Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Conversation With Stan Kasten (Part Two)


As Sohna and I pick up Our Conversation With Stan Kasten, we are continuing our questioning of The Major League Team and how things will shape out at the conclusion of the 2008 Season. Of course no discussion about Our Washington Nationals would be complete without talking about the very fact that Our Number 1 Draft Pick for 2008 was not signed to a contract.

This very topic is where Part Two Begins:

How about the Aaron Crow stuff? Can you put some final words on the negotiations? (SBF)

“I am still disappointed. I can’t tell you that I am not disappointed, not because substantively it’s a big loss, because we are getting that same pick in 10 Months. It’s a delay and I don’t have time for delays. I need this (team) to be good as fast as possible. Delays are always setbacks. Having said that, last year we were among baseball’s leaders in signing draft picks. We were again going to be this year. I don’t want to go through the blow-by-blow again. There is no point to that. But, we really stepped up to make Aaron Crow, at the 9th pick, the highest paid pitcher in the draft. It probably wasn’t warranted, but we did it anyway. We offered it anyway. For whatever reasons, I will let him and his agents explain what their thinking was. I couldn’t tell you, because we were never allowed to talk to Aaron Crow. So, I really couldn’t tell you what the thinking was from the other side.”

“Again, Big Picture Wise, it’s not a necessarily a loss to us. We still have that same pick. It’s not a money savings. We need to disabuse people of that notion. This was not done for money. We still have that pick and we STILL HAVE TO PAY THAT PICK—10 months from now. So, there is not money savings here. We had the fallback. We had The Plan B. This is what the (Draft) system was designed to do as negotiated with the players. Expressly for this purpose, so some errant agent could not come in and try to hold some one up (for ransom) at the top of the draft. And that is why the Players Union negotiated with Management to say, OK—if you don’t sign your top pick—you get that same pick next year—to forestall this exact same thing from happening. And why that usually works is because the player has no fall back.”

“I know what our fallback was. We have the same pick in 10 months. I don’t know what the players fallback was and that’s kind of sad.”

I find it sort of amazing there are critics out there claiming The Nationals should have thrown whatever money Crow wanted on the table to sign him? (SBF)

“Well, that is why this sort of got out of hand this year, because that was done last year with one case at the top (of the draft). This year, all the agents said: ‘Let’s copy how that was done.’ You know what, it kind of worked for a lot of picks who got $6 Million Contracts, even though the first time a bonus like that was ever given, was last year at midnight. So, a lot of agents played that game and it actually worked in some cases.”

“OK, what does that mean for next year? This is rapidly going to become an impossible situation if you just say ‘Yes’ to everything. You CANNOT OPERATE THAT WAY. You cannot operate that way. And we certainly won’t.”

Just to clarify this last minute negotiating. If you sign a guy at midnight, is that a verbal commitment? Or how does that work? (SBF)

“Both sides file an email. We send an email in and there are no problems there. There is even a few minutes after the deadline when the paperwork is being filed.”

As long as the basic negotiation has been completed before the deadline. (The African Queen)

“Yes, exactly.”

Where does all this leave the Fans who are dying for a winner? (SBF)

“Once again, if you are a Big Picture Person, which I must be, you recognize we (Lerner/Kasten Ownership) has only been here two years, since July of ’06. There has been an awful lot of progress made in two short years. That really is not a lot of time. That is a short amount of time to make the progress we have made. I think we can already see, and I will let you do this work, you can already see the lineup you could project for ’09. Just from the people we have here now—OK—that is starting to look like, not only the youngest team in the league, but a pretty darn respectable team and pretty darn respectable defensively. I have some optimism about them offensively, as well, and younger pitchers being here now. You can do that work yourself—(SBF)—because I am not going to talk about who is going to be in the lineup come 2009, but I can already see the people who are here.”

“It’s coming, it’s here. As I said, I have been in this exact spot before and had the naysayers criticize me before. But, I don’t know a shorter or quicker way to do it to be good and BE GOOD FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME.”

