President, Washington Nationals
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 11:00 AM
Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten took your questions about the team, its management, offseason moves and expectations for this year.
The transcript follows.
Stan Kasten: Hi there, everyone. I'm happy to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I always enjoy having the opportunity to chat with fans, whether in person or online.
Stafford, N.Y.: What are the best parts about being Nationals team president? The worst?
Stan Kasten: In general, all of it is good. I have realized every day of my career how fortunate I am to be working in this industry. Having said that, there are always great challenges to building any business and this is no exception. When I got here, we had to build a major league team, minor league apparatus and build a new stadium. From my standpoint, we have made great progress on all three fronts. We still have challenges ahead of us. But, even the challenges are fun.
Alexandria, Va.: Is the organization going to conduct (or in the process of conducting) a full-scale search for a new general manager? Is Mike Rizzo's temporary assignment a test or will there be a full search regardless of his performance over the next few weeks/months?
Stan Kasten: I don't want to go into too many specifics about the process of finding a new General Manager right now. There are too many things going on behind the scenes. Let me just say this for now. The front office is being run extremely smoothly and very professionally from my standpoint. Everyone knows their roles. Everyone has stepped up with great enthusiasm. And, the last few weeks have been especially productive. What I can say is that when we do announce a full-time general manager everybody will be able to have confidence that person is the very best person for the job.
Herndon, Va.: How close are you to signing Ryan Zimmerman to the long-term deal we fans want?
Stan Kasten: We continue to talk with Ryan and his agent, and I would say we have had good talks. Both sides want to get something done--I can't say whether that will happen by Opening Day--but, if it doesn't the dialogue will continue.
Woodbridge, Va.: Has Teddy Roosevelt had a good spring training? Do you expect him to win any races this year?
Stan Kasten: How would I know if he is going to win any races this year, I am not Nostradamus. But, the law of averages says he is going to win someday. And the only way to be there when that happens is to attend every game.
Burke, Va.: The Nats seem to be collecting spare catchers again this year. Do you expect Flores to be healthy for Opening Day?
Stan Kasten: I do. And, I expect him to be playing in a game in the next day or two. And, I expect him to be our starting catcher. We do have a battle for the backup spot. Any of them in camp could handle the job. We'll take the best one and have the rest standing by in the minors for depth.
Alexandria, Va.: Stan,
Every stadium needs a trademark; something that sets it apart from the pack. What do you think the trademark of the new stadium is or will be?
Stan Kasten: I think it's a great FANS stadium. I love the entry plaza with all the activity out there pregame-food, music, entertainment, games, mascots, pregame television show-it's a great addition to a ballpark for fans. Once you're inside the bowl, you have the monster scoreboard on one side and the cherry blossoms on the other side. The cherry blossoms I hope will become a tradition. This year we hope will bloom for our opening homestand.
Washington D.C.: Stan,
I'm aware you don't love beat writers, but what do think of the guys who cover you now?
Stan Kasten: I'm hurt some of my best friends are beat writers. The truth is, I know they have a tough job to do in an increasing problem-ridden industry, the newspaper business. Sometimes, their job comes in conflict with mine. In general, I think the relationships are managed well, but that doesn't mean we don't have some days when we butt heads. That conflict is an unavoidable part of the business in this city and every other I have ever seen. On a personal note, we all get along just fine together--having plenty to agree on and laugh about in our down times.
Upper Deck: Stan,
In the old days you would come around the upper deck of RFK...check on things, talk to ushers, chat with fans...I really appreciated that. I did not see you once in the upper deck of Nats Park. If you were there you had to notice we had no napkins, not straws, no onions, not mustard by the 2nd inning...we waited 25 minutes for a hot dog when only 2 people would be in front of us. Please, please come check on us this year...we are season ticket holders too!
Stan Kasten: I assure you, I am in the upper deck virtually every day. I don't know about your specific problems up there, but I will say, in general, we had a long way to go in terms of customer service for concessions. I didn't make a big deal about it publicly, but internally we did spend a lot of time and effort in the off-season trying to rectify our problems. I hope, expect and insist things will be a lot better this year. If not, catch me in the upper deck, where I am every game.
