Sports

Mark Lerner: Spring Training Wasn’t Handled ‘As Good As It Could Be’ in 2013

by Chris Lingebach
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Manager Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals talks with the media in Sarasota, Florida. (Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

Manager Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals talks with the media in Sarasota, Florida. (Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - Nationals owner Mark Lerner got some face time with fans at NatsFest over the weekend, stopping off for a quick Q&A with 106.7 The Fan’s Holden Kushner along the way.

Lerner, first and foremost, was immediately put on the hot seat with a sharp reminder of the first ominous sign last year wasn’t going to go according to plan?

“Heading into this season, give me a little expectations,” Kushner said. “Is it ‘World Series or Bust’ again?”

“I’m not touching that one,” Lerner smartly replied, refusing to paint his team into the same corner as former manager Davey Johnson.

“We go into every season wanting to win,” he said. “And we take ‘em one game at a time, but I’d be disappointed if we didn’t make the playoffs this year, personally, but I think we have the team to do it.”

It’s worth noting the Nationals still have great odds in Vegas to win the World Series in 2014, despite what the team’s owner thinks.

What did you learn as an owner, by following a team record 98-win season in 2012 with 86 wins and missing the playoffs in 2013?

“I think the way we handled spring training was not as good as it could be. I think it wasn’t as disciplined as it could be. I think we’ll go into this year, Matt is very meticulous and like the Marines he has every day planned out, and I think you need that. You’ve got to play every game from April 1 like it’s a playoff game, and you just can’t go in there thinking you’ll get moving in May, June, and it doesn’t happen that way, so I think it was a lot of lessons learned by everybody in the organization that you have to come in 1000 percent prepared.”

Are fans going to see anything new at Nats Park this year?

“You’re gonna see some new suites. One of them is called the ‘Golden Glove’ suite, and one of them is called the ‘Silver Slugger’ suite for larger groups. Really cool, one has a pool table in it, really neat things. We’ve covered over all the concrete in the whole stadium, the concourses. We knew it would take about five years, six years before it would get really dirty and you couldn’t get it clean anymore, and we put a textured coating on it that is absolutely fantastic, looks like you’re walking on carpeting.”

“Same color?” Kushner asked.

“No, it’ll actually be red,” Lerner said. “So it’s hot looking, and we’re always fiddling with the place. But a lot of new food offerings, the lines at the concession stands will be a lot quicker — we’re going to computerized menu boards. A lot of money’s being spent and we’re excited about it.”

Did you have a nice relaxing offseason?

“It’s never relaxing because you always want to get better, and you worry that the players that you want may not be there,” Lerner said. “But we were awfully lucky this year, I mean, I think our trade of [Doug] Fister luckily was under the radar, and I think that’s gonna be a huge part for us.”

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