With Stan Kasten's resignation, the Nationals are at a crossroads

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010; 8:11 AM

Stan Kasten announced his departure yesterday, and it sure feels like the Nationals are at a crossroads. This week, they drew the smallest crowd since baseball returned to Washington. Stephen Strasburg is out in San Diego, barely into his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Bryce Harper played his first game in the instructional league yesterday. They still need to decide what to do about Adam Dunn, perhaps the most recognizable player on their roster. They're probably going to lose somewhere close 95 games. They will deal with all of these things without Kasten, a man recognized in every corner of the organization as the franchise leader. Kasten, on a near-daily basis, joked with players, wrangled with agents, jousted with reporters, discussed with Mike Rizzo and planned with ownership. It's hard to put a finger on what exactly he did, in part because of he did everything. The Nationals are not sure what will happen without Kasten, how they'll replace his leadership, his energy, his experience and his -- yeah, pretty much everything. At this moment, the Nationals have a lot of good things going on on the field, despite their record. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa up the middle alone is a reason for a season ticket holder to smile. Will they be able to finish it from here? Kasten withheld his complete thoughts, but gave a partial opinion. "I think now is not the time for that global assessment," Kasten said. "But I will say briefly, I think we are poised to really take off. I think we have ownership that is ready to take the next step. We talk a lot about it privately, and I have a high level of confidence that's going to happen." Later, Kasten offered some more thoughts on getting from the present to the future. "There's still plenty to do," he said. "I always think of the lifespan of building something in three phases. There's constructing, there's competing, there's contending. I really think we've come through the constructing. Now we're on the cusp of really competing. The line from constructing to competing is really long. It's a big difference and a big distance. The distance from competing to contending can be very short. A couple of key moves can make that change. I think that's where we are, on the cusp." FROM THE POST Stan Kasten stepped down yesterday, a decision he made a year ago. On the field, the Nationals beat the Astros 7-2 without Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. FROM AROUND THE WEB Jesus Flores hit a home yesterday in the Instructional League, and you can watch video of it -- and many other things -- at Space Coast Baseball. Bryce Harper looked rusty his debut in the Instructional League, Mark DeCotis writes. Stan Kasten's departure felt appropriate, Mark Zuckerman writes. Mike Harris is going to miss Kasten.

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