hundred bucks a week on each player in the minor league system.

What a totally weak move. World Series champs making bush league moves.

How embarrassing is that? That’s more embarrassing that when Jonathan Papelbon went moron and attacked Bryce Harper in the dugout.

I bring that up, because I thought that would be the worst look in Nationals history, but I was wrong. Because this decision to cut corners is even worse. Yes, worse, than your closer attacking your franchise player in the dugout during a game. That embarrassing. 

So embarrassing that the Nationals players decided to do something. On Sunday, reliever Sean Doolittle announced that the players were going to cover the cost of the paycuts for minor leaguers. quote

"After hearing that Nationals minor league players are facing additional pay cuts, the current members of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball club will be coming together and committing funds to make whole the lost wages from their weekly stipends. All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.

"Minor leaguers are an essential part of our organization and they are bearing the heaviest burden of this situation as their season is likely to be cancelled. We recognize that and want to stand with them and show our support."

When the owners manned down, the players stepped up. That is classy as hell by the Nationals players. And as Doolittle tweeted later: Players had a zoom call right after the news broke. Every player wanted to do something to help. It was unanimous. Proud to be a part of this group.

The Nationals owners could not have looked worse and the players could have looked  better.

And then the owners caved and announced a change of plans. An internal memo announced that “Upon further internal discussion” the team’s owners would be re-upping the stipend to $400.

Let me put “upon further internal discussion” into the Translation Machine. In this context, “Upon further internal discussion” translates as “crap, we got caught and publicly shamed, we better change. But we would’ve gone ahead with it if nobody noticed.”

Because that’s the thing – you don’t make a decision like cutting the stipend of minor league players by 25% without having an internal discussion. There’s no way that happened without someone talking about it and other people nodding their heads. And if that is the kind of decision that gets made without internal discussion, that’s totally idiotic.

Because it makes the team look terrible. Actually, not the team, the owners. If you are worth a reported 4 bill and a hundred bucks per week for your minor league players is a make-or-break thing for you, maybe you aren’t cut out to own a major league team.

If that hundred bucks a week is the difference between staying afloat and going under, you should sell. Worse yet, if you don’t actually NEED that money and you were just going to cut it because you WANTED that money, you should still sell.

Because it is totally clueless to think that something like that won’t hurt your brand and your image. It’s not just bad for the team, it’s bad for all of baseball. How is it that the players on the team knew that and the owners didn’t?

You’re champions. Act like it.