I have already stated the 2009 Nationals defensively, are a pretty solid team. (SBF)

“I think it’s an above average defensive team, which is a great start because all of a sudden your pitchers are better. (They are getting to the balls in the gaps and the holes—SBF). Yeah, and all of a sudden your pitchers are better and that happens to mirror my own experience in my history in the game.”

It’s too bad Alberto Gonzalez got injured right away; he showed some fine defensive skills at shortstop. (SBF)

“Anderson Hernandez is the same thing. We are putting those all-important pieces, I think, together. You take a look at Our Starting Nine for 2009, that’s your homework. But, they have to show up and be healthy. I don’t know what else to do if nine other guys have to play, if our nine backup guys have to play (again). That won’t be a very good team. But if our nine starters play, we will be alright.”

Do you feel the energy on this current team is OK, compared to earlier in the year when it appeared some were going through the motions? Lazy might be another way of putting it? (SBF)

“I never know if that is fair or not. I know the energy around a team that is winning is better than around a team that is losing. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. We all can, I think, hang on a little to how things felt that first week of August. All of a sudden the clouds cleared and we saw light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it was followed by these past 11 games. But, I don’t have any concerns about energy. I think that when we work out the things we need to work out. When we get the players we need to have back here—the wins will come and energy will be there right along with it.”

How is moral around the clubhouse? (The African Queen)

“Moral is better when you are winning, Sohna. We don’t have any particular moral issues. We don’t have any particular clubhouse relationship problems. We don’t have those types of things. Still, in all, I will tell you there are a lot of examples of teams with bad relationships in the locker room that could still go out and win. So, that sometimes is overplayed. When the game ended (last Sunday August 17th), Manny pulled them in and his message to them was ‘Guys, you are playing hard, you need to continue to play hard, and you need to be optimistic and upbeat.’ He wasn’t screaming. He was trying to encourage them. Manny continues to encourage. Let’s remember for now—this is the youngest team in the league and, I think at this stage, they still need more of that (encouragement) than the other stuff (yelling and screaming), while still demanding the work and the effort that we must have.”

We ran into Manny at the Blood Drive last Saturday, his patience is unbelievable. (SBF)

“It is true. It is true. (Shaking his head back and forth in amazement) He is a believer in the gospel of optimism—as I would call it. And that is not an act (from Manny). There is nothing phony about it. That is how Manny is.”

Zimmerman was also there and he told us he is still having fun playing baseball. (SBF)

“Yeah, for those of us who are still fans, it would be hard to understand someone not having fun playing baseball. Come one. If nothing else, you should still be having fun playing baseball no matter what the circumstances are up here in The Major Leagues.”

Just on one player, do you feel Zimmerman has been set back at all in his maturing as a player due to injury and the team surrounding him? (SBF)

“I don’t worry about him Big Picture. He’s had a tough season. I think he has had a tough season. The first time he has ever had this type of injury. Again, once we turn the corner, we will be able to look back on this and, I would like to say laugh, but you never want to laugh about it (everyone chuckling). But, we will understand that it was a part of the building process and all the teams that are good now—I think—you can look back now and see where they were. They all went through this. Pick a team. They all went through this—all the teams recently good. And by the time they all got good, no one was thinking about those tough times anymore. I know that, so that is what we have to keep focusing on.”

Hopefully these rough times will make the good times that much better—more enjoyable. (SBF)

“It’s true. There is no question about it. Listen; there is nothing that has happened this season that has set the long term back—at all. It’s been a good year in the Minor Leagues, not just record wise, because I don’t go by records in the Minors. That is not the most important thing. It is nice that our records now are good in the Minor Leagues, but what is most important is the development of individuals. That is what the Minor Leagues are for.”

“Do yourself a favor, as you are mentally filling out your 2009 Lineup Here (Major League Club). Fill out your ’09 Lineup in Columbus. Do it yourself and tell me if you don’t have a full team of guys who are available to step right in or are about to be the next wave. Do it yourself and I think you shall see what I am talking about.”

