Can the Nationals become the Yankees of the National League, in terms of payroll? OK, well, bad example. The Yankees are on a whole different level. Maybe the Red Sox of the NL? It's entirely possible, from a certain point of view. You see, Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner is the richest owner in baseball, according to Forbes' list of world's billionaires (big ups to Big League Stew for the leg work in sorting through the list).
Lerner is worth $3 billion. If he should so decide -- as George Steinbrenner once did with the Yankees -- that winning is more important than making as much profit as possible, he could easily spend the Nationals into contention.
Remember, the Nationals were hot after both Cliff Lee (free agency) and Zack Greinke (via trade) in the offseason. They didn't scoff at paying Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper big money out of the draft. They gave 31-year-old Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million contract. With a beautiful new ballpark and a fanbase desperate for a winner -- just see the crowd for Strasburg's debut -- it doesn't seem too much a stretch to see the Nats becoming a power in the National League down the road.
This specific scenario is, again, contingent on Lerner worrying about wins more than the bottom line. The next step would be to convince free agents to join the Nationals, but with a strong young base and a seemingly endless supply of green, it could happen.
There are five more owners who made the list of billionaires: the Tigers' Mike Ilitch ($1.7 billion), Drayton McLane of the Astros ($1.5 billion), Oakland's John Fisher ($1.1 billion), the Angels' Arte Moreno and Red Sox's John Henry (each at exactly $1 billion).
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