President, Washington Nationals
Monday, November 13, 2006 10:00 AM
Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten was online Monday, Nov. 13, at 10 a.m. ET to discuss the team's offseason plans.
A transcript follows.
Kasten is the former president of the Atlanta Braves, and was also president of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and NHL's Atlanta Thrashers.
When Kasten was hired this year, Washington Post staff writer Dave Sheinin
Stan Kasten: Hi everyone. Nice to be here. I'm always trying to talk to as many of our fans as possible, and I really appreciate this opportunity.
Rockville, Md.: I understand that the Nationals are currently building for the future. My question is, when do you project the Nationals to realistically start competing for the playoffs and start contending for the championship? Thanks.
I just want to say that the entire Nationals organization is doing a great job, especially on improving fan experience at RFK.
Stan Kasten: Thanks so much. The entire staff has really fully endorsed the notion of improving the game experience at RFK, and they greatly appreciate it when people notice.
I think by now, everyone understands that we took over a last-place team which had some challenges in front of it. The most important one was the necessity of completely re-tooling the player development apparatus (scouting and minor leagues). There has NEVER been a successful team without it. We've made GREAT progress in the last few months, and I think in the coming weeks you'll be seeing more publicity about the numerous changes we've made. The future, on this score, is very bright. Having said that, I don't think the job is finished yet. I would say we still need a year or so, to build up the foundation to a level where the pipeline can be providing us talent on a consistent basis.
But let's be clear. I will never concede that we won't be able to win in 2007. We will do all we can...take advantage of any opportunity...to improve the team right now. And I think we will really be well positioned in time for the opening of the new ballpark in 2008 to take advantage of the new revenue streams that will be coming.
Bethany Beach, Del.: Mr Kasten: Please make sure provisions have been made to have the radio signal available to Delmarva affiliates along the east coast. Loads of Washingtonians vacation there, and we very much would like to listen to Charlie Slowes calling Nats baseball while on the beach. Thanks.
Stan Kasten: Yes, I've heard this complaint from time to time since I arrived. We should be making an announcement on our radio plans for next season in the very near future. Obviously our focus will be the very best signal in the greater D.C. area, but we will definitely also be looking into growing our network in order to better serve a much wider regional footprint as well.
Washington, D.C.: Since the end of the regular season, MASN's sports coverage seems to be all about Baltimore and very little about Washington. In fact the impression that I have is that the Ravens are the real TV partners of the Orioles, and that the main role that you play on MASN is to provide both of these Baltimore clubs access to the lucrative Washington media market. Given that MASN's Baltimore-oriented programming has little appeal to casual D.C. sports fans, won't this take a toll on your ratings once your games are back on the air?
Stan Kasten: I think we all realize that MASN is very much in its infancy. As time goes on, I'm sure we'll work out the program mix so that it best serves the interests of the greatest number of fans. We expect the Nationals, and D.C. sports, to be a very major part of that.
Adams Morgan: As a partial-plan ticket holder, I appreciate seeing you walking around RFK interacting with fans and trying to make the stadium experience as enjoyable as possible. Thanks.
My question: How do you respond to media criticism that the private managerial search process is bad for team image, thereby letting others speculate that the Nats position is not wanted by certain candidates?
Stan Kasten: Well the speculation aspect is fascinating to watch. I'm afraid this time it got stranger than usual because we were taking extra care to have some private discussions, and the media is hungry to write something, anything. Unfortunately, that resulted in a number of inaccurate reports along the way. Two things to remember: 1) I firmly believe that we can get the best, most candid information by keeping our business dealings private until we have something ready to announce. Sometimes, it's hard to do , especially when the erroneous reports come out. But it's really unavoidable, because once I start denying untrue reports, it's a tacit confirmation whenever I don't deny something. 2) Some teams hired a manager quite a while ago...and they've had no stories since. We've had numerous stories every day for a month.
TV Broadcast Team: Hey Stan, why did you let Tom P. go? I thought he and Mr. Carpenter were a good team? For what it is worth, I'd go with Harold Reynolds over the others I read that you are considering. He's very good. Steve Stone will always be associated with the Cubbies, in my mind.
Stan Kasten: Thanks for the question . I know Tom has a lot of loyal fans, and deservedly so. He has a very unique style. As we build this franchise up, we are dedicated to looking at all aspects of the operation and making changes in any area where we think we can make improvements. I hope, and expect, that you will enjoy next season's broadcasts even more than in the past.
Burke, Va.: Good morning Mr. Kasten,
Will the Nats offer a wider variety of ticket packages for this coming season, like a 10-game weekend package? If so will the games be predetermined by management or can we pick and choose?
Stan Kasten: At the moment, I can tell you that we will have an expanded availability for our 41 and 20 game packages. In addition , we will have thousands of tickets available for every game at prices as low as $5. But in trying to serve our customers, I wouldn't rule out looking at other things down the road as well.