There is some talent, although I would be curious to know whether you feel you have enough talent at all the positions? (SBF)

“No. We knew our first focus would be on pitching. Brother, we are really deep on pitching over the next three to five years. We have some corner people that are coming. But, we were short in middle infield. I think we have shored that up now with the two trades we made mid-season up here (Emilio Bonifacio & Alberto Gonzalez) and now for Anderson Hernandez. Now, we have backups and people to fill those positions. And we have guys coming, whether it’s Ian Desmond, followed right behind by Gonzalez. You have probably followed the kind of year he is having now. It takes time. I wish it didn’t take time, that would make my life a lot easier. But, this just takes time.”

Do you also feel that if the team does get into contention, you can now use your youngsters for trade bait? (SBF)

“No question about it. We have to think of that. You have to think of that. I am intrigued by what Arizona has tried to do in the last year. Did you know in the last 12 months they have given up 20 prospects—TWENTY! A, it speaks to the depth of their organization to begin; B, I presume it means they are working hard to replenish because you can’t be doing that very long and get away with it. That is an interesting way they have gone about it (to win). Now, they still only have a .500 team, roughly—right? (Yes, that is true—SBF) But, they are in a division where that will work.”

“But, no question, that (trading prospects down the road) has got to be one of our potential avenues to succeeding.”

I would imagine you feel Mike Rizzo (Assistant General Manager--VP Baseball Operations) has picked Arizona for some pretty good prospects? (SBF)

“Yes, but he is not the only one obviously. They have traded 20 guys. Oakland did a pretty good job taking guys from them. Cincinnati got guys from them. They keep doing that. It works for what they need.”

For a .500 club. (SBF)

“And yet—a first place club.”

And with that answer by Mr. Kasten, Sohna and I finished off our questions about Our Team--on the field. The Final 20 Minutes of Our Conversation took a different track, centering around the Fan Experience, the off the field concerns and questions. Those Final Words From Stan Kasten will post up tomorrow as Our Conversation With Stan Kasten concludes.

31 comments:

Chris Needham said...

I'd be interested to see the names he's seen develop this year in the minors that he's envisioning as major league regulars. Some nice parts, but other than Zimmermann, there's not much that should make anyone go 'wow!'

Anonymous said...

This is such bullshit. Kasten is nothing more than a snake oil salesman who has pretty much turned the Nationals franchise into the ground and you are nothing more than a buyer SBF.

Tom said...

This is baseball. There are so many things that a team cannot control.
The one thing Stan Kasten can do is present a positive view for the future. What else would you expect from him? AS a fan you can see the glass half full or half empty it is up to you. Obviously, Stan has to be the half full guy.

Anonymous said...

"Again, Big Picture Wise, it’s not a necessarily a loss to us. We still have that same pick. It’s not a money savings. We need to disabuse people of that notion. This was not done for money. We still have that pick and we STILL HAVE TO PAY THAT PICK—10 months from now" --- Lie. There is a money savings, one more year of profits based on a lower payroll. Next year let's hope that if they don't plan to pay top dollar that they are smart enough to draft a lesser player who won't demand top dollar.

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"You can already see the lineup you could project for ’09. Just from the people we have here now—OK—that is starting to look like, not only the youngest team in the league, but a pretty darn respectable team and pretty darn respectable defensively. because I am not going to talk about who is going to be in the lineup come 2009, but I can already see the people who are here." --- What a joke this guy is. So the line-up for 2009 is really shaping up, but he isn't going to name names for us. Looks like more of the same from my couch, I would like to think that the team president would be nice enough to expand on his vague optimism.

-------------------

"I think it’s an above average defensive team." Another flat out lie. Kasten ain't dumb, he sees the same games we are watching. The Nats are one of the three worst fielding teams in MLB. Oh, they got some new middle-infielders? Adding those guys to the worst hitting team in the league will really improve our situation.

