February 1, 2023

What Teixeira is Worth in the Capital

December 10, 2008 by · 3 Comments 

Mark Teixeira did not sign with the Red Sox when they drafted him out of high school. With Scott Boras already in hand and providing excellent career advice he ignored the $1.5 million dollar offer and went to Georgia Tech where he got seven times as much when he signed his first pro contract three years later. As Lee Jenkins says in his excellent SI piece on Teixeira, his business smarts are almost as good as his impressive baseball skill set. So what does the man with the MBA sense decide to do now?

The most widely discussed free agent in the 2009 class, Teixeira looks to be genuine in at least considering offers from his two hometown teams—the Orioles and Nationals? While clearly not ignoring the large market teams that are in hot pursuit, the door has been left open enough that articles have sprung up stating the pros and cons of this debate. It is unlikely to be settled until well after the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

The majority view is that he will sign with a contender regardless whether the Washington ownership group–the Lerner family–offers the biggest and longest contract. Yet his decision may be more complicated than anyone is admitting. Two concerns are not getting adequate attention. The first is risk. Investors large and small are getting a life lesson in what constitutes risk in today’s market, but in baseball you have only to ask Chuck Knoblauch and Willie Randolph and countless others how quickly the Big Apple can put the bite on you. Ask Bobby Abreu how quickly you can be lost in the shuffle.

Big markets come with big expectations and when you sign an Alex Rodriguez-sized contract, you have A-Rod sized risk. But A-Rod signed his big contract in Texas out of the media limelight and Teixeira may do likewise. He told Lee Jenkins “I am not the kind of guy who goes out at night and parties,” which raises the second concern–quality of life. Teixeira is the father of two small children and does New York or Los Angeles offer the environment in which he wants to raise young children? He has said that he is an east coast kind of guy, but he left Atlanta where his wife is from, so what does that leave really?

The best fit for Teixeira may be Boston if he eschews the home town angle. The Red Sox are “aggressively” in the mix according to SI and there is little worry they will be competitive for years to come. The Boston suburbs offer ample opportunities to raise and educate children away from the big city. Tex might even become the face of the franchise as Varitek and Big Poppy ride into the sunset. So the Red Sox are the competition the Nationals and Orioles are ultimately up against.

The Lerners can only offer the man one thing: certain knowledge that the moment the ink dries on the contract, he becomes Cal Ripken holding up a glass of milk with his milk mustache smiling out at every kid in elementary schools in a four state radius. Those All-American commercials paid Cal Ripken well and there is money to be made in the Mid-Atlantic and comfort to be had in settling down in the DC suburbs where he grew up. Those same schools he attended are as good as any in the country.

Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports has asserted the absolute seriousness with which the Nationals ownership group is approaching their negotiations with Boras. The hill they must climb is convincing Teixeira that they can contend in the near term. I do not know what the Lerners can say that would make a smart man believe they can turn around a 59-102 record. But I do believe that Ted Lerner knows more about Washington baseball history than almost anyone living and there is no one better to convince Teixeira Washington can become a winning baseball town.

A single signing cannot make Washington into a competitor, cannot bring all of that history back. But signing Teixeira is really about the shock value. It may well take something like this to push the Nationals over the top, to make the fans and the non-fans as well take note of the possibilities.

DC has a very real competitive advantage on many of the major media markets in today’s economy. Government is the only hope that the American economy has for the next year or two–maybe longer–and the seat of that government is here. That bit of reality makes the DC economy more recession-proof than any. The Lerner’s real estate is in one of the best markets in the country and their malls will outsell most others in this holiday season. They can withstand this downturn better than almost anyone else. But having a vein of gold beneath you does nothing if you just sit on it.

For years DC baseball fans have been all about “wishing and hoping, thinking and praying.” Baseball finally came back to the Nation’s Capital, but it has started to look like it did before it left. The Lerners can change that. Sitting down with Scott Boras to discuss Mark Teixeira is the first indication that they understand what it will take to create the kind of “Eureka” moment that signals the history of futility and loss here is at an end.

Signing Mark Teixeira to play in Washington would be that moment. It would be a joint realization by not just the Lerners, but by “Tex” and the fans as well that there is gold in them thar hills. Ted Lerner knows the rich tradition of baseball in DC from his childhood working at old Griffith stadium during the last Depression. That decade saw the last pennant winners in DC. Few have his memory of the game here, so his most difficult sell is not just Teixeira but all those Redskin fans who cannot believe there is anything other than football in December worth thinking about. Mark Teixeira is his best chance at them since he purchased the team.

Is Mark Teixeira worth twenty million to the Nationals? They print money in this town and they have been printing a lot of it lately. When you consider the worthless assets that the federal government has been buying, Teixeira could be the best value to hit this town in years. He is worth much, much more than $200 million over 10 years in Washington and it looks as if the Lerners were among the first to figure it out. Can the Red Sox compete? Can the Lerners make Teixeira the first person to truly believe Washington is a first-rate baseball town? We may not know the answers anytime soon, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Comments

3 Responses to “What Teixeira is Worth in the Capital”
  1. Matt Sisson says:

    Nice article Ted. I don’t see how the Nationals and Orioles can be considered “competition” to a team that has a chance to win the World Series every year for at least the immediate future. Boston has a ton of excellent young pitching and a core of young position players that the team is signing to long term deals. Tex would be just as big a star in Boston as he would on either of these teams. He would be Boston’s next Manny, but the fans wouldn’t have to deal with all the crap they did with the old one.

  2. B-dogg says:

    Another sharp article. I know several people who have held season tickets since the Nats came back in 2005 but are opting out of 2009 season seats. 2008 was too brutal and it just doesn’t like the Nats have any short terms plans for winning. They have “The Plan” to rebuild the organization from the ground up, but in the meantime it would be charitable to call the MLB a 4A team. The Nats need to do something to put butts in seats and Texeira might be it. No more signing retreads, Reds, and DWI cases.

  3. Ted Leavengood says:

    Money changes everything. When all is said and done, I think the story will be one of following the money.

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