Monday, March 30, 2009
Today's Conference Call (Part One) Stan Kasten
Late this morning, the media and bloggers that are not consistently on the ground in Florida covering Spring Training 2009 for Our Washington Nationals were invited to join in a Conference call via phone. The opportunity for many to ponder questions toward Team President Stan Kasten, Our Manager Manny Acta and players Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan. Originally expected to last only a half-hour, the call was extended when Manny was delayed on the practice field--allowing for Beimel and Hanrahan to join the eventual 40-minute long Q & A.
Team President Stan Kasten led off for 10-Minutes. Here is that complete transcript. Manny Acta and Our Players to follow.
With that here is Today's Conference Call (Part One) with Mr. Kasten:
“Hi Guys. Let me say that for the last century or so since spring training began, it’s always been a time of optimism for teams. No team leaves spring training without thinking that they can win. And that certainly is the case with us this year. But we have real reasons for feeling as good as, as positive, as optimistic, as we do. The team that was so young last year is now a year further along in their development. The team that was so injured last year is now healthy. We’ve made some important additions to our rotation, important additions to our lineup. Recently, we made some important additions to our bullpen. So, boy, things are really falling into place and coming together. And so we can’t wait to get the season started. With that, I will open it up to any questions.”
Question: In the wake of Jim Bowden resigning, you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you are very pleased with how others in the organization have stepped up. As far as baseball operations are concerned, is the team going in a different direction than they may have otherwise gone due to the change in management structure?
“I can’t say that. No, I don’t think that would be fair. We still look to be opportunistic and we think we have a lot of guys in our camp that because of that opportunism we always espouse. We have a kid on the mound today, Shairon Martis, that is going to be in our rotation now—that we acquired opportunistically. So, we will continue to do that. But, I do think the young guys, who have peppered me with a heck of a lot more emails than I have even got before, with just ideas. It’s too early to really say there has been a new course set. We’ve spent the last four weeks, just trying to get everything back on track. It is back on track. We’ve had a great spring training. Everything in The Dominican (Republic) is running smooth. So, I think we have any questions and turmoil behind us. And that was Job One after that change. There will be time in the future to assess whether there are any substantive changes. But for now, we are right on course.”
Question: Looking ahead even farther, If Richmond (Virginia) can solve our stadium issue, and that’s a big if, we have been after this for a while—as you know. Do you see Richmond, as a potential home for a Nationals Farm Club down the road—be it AAA or AA?
“Well as you know there is only so much I can say. But you know historically my feelings about Richmond. I love the city, always have and have spent a lot of years there when I was with another club (The Braves). Richmond has some issues. Obviously, they do not have a Triple A or Double A quality facility. They need to get that. They also don’t have a franchise for either Double A or Triple A. They need to get that. If they (City of Richmond) do those things, then it would be a very desirable place. It’s a great market with great fans and any team would be happy to be in there. And let me say that is as far as I am able to go for today.”
Question: How are ticket sales going and do you expect Opening Day to sell-out?
“Don’t know yet. Opening Day is still two weeks away. Ticket sales are down for us, like they are for so many people. I am going to have more to say specifically about that in the week leading up to Opening Day. But there is no question that our fans are experiencing some very, very tough times. We are aware of it. We are doing many things to try to deal with that. That’s why we lowered ticket prices. We’ve made smaller ticket packages. We’ve got Family Value Ticket Packages, Family Value Food Packages. We are doing those types of things, but there is no question the fans are going through some tough times and we are doing our best to respond.”
Question: You have talked many times about the challenges you have had in your career. But you never shy away from reality. How would you compare this past off-season and this spring, challenge wise, to what you have faced in your career?
(Laughing at first) “This was something different. But I don’t know how to stack up challenges. They just require concentration of the mind. They require the staff coming together. I think all of those things happened. We had great support from ownership. Really, a great pulling together by the staff to deal with it. We got it behind us very quickly. And the result is that we are all on the same page, moving forward, with a camp that has had as much enthusiasm among the players as I have ever seen. So if you can judge anything by the results, I would have to say that everything has been very successful. Yeah, it was a challenge, but it was met and we are all working forward.”
Question: Can you elaborate on how your day-to-day responsibilities have changed since Jim Bowden resigned?
“I have had to put a lot more time down here in Florida, were I still am today, finally returning home tonight. In the past, I would be down here for two days at a time, maybe three. I am completing a 10-day stay here now. I have never in my career done that. But it was necessary because there were some gaps that we never wanted within the organization, operational gaps were the issues--so I was down here, able to pitch in. I have done a lot more on the baseball operations side than I have had to do in the last three years. We are going to find our level as we finalize what operating personnel and structure will be in the coming weeks and months. But it’s been smooth. There have been more hours for me. It’s meant a bit more hours for Mike (Rizzo—Asst. GM) because don’t forget, before all this happened, he had a full-time job preparing for the ’09 Draft, as well as, all of this. And he still is doing that. So, it’s meant more hours, but not more than 24 per day. We’ve had more than enough to get the job done. And I would say we are doing it.”
Question: Are you doing a lot of baseball evaluation?
“I wouldn’t say evaluation. No. But the job is quite a bit more complex and layered than evaluating players.”
Question: Roster question, but also an organization question. The situation around Dmitri Young. He hasn’t played a Major League game yet. Does that eye toward starting him off on the DL for the Big League Club? What is the situation with Dmitri?
“That would be my guess, if I had to guess at the moment. I would say he starts on the DL until he gets into shape. I don’t know how long that takes and I don’t know what happens with rehab time and the like. But I have to give him credit; he has made a lot of progress. He had gotten, with his condition, to a very troubling state by the end of last year—medically. And he’s done a lot we haven’t been talking about medically—in the off-season. He has dropped an awful amount of weight—looks pretty good now—but needs to continue work at it. And needs to get into even better shape. And when that happens, I am telling you, you could blindfold him and the guy can hit. We are not going to forget he still has that ability.”
Last Question for Stan Kasten: “Your community relations department seems to be undergoing a bit of an overhaul. Is there a new direction that the fans can expect community relations can go in?
“I wouldn’t say new direction. I would say an expansion is our goal. We’ve had quite a bit more coordination among the departments and that has caused some of the changes that we’ve been going through recently. But we very definitely have a plan to do, not just the things we did before, but even more. The centerpiece of what we want to do remains the Urban (Baseball) Academy (Dream Foundation Goal) that has been delayed because of the change in (Presidential) Administrations. But we still are fixated on pulling that off. That’s going to be a big piece, but it’s only going to be one piece of the many, many other programs that we will continue to have.”
End of Stan Kasten’s Q& A—handing the conference call over to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Joe Beimel, Joel Hanrahan and Our Manager Manny Acta to follow.