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"When we get the players we need to have back here—the wins will come and energy will be there right along with it." --- Pena? NJ? Young? Cordero? Hill? Maybe with those guys healthy we are a fourth place team. Maybe.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous at 3:54: if you can't make your point without cursing or making personal insults, please don't post anything. You can make your opinion and feelings made without taking shots. That type of stuff is not tolerated here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interviews SBF and Ms.Queen. I'm not going to say anything negative but I think Kasten's attempt at answers are clear to those who look closely.

Andrew said...

What's clear is the man wants to win---but he doesn't have the philosphy of Steinbrenner---but not many do and look at the Yankees now.

From Vince Lombardi - "Winning is not a sometime thing: it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do the right thing once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

Manangement has to instill the mindset of winning and take that onto the field.

The Tampa Bay Rays are the best example of a team that has no superstars that are just going out and getting it done. It took a long time which I know we don't want to wait that long.

We have plenty of young players and now I think it is time that we have to find the missing ingredients namely the #1 pitcher and a power 1st baseman and some bullpen help.

Clearly Stan doesn't want to talk about the '09 roster; however, unless we trade some of our current starters, the '09 roster is set.

LF Dukes
CF Milledge
RF Kearns
3B Zimmerman
SS Guzman
2B Bonifacio
1B N. Johnson ???
C Flores

Subs Nieves
Subs Willie Harris (re-sign)
Subs Langerhans
Subs Belliard
Subs A. Hernandez or A. Gonzalez

That leaves big question marks on Wily Mo Pena and Dmitri Young and whether we finally cut the chord with Nick Johnson.

Chris Needham said...

No superstars on Tampa?

Had Longoria not been injured, he'd be in the MVP discussion. There aren't many better LHSP than Scott Kazmir.

People might not know who they are, but they've both got elite level talent.

An Briosca Mor said...

Clearly Stan doesn't want to talk about the '09 roster; however, unless we trade some of our current starters, the '09 roster is set.

The same thing might have been said at this time last season. Who would have foreseen the trade of two starters from that team for Lastings Milledge? If we're lucky we may see Kearns bundled with someone else in exchange for the first base equivalent of Milledge. Or perhaps Johnson or Young as throw-ins together with another player in trade for someone. Guzman and Kearns for a young first baseman on the cusp? Stranger things have happened. Sadly, I don't see any of these guys as tradeable straight up for anyone of value. I also don't see Kasten/Bowden going after any big name free agents. It will be the second tier guys like LoDuca and Perez again. Hopefully they'll do a better job of it this time around.

An Briosca Mor said...

On another note: Chris, are you selling those paper bags yet? I may want to buy one for selective use during the remainder of the season. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Andrew said...

Chris - There is a big difference between star and superstar.

Kazmir and Longoria are star players and far from Superstar status.

Tampa Bay has also shown they can still win without Longoria although clearly they aren't as good without him.

I had a chance to meet him at the HR Derby Press Conference. Nice guy who I hope does well.

Chris Needham said...

What's the difference other than marketing?

Anonymous said...

Baseball Digest Daily has another interesting take today on the Crow debacle. It's too bad that Kasten did not appear to have the authority from ownership to intervene and move the negotiating process along (which is what Kasten's counterpart with the Reds did when Bowden and Hendricks were at an impasse over the Kearns draft signing).

Anonymous said...

As long as Kasten keeps Jim Bowden around, he won't have any credibility. If he is serious about improving this mess, he will bring in a competent GM.

phil dunn said...

Kasten and the Lerners won't wake up until it is season ticket renewal time for the 2009season.

Anonymous said...

The Lerners can probably wait another year before adding players because the Red Sox series will lure enough people to buy ticket packages the same way that opening day did this year.

SenatorNat said...

The elephant in the room not discussed in these excellent interviews is how much leeway Kasten-Bow-Bow shall have in terms of payroll for 2009. Should the Lerner Group permit them up to $60 million, it could make a substantial difference. There are going to be several first and second tier outfielders available in free agency, and one would make a substantial difference. Presume between Young and Johnson, one is available or both to man first-base for 2009; presume Dukes and Milledge healthy and improving in the outfield. Then, add someone like Matt Holliday to the outfield and the middle of the order, and the team's dynamic changes almost overnight from 102 losses or so to 75-82 losses...