New York, N.Y.: You decided not to give up Soriano during the trade period and now you are basically losing him and gaining nothing in return. Why wouldn't you trade him for someone rather than lose him in free agency?
Stan Kasten: It's true that we took a hard look at trading Alphonso last July. And even though there was a lot of talk leading up to the deadline, at the end there was nothing offered that would have made any sense for the club. I know you're read speculation about what might have been offered. Believe me , there have been reports of offers that might have gotten us very interested. But those reports were simply not true, and nothing close to those offers were ever made. We made the judgment that there was nothing we could get that would be better that the two high draft picks we would receive in the event he didn't re-sign with us. And as we all know, we desperately need the infusion of talent that those picks should bring us.
McLean, Va.: Any plans for a more formal "Frank Robinson" Day?
Stan Kasten: The whole front office is consumed with planning for next season, both on and off the field. And as we have said, we definitely plan to have a formal Frank Robinson Day. No details yet, but we'll be letting everyone know
Pentagon City, Va.: What are you doing to increase attendance for the 2007 season?
Stan Kasten: Great question, and I'm happy to tell you that it's clear already that attendance WILL increase for next season. Before we've even kicked off a formal sales drive, we have already signed up over 500 new season tickets for next year. It's gratifying to know that even though our fans know we're not yet where we want to be as a team, they are very supportive of our direction and our plan. In addition, all our fans know that any season ticket holders in 2007 will have the first priority for tickets in the new stadium in 2008. And by the way, the stadium is going to be terrific, and we expect to have team on the field that will be just as good.
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Kasten -
I am thrilled that you are here and appreciate what you and the Lerners did for fans last year. However, I have two fan experience questions for you.
1. When will fans find out about how their seats will translate to the new stadium?
2. Would you consider opening the stadium earlier so that we can see the Nats take batting practice?
Stan Kasten: Two good questions First you should be receiving information in the next week or two about how the priority for seats will be determined. I don't think we'll be able to actually assign seats until next summer...the seating manifests haven't even been finalized yet...but our goal is to get everyone as close as possible to where they are now.
And on batting practice, we will definitely be doing that in 2007...for at least some games. We have technical difficulties at RFK that make doing it for all games a problem, but I hope to have the new ballpark in 2008 open for fans to attend batting practice EVERY GAME.
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Kasten --
Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer questions. First I'd like to know what will be the fate of RFK after the move in 2008. Secondly, how have you an your family enjoyed the transition to life in D.C.?
Stan Kasten: Thanks for asking. RFK will continue to be used for D.C. United for at least the next couple of years, until they move into their new stadium, across the Anacostia from ours.
We absolutely LOVE D.C. I've been here numerous times over the years, but I never had an opportunity to experience the many neighborhoods and suburbs. What an interesting, exciting place. It's been great fun getting around the region, talking to fans in all areas.
Bethesda, Md.: Hi Stan,
Most people either don't know or have forgotten that you had a spectacular career as a basketball GM before you ever got into baseball. And that you were a pretty fair athlete yourself, so I have two questions: What do you think about the Wizards chances this year, and what sports do you continue to play yourself?
Stan Kasten: I don't know about spectacular, but I had a lot of fun. I'm a long-time friend and admirer of Abe Pollin, Susan O'Malley and Ernie Grunfeld. The job they've done in the last few years deserves great appreciation. It's obvious the Wizards are on the right track.
And let's not forget the WNBA team, whose assistant coach, Tree Rollins played for me for 11 years.
Crystal City, Va.: Have you seen any of the Nationals blogs out there? There seems to be an abundance of folks out there paying close attention to what is going on with the Nats.
Stan Kasten: I hate to admit that YES, I read the blogs. And yes, I listen to talk radio. I feel it's a part of my job to have some sense of what SOME people are out there saying. It's important, though , not to take either the compliments or criticism too seriously. But I agree that it's very interesting to see how much is being said and written. There's no question there's a lot of interest in the D.C. area for the Nats, and if we do our job right we're going to have a great following.
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Kasten:
Since Manny Acta embarrassed Alfonso Soriano by benching him during the World Baseball Tournament last spring, hiring him to be the new manager is a pretty good sign that the team does not intend to resign Soriano. By replacing a popular and well known (albeit mediocre) manager like Frank Robinson with an unproven no-name like Acta, and by not resigning Soriano, you are setting Nationals fans up to look bad for not flocking to the stadium to see a team that seems to be committed to mediocrity for the next few years. If attendance falls below 2 million in 2007 and the new stadium is rarely filled to capacity in 2008, Washington will once again be unfairly labeled as a bad baseball town, even though the front office has given the fans no reason to be excited about the team for at least the next two or three years. Why should an existing season ticket holder like me want to spend thousands of dollars on season tickets to see the Nationals play in 2007 and 2008?
Stan Kasten: Whoa. That was an awful lot of assumptions in one paragraph.
