Kasten finished as Nationals president, but he's hardly done yet
Almost every day, for five years, Stan Kasten sat inside his office at Nationals Park and saw the sign he had tacked up on one of the walls. The only thing written on it was the number 31. Kasten had been to the playoffs 30 times as a sports executive, in three different sports, and his intent was that his next trip would come as president of the Washington Nationals.
"It's worth everything you do to get there," Kasten said. "I do think we here at the Nats are on the course to get there. But I miss not being in the postseason. I really do. And it will be worth all our struggle and pain once we do get there."
On Wednesday, Kasten met with the media for roughly 30 minutes as he worked his final official day with the Nationals, which actually will not be his final day at all. Kasten will technically be in their employ until the end of the year, and he will maintain his minority ownership stake until he decides what he wants to do next, which he said will likely be by next spring training at the earliest.
While he is no longer a day-to-day employee, 31 no longer an aspiration but a mission unfulfilled, Kasten will remain a part of the organization as he steps away.
"I'm devoted to this franchise, in any way I can help them, officially, unofficially or otherwise," Kasten said. "They have continued to reach out to me over the last two weeks. I'm sure that will continue in the future."
Before the end of the year, Kasten hopes to accomplish three objectives:
l Finish negotiating a contract for the Nationals' radio rights, a project headed by Nationals Chief Operating Officer Andy Feffer. Kasten said Feffer, for the time being, will handle business matters and General Manager Mike Rizzo will have autonomy in baseball decisions.
l Make more progress on cleansing corruption from the Dominican Republic operation, which shook the Nationals 18 months after the player known as Smiley Gonzalez was found to have a fraudulent age and name. Kasten revealed that he "started hearing stuff that troubled me" about Gonzalez's falsified age two years before it came to public light.
l Figure out where the Nationals will hold spring training; he expects the Nationals to have reached a resolution by this time next year. Currently in Viera, Fla., they have run into scheduling problems since the Los Angeles Dodgers' exodus from Vero Beach for Arizona left few nearby teams. The Nationals have a lease that ends in 2017, but they could afford to pay if they move.
Kasten has toured every site in Florida, and he mentioned the possibility of the Nationals becoming the only East Coast team to train in Arizona. He said he has visited all but two facilities in the Cactus League, and Mark Lerner has visited those himself. "I wouldn't rule anything in or out," Kasten said.
While the Nationals' dearth of on-field success, which includes 298 losses in three seasons, left Kasten disappointed, he believes the team is close to becoming what he envisioned based on what he perceives as upgrades to their farm system.
"I think we count now on consistent delivery to the major leagues of real, bona fide players every year," Kasten said. "That was very important. We can debate whether it could have been done quicker. I think that's a fair position to take. Perhaps it could have.