Pick-up one decent starter, too, and resign Cordero, and the team actually can play competitively. This presumes EVERYTHING goes our way, of course...(The Senators were strong up the middle prior to Hondo, defensively, and relatively young - Camilli; Hamlin; Brinkman; Lock - great defensive group - horrendous offense - same point as this team in 1964 - finishing 62-100. Not acquiring Hondo and McMullen Ortega and Reichart for Osteen and Kennedy and hiring Gil Hodges to manage and they would not have improved to 76-85 in 1967. A bunch of good defensive players; all the same, and all no hit doesn't cut it in an increasingly offensive MLB.}

Trust in Stan the Man. And no vacations during the season...All Good.

JohnDC said...

Like that last comment from SenatorNat. We're only a piece or two away, believe it or not, and I too hope one of those pieces is Matt Holliday.

An Briosca Mor said...

Presume between Young and Johnson, one is available or both to man first-base for 2009; presume Dukes and Milledge healthy and improving in the outfield. Then, add someone like Matt Holliday to the outfield and the middle of the order, and the team's dynamic changes almost overnight from 102 losses or so to 75-82 losses...

Presume you have an infinitely better chance of seeing your iconic giant baseball in the outfield next year than the likes of Matt Holliday, senatornat. Barring a trade, the Nats' OF is full-up for next year already. Kearns and WMP are signed through next year with deals equivalent to LoDuca's and Patterson's going into 2008, respectively. Presume each will be given the same shot that the equivalent battery that never was got this year. Worst case, WMP flames out in spring training and gets Pattersoned before Opening Day. Best case, he lives up to his promise and starts hitting winning walk-offs weekly. Worst case, Kearns continues to suck up the joint and gets LoDuca-ed at the trade deadline. Best case, people stop talking about his fielding long enough to mention his hitting every now and then. As they said on the X-Files, the truth is out there. Presume it's somewhere in between. Presume that there are only two outfielders on this team that are worth anything in trade, that their names are Milledge and Dukes, and they won't be traded. Presume that Willie Harris gets rewarded with a contract, and hope that he turns into another Belliard rather than another Young.

Trust in those not learning from history being condemned to repeat it, and hope that the same thing doesn't happen at first base lest we find ourselves going into 2009 with Johnson, Young and no one else.

Softball Girl said...

To pick up on the prior post's thread from jayB and ABM, I do think Kasten is distancing himself from Bowden. The whole "I was on vacation," bit during the Crow discussion? That's not him delineating responsibilities, it's him saying he was completely out of the loop. And for him to bring up Arizona when Rizzo was probably responsible for many of those signings? Sounds like an agenda to me.

Anyone else notice how the Nat's are using Manny Ramirez in ads for the upcoming LA series? Kasten sure will get the fans he deserves: those from the other team. I hope it's not a sign of things to come, but it may be.

Anonymous said...

This team is Matt Holliday away from adding 20-30 wins next year??? No wonder Stan holds the fan base in such low regard.

An Briosca Mor said...

The whole "I was on vacation," bit during the Crow discussion? That's not him delineating responsibilities, it's him saying he was completely out of the loop.

Go back and re-read it. He says he was on vacation when Bowden made the radio comment about non-tendering Cordero, not that he was on vacation during the Crow negotiations.

Softball Girl said...

True ABM. Sorry. But even if it was about the Cordero situation 'being on vacation' is about as literal a distancing as you can get.

An Briosca Mor said...

And for him to bring up Arizona when Rizzo was probably responsible for many of those signings? Sounds like an agenda to me.

Again, go back and read more carefully. Kasten did not bring up Rizzo and Arizona, SBF (the interviewer) did. Kasten merely answered the question. Sounds like if he had any kind of agenda, it was to answer the questions he was asked honestly and frankly.

An Briosca Mor said...

But even if it was about the Cordero situation 'being on vacation' is about as literal a distancing as you can get.