I have a very strong belief that we are on track, and actually ahead of our timetable, to be not just very good, but very good over a long period of time. And I think the fan reaction so far suggests that most people agree. We have a very good young nucleus, a growing player development system, and great ownership support. Those are the elements that any team needs to succeed. It's obvious you're a fan. When we do succeed, you know you'll want to be here. So stay on board. You won't regret it.
Rockville, Md.: What are the things that excite you most about the new stadium?
By the way, good luck to Ryan Zimmerman.
Stan Kasten: The new stadium will be able to reach out to fans in ways that are simply not possible at RFK. If you just enjoy watching the game, we'll have great seats and sightlines, and a fantastic set of video and information boards. However, if you're on of those people who like to have other entertainment, we'll have something for everyone. Fan gathering areas, live performances, novelties, games, kid's areas, many, many different kinds of bars and restaurants. There will be things to do,and reasons to come to the park early. And yes, watch B. P.
Maryland City: I think the Tigers and Cardinals are good role models for the Nationals. Three years ago, the Tigers lost 119 ballgames. This year, they were in the World Series.
After losing 119, they went out and signed Ivan Rodriguez, then 32. It stunned most baseball people, but Pudge's presence bought the Tigers credibility that helped them attract the likes of Ordonez and Rogers to put around their young nucleus.
The guy who could buy this kind of credibility for the Nats has been a National already. He's Alfonso Soriano. Please do everything possible to re-sign him.
Stan Kasten: As we've said from the start, we love Alphonso and we would love to sign him. But we will only do so if it can be done in a way that allows us to continue to build a successful franchise. Having one great player, at the expense of all the other things we need wouldn't make much sense. Having said that, let's wait and see what happens. This time of year is very unpredictable.
Tysons Corner, Va.: It took four years for you to turn around the Braves. Many of us Nats fans expected at least a few years before the same could be said here. But recently you said something to the effect that Washington could be contenders sooner rather than later. Why?
Stan Kasten: I've concluded two things since I arrived. Number one, in many respects, things were worse than I realized. That wasn't anybody's fault, it's just where things were.
But number two, I now believe we can get where we're going sooner than I thought before I came. That's because of all that has been accomplished since June. From the draft, to the new Dominican efforts, to the Kearns/Lopez trade, to then infusion of over a dozen young arms this offseason, the addition of an absolute All-Star scouting staff. It's all very exciting. That's why I feel we're just around the corner from being where we want to be.
Alexandria, Va.: Will there be any big community events during the offseason -- a fanfest, caravan, etc.?
Stan Kasten: You can expect to see us all over the place. We will definitely be having a caravan, and discussions for a fanfest are underway now as well
Laurel, Md.: How will the Nationals resolve the middle infield logjam with Vidro, Lopez, and Guzman? And what is Larry Broadway's status, considering that both he and Nick Johnson are left-handed-hitting first basemen?
Stan Kasten: Anytime you say logjam, that's a very nice word to hear. I'm waiting for the day when we have a logjam in our starting rotation.
There will be many developments before Opening Day. The GM meetings are going on this week, followed by the Winter Meetings in two weeks. There may be opportunities there, or we may wait till Spring Training when a new manager will figure it out.
Silver Spring, Md.: The Caps have a system where, I believe, season ticket holders who miss an early season game can trade the unused ticket in for tickets in other, cheaper seats for selected later season games. Would you consider that for the Nationals, at least while they are still at RFK and not likely to sell out a lot of games, especially to opponents that aren't particularly interesting.
On a broader note, as a former Orioles, now Nationals, fan, I approve of your plan of rebuilding and developing young players, even if the results won't be that attractive this coming year.
Stan Kasten: Thanks. Last year, we had some of these unused ticket days. We'll be having even more this coming season. You should be getting information on this very soon.
Connecticut Ave., N.W.: Since the advent of new ballparks with Camden Yards in 1992, has any new stadium been built with as few as 1,225 parking spaces? Isn't this an inadequately low number? What are your suggestions to this problem?
Stan Kasten: You're right, that would be a very small number. But that is ONLY the number that will be built along with, and adjacent to the stadium. We know we need to have 7,000-8,000 spaces to handle the crowds. Our ownership group has been working tirelessly with the many different involved parties, and there has been great progress made. I believe that by Opening Day 2008 there will be an ample number of spaces in the area, as well as a coherent traffic plan to take care of everyone's needs
Section 427 : Hi Stan,
I've held season tickets since the first season and plan on renewing this year. Will those who have purchased season tickets for the first three years have first dibs for the new stadium? Thanks.
Stan Kasten: Thanks for asking...and thanks for your continued support. And by the way, I love Section 427. I stop and sit there sometimes as I wander around RFK.
You ABSOLUTELY will have first dibs, and if you like 427, you will LOVE the new park.
And one last reminder. ANYONE signing up for 2007 tickets will have priority in the new park. Don't be left behind.
Stan Kasten: I think that's about all I have time for today. Apparently, I've got to go hire a manager or something.
It's been great fun, and I look forward to doing it again soon. And I look forward to seeing everyone at RFK in 2007.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.