Rockville, Md.: Besides Blackberries, how is making deals in baseball different now than it was in 1979?
Stan Kasten: First of all, BlackBerrys are the single-biggest difference. All of the elements that go into a deal are larger and have greater import-- the money is more significant, the attention to medical issues is greater, the statistical analysis undergirding every transaction is far more detailed than anyone would have imagined a few decades ago. Sometimes it is tough fitting all that into a BlackBerry or text message. Sometimes we still have to use a phone.
Charlotte, NC: How will the GM situation affect the Nationals June draft plans?
Stan Kasten: It's just going to make Mike Rizzo a very busy boy preparing for the draft is a big part of Mike's role and a big part of his expertise. But, it won't really be much of a problem for '09, since Mike has already seen all of the players for the top few rounds for several years now. And, of course we have great confidence in our very deep roster of scouts.
DC: Why so much hostility toward blogs? Surely, you can recognize that they often generate interest in the team in a positive way too?
Stan Kasten: Me??? You've got me confused with somebody else. I have always been pro blog. I like blogs and read them probably too many of them. You just have to keep all of them in the proper prospective.
Woodbridge, Va.: Stan,
First, thanks so much for everything you do for the fans. I appreciate your focus on what the fans enjoy and that you always seek our feedback.
Are there any plans to remove the tent from the top of the parking deck down the left field line this year? It blocks a great view of the Capitol for folks in the upper deck.
Stan Kasten: First of all, it only blocks the view for a small number of people. Fortunately, your view of the game, field and scoreboard remains unobstructed and spectacular.
But, seriously, one of the limitations of where our ballpark is located is that we have no areas for large groups to gather for hospitality functions. The top of the garage is the only place we could come up with. On balance, it's a much greater positive for a greater number of fans than it is a negative.
Washington, D.C.: In the wake of the issues in Latin America, can we expect to see a renewed vigor with and a fresh approach to the international talent market?
Stan Kasten: I can't describe how big a disappointment the recent revelations have been. And, let me assure you, we have been trying to wrestle with these problems privately for a lot longer than just the last few weeks. There is no bigger believer in the importance of attracting international talent than me (check my record in all three sports). So yes, the setback is very disturbing to me. I can only tell you that we intend to catch up as quickly as possible. And, in that regard, we are off to a very good start with the changes we have made in the Dominican Republic.
Sec 114, Row E: Any thought to having guest racers race against the Presidents?
You could pit the pierogies against the presidents when the Pirates visit or the sausages when the Brewers are in town.
Stan Kasten: How about a Ben's Chili Bowl halfsmoke against a Five Guys slider?
And, I think Teddy beats both of them.
Arlington, Va.: Stan,
What Braves team that you were a part of would you compare to the 2009 Nats in terms of the building process? 1989? 1990? Another year?
Stan Kasten: There is always a danger to comparing teams, because no two circumstances are exactly alike. Having said that, there came a moment in Atlanta when young players were ready to contribute and it all just clicked the combination of young talent and mature veterans produced a winning team. The position players for the '91 Braves didn't feature a lot of Hall of Famers, but it all fit together with young pitchers. That's what I am looking for in '09 and beyond the clicking point for our young pitchers.
Tucson, Ariz.: Stan -
Sabremetrics and statistical analysis has become popular devices for fans to evaluate players...what you think of the modern baseball statistically analysis and do the Nas employ a "Bill James" like the Red Sox??
Stan Kasten: I am a big believer in statistical analysis as an important tool, something to go along with all of our other tools. We have an internal cadre of young guys (the Mod Squad) who spend most of their time reading, calculating, figuring and analyzing. If I was forced to come up with a percentage, I would say we are probably still 30-40 percent quantitative analysis and 60-70 percent conventional scouting. But, it is an important 30-40 percent.
Stan Kasten: I'm afraid that's all the time they have given me today. Sorry I'm such a slow typist. There were a ton more questions. I tried to get to the things you can't get everyday talking to the manager or general manager oops, I mean assistant general manager.
See you in two weeks at the ballpark. Opening Day is April 13. I have asked for the cherry blossoms to start blooming that morning.
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