Nats Will Not Offer Robinson a Paid Job
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten said yesterday that Frank Robinson, the Hall of Fame player who served as manager during the club's first two seasons in Washington, will not be offered a paid position in the front office. The decision irked Robinson, who said he feels as if the club's top executives misrepresented their intentions about finding him a spot and that he will have nothing to do with them.
"I'm disappointed, no doubt about it," Robinson said by phone. "I would have loved to have been a part of that organization, helped them to build a championship ballclub, and be a part of the District with the fans there and everything. But when people don't make you feel like you're needed or wanted or are warm about it, or reach out to you, there's no sense in trying to force yourself on people."
Robinson is upset over two meetings he said he had late in the season, one with Kasten and one with General Manager Jim Bowden. He said Bowden told him his job was safe late in the season, and that Kasten, in a separate meeting, assured Robinson that he would always have a front-office job in Washington.
Kasten declined to comment on Robinson's stance. Bowden said that early in the season he told Robinson he was likely to return, but that by a Sept. 11 meeting in Arizona -- with the Nationals mired in last place -- he told Robinson his fate hadn't been determined.
"Later in the season, I made it clear when I spoke with him that I had not made a decision at that time," Bowden said by phone. "When a decision was finally made, based on the season the club had and we had to make the best decision for the club, we wanted to make sure we treated him with as much dignity and respect as possible and allow him the opportunity to finish out the year the way he wanted to."
Robinson said he met with Kasten perhaps two weeks later and reiterated his stance that he wanted to manage three more years. At the end of the conversation, Robinson said Kasten told him, "As long as I am here with this organization, you will have a job."
Robinson's impressions of those meetings have left him with bad feelings about Kasten and Bowden.
"I'm done with them," he said. "I have nothing against the organization per se. It's two people that I'm concerned with: Jim and Stan."
The Nationals said they took great pains to allow Robinson, 71, to go out in a graceful manner, as he had requested. They told him of their decision not to retain him as manager during the season's last week, announced it on the penultimate day, and then honored him with a brief ceremony before the season's final game, all at his request. They also made plans to honor him at a game this season, and Kasten said yesterday that May 20 -- against one of Robinson's old teams, Baltimore -- was a possibility.
"We thought about this a lot," Kasten said at a gathering of reporters earlier in the day. He declined to discuss the intricacies of the decision not to offer Robinson a job because, as he said, "If I say 25 things that praise Frank, and then offer one criticism," only the critical remarks would be remembered.
When the Nationals, who are undergoing a massive rebuilding process, announced that Robinson wouldn't be asked back as manager, Robinson was almost wistful, saying, "It's been a good ride for me." He gave no public indication of frustration with the organization's decision, even as he expressed his disappointment. Still, he insisted that he would accept only a "meaningful" front-office position. He softened that stance a bit yesterday, saying he didn't "want an office job" and would have been happy consulting on trades and player evaluations.
Both Bowden and Kasten said they would welcome Robinson at spring training and that they offered to pay his expenses if he wanted to help out new manager Manny Acta and his staff, but Robinson said he would not do that.
"That's an insult to me," Robinson said. "Come on? What did I want to do, just be a token or a ceremonial-type guy? I don't need that. I have too much to offer."
Robinson, who is the only player to be named most valuable player in both leagues, was asked yesterday if he thought he could come off as bitter on his way out of baseball. He dismissed the notion.
"I'm not bitter," Robinson insisted. "That's not my nature, not what I preach to the players who played for me, that the game doesn't owe you anything. I'm just disappointed, that's what I am."
Notes: The Nationals announced the signing of four teenagers from the Dominican Republic who were part of a large workout the team held at its complex in San Cristobal last month. Left-handers Randy Almonte and Francisco Vizcaino, and catcher Ricardo Martinez represent the latest effort by the Nationals to increase their presence in the Dominican, where they spent $1.4 million on shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez last July.
The four prospects cost "much, much less" than Gonzalez on his own, Kasten said, but the team needs numbers to build up the minor league system.
"I think now, we're jogging," Bowden said, "and eventually we'll be sprinting."
Dana Brown, the club's director of scouting, said the team is most excited about Almonte, a lanky 6-foot-6 17-year-old who throws 89-90 mph, with the potential to throw much harder. Brown and Rizzo will make a scouting trip to Venezuela this weekend in the hopes of signing more players there. . . . Kasten said the Nationals will hold a caravan aimed at meeting with fans the week of Jan. 22, with details forthcoming. He also said there will be an autograph session before each home game this season.