This owner appears to be Ted Leonsis, a name that elicits more feelings – in all directions – than any of the other suitors identified as potential Lerner family buyers. So ask me here. How might the UNICEF-owned Nationals franchise fit into both the competitive landscape of Major League Baseball and the sports and entertainment scene in the nation’s capital?
This is all my guess, of course, and Liones’ status as a potential bidder does not mean he will be the next owner. But until this week – when the Washington Post published it Leonsis has taken the steps required by the MLB to gain access to the financial information of all citizens Names that surfaced as potential bidders did not generate much interest or come up with anything with a track record. Michael B Kim is a South Korean billionaire who never owned or operated a sports franchise. Stanley Middleman is a mortgage mogul in the Philadelphia area and he didn’t do it either.
Leonsis has done it with multiple teams right before our very eyes in Washington, and his mixed results have led to decidedly mixed reactions from fans — online, at least — about his potential leadership of the NATS. His bid appears to be gaining financial weight because David Rubinstein, the former president of The Carlyle Group and longtime philanthropist in Washington, has joined in as a partner. But Leonsis has a mathematical CV – and it’s worth looking into the past if we’re trying to predict the future.
In 2004, Leonsis landed in Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin with first pick in the NHL draft and built the Capitals team around him he became a regular juggernaut of the season and finally broke through to the Stanley Cup in 2018. In 2010, John Wall was relegated with the first pick in the NBA draft He never advanced past the second round of playoffs. Mystics traded him for WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne to help turn the league’s worst team into contenders, culminating in the 2019 Championship.
Wild ride, everything. There is no clear pattern of results. However, what is there is a long track record of patience with front office management which can be telling.
When Leonsis took over the Capitals in 1999, George McPhee was the general manager. He remained in this spot until the end of the 2013-14 season although the Capitals never advanced past the second round of playoffs. When Leonsis took over the sole ownership of the Wizards in 2010, Ernie Grunfeld was the general manager for nearly seven years. He remained in this spot until the end of the 2018-19 season although the Wizards never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
And in each case, when Leonis finally took a step, he turned to the guy who had been riding the gun alongside his ousted CEO for years: Brian McClellan, an employee of the Capitals for 13 seasons including the previous seven as McVeigh’s assistant general manager, and Tommy Shephard, Grunfield’s assistant In all kinds of roles since 2003.
So, if you were a Citizen, General Manager Mike Rizzo and his top lieutenants, wouldn’t you be a supporter of Unisex? It looks like it would at least take a thoughtful approach to assessing the direction of the franchise. Blowing up things in order to blow them up is not the Leonsis way.
On the Nats’ direction: If there is a prominent criticism of the Learners’ tenure as owners — which soon includes three 100-loss seasons, five post-season appearances and a 2019 World Championship title — it’s that they haven’t been able to. To keep their best players. We’re done with the details to the point of nauseaAnd every case is different. But on Friday night, the team behind Cavalli – the club’s best player – won’t have Bryce Harper or Juan Soto on the field, Tria Turner at Shortstop or Anthony Rendon at third base. Two left in free agency. Two traded before they became free agents because the perception was that they were going to leave when they did. The end result is that they are not here, and it hurts.
Whatever you rate him, Leonis has kept his stars — and there’s an element for better or worse in that, too. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who were Batman and Robin turn this city’s hockey game, fell on multiple stretches here. Leonsis Wall granted a four-year extension of $170 million in 2017 – the maximum allowed – and this summer Bradley Bell released a Supermax deal Worth a staggering $251 million over five years.
It all has repercussions. Backstrom is slowing badly with a thigh disease and may never look like the player he once was, hampering Caps’ financial ability to build another contender. Wall eventually left the trade, and there are questions as to whether Bell is the kind of alpha megastar around whom a team can be built, even if he’s paid as he is.
But all of these examples show that Leonsis seems to appreciate – and maybe even exaggeration The assets he owns. How will that transfer to baseball?
There is, of course, another factor in the potential pairing between the Lyons and Nationals: Is having so many teams in one town a good thing for the fans?
In fact there is not much precedent. Stan Kroenke and his wife Anne Walton Kroenke own the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NBA’s Colorado Avalanche, the NBA’s Colorado Rapids, and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams — giving them the Stanley Cup titles and Super Bowl champions. But no one else has more than two professional teams in one market. Only two own a baseball team and other major franchises: Chris Illich of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings and Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox and Bulls.
So there is no meaningful sample size here. However, it has been clear for years that having capitals, wizards, and mystics is not what Leonsis sees as his end game. The Monumental Sports and Entertainment umbrella also includes the Capital City Go-Go mini tournament, an esports company, and the Capital One Arena and Eagle Bank Arena in Northern Virginia. He’s talked about creating a “super city” that stretches from Baltimore to Richmond.
In a perfect world, it’s easy to imagine how this would work for both Leonsis and fans. With his recent acquisition of NBC Sports Washington, he will have current winter programming with Capitals and Wizards, then fill the summer with Nationals games.
We know, of course, that this is not a perfect world. At this point, citizens aren’t even coming in with their own media rights, because those are still tied up in the MASN-Baltimore Orioles disaster. There is a school of thought that it would make sense for Leonsis to buy the Orioles – if and when the Angelos put them up for sale – because by taking control of the Orioles-owned MASN, he would own the broadcast rights to two baseballs and that would be an easier way to build a sports and entertainment empire.
But that’s not where we are – at least not yet. What we have at the moment is a Nationals franchise looking for a new owner, a local character familiar to fans as an interested student, and important questions about the direction of everything. Kid Cavalli may play well on Friday, and he could be poor. Don’t read too much either way. The most important question is what Ted Leonsis – or anyone else – would do if he took control of the entire organization.