You've gotta be pretty damn cynical, even more so than the dear departed Capitol Punishment, to think that Stan Kasten schedules his vacations in advance around the days that Jim Bowden will be doing radio interviews. If anything, I read Kasten's "I was on vacation" comment as him explaining his media silence when that episode went down, in order to silence other more sinister interpretations of his lack of public comment.

Andrew said...

Chris - Superstar??? We are talking Evan Longoria not Eva Longoria Parker. The guy is a Rookie hitting .278 with better than average power #'s.

He is a very good player but let him make a few more All Star games before we annoint him a "superstar".

I would agree that good marketing can make a player seemingly a superstar with unwarranted stats, but that isn't the case here. Again, a star player on his team. Hope he gets back on the field shortly.

Andrew said...

Why are we on this Matt Holliday bandwagon again?

The guy is a free agent after the '09 season and do we really want to give up players/prospects for 1 year deal?

I don't see this one happening. Let's spend the Nats $60+ million on a #1 starter and the 1st baseman we need and some more bullpen help and getting Zim signed long term.

SenatorNat said...

ABM and others are right about more than they are wrong. My overarching point is that if Kasten/BowBow are going to serve as Lennon/McCarthy (different but complimentary) they need some leeway financially. Everything cannot be done by subtraction, in other words. Comparing the Twins/Marlins to the Yankees is not as apt as comparing the Yankees/Mets/Red Sox/Dodgers/Angels/Cubs/White Sox overall to the bottom spenders and over the past decade. Yes, Marlins and Twins are superlative at doing great things with nothing, and DiamondBacks and now Brewers are very good at growing their own talent base; but these are exceptions and other than Marlins, they do not win it all. Stan has too rosy a view thus far of the promise on the farm overall in my estimation: I think though that he is correct that it is an imperative to stock the pond, and the Angels and Padres put off doing this for a generation each with dismal results, despite spending lots of $$$$ on over-the-hill big name players, for example.

Braves built it right, obviously, and that is his blueprint. BUT - someone needs to be able to hit home-runs, besides Willie Harris and Belliard, to field a competitive team. And, at the moment, there is no one close to major league caliber on the farm who holds that promise.

I should caution myself not to wish for something too much, since I might get it in the form of Adam Dunn!!

I prefer waiting for WM Pena Godot than the 21st Century Dave Kingman!!

Trust in the power of rising prices in a down market. All Hoover.

Softball Girl said...

Ha, no, I didn't mean that ABM, that Kasten scheduled his vacation around it. I just found it suspect that he would bring it up at all. Like if he hadn't been on vacation it wouldn't have happened. Sort of a more diplomatic "See, I can't go on vacation without something happening..." thing. But your point--on his specific media silence--makes sense too. I'll be the first to admit that, in these interviews, I hear what I want to hear. For instance, when I heard

"You don’t care about what we pay these guys—you just want the team to be good. So, yeah, I am not ever going to rule anything out.”

That's indisputable evidence that he's backing off his draft & trade philosophy and we're signing both Sabathia AND Teixeira in the offseason baby!!!

..::wakes from dream, wipes drool from mouth::..

An Briosca Mor said...

I should caution myself not to wish for something too much, since I might get it in the form of Adam Dunn!!

I dunno, a race between Adam Dunn and Emilio Bonifacio to see who would end up leading the team (and maybe even the league) in strikeouts might be somewhat entertaining, in a perverse sort of way.

Andrew said...

softball Girl said...That's indisputable evidence that he's backing off his draft & trade philosophy and we're signing both Sabathia AND Teixeira in the offseason baby!!!

..::wakes from dream, wipes drool from mouth::..


Yep, wouldn't that be nice. Could you imagine having someone in the 4 hole who was a legitimate threat where your number 3 batter had some real coverage.

One day over the rainbow.....

On to ABM and Bonifacio's strikeout ratio, let's hope he can work it out which I think he will be able to as any comparison to Adam Dunn's K rate is just plain scary for a young guy with a lot of upside potential.