Kasten happy with Nationals' progress
Many improvements have been made in short time
Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten participated in an online chat Wednesday afternoon and stated that he is excited to see the team progress so far in such a short time after spending so much time building the farm system and scouting department. Kasten fielded many questions from fans touching on a variety of topics, including his expectations for the club in 2007, the new stadium, seating arrangements, the broadcast team and comments on some of the Nationals players.
mpjohn: What do you think is the biggest difference between working for the Braves and Nationals?
Stan Kasten: First of all, thanks to everyone who is online today. Let's get started with this one. The starting point for both franchises is similar. When I joined them both were last-place teams. The bad news here is that we're also way behind the curve in terms of our scouting and the Minor League program. But the good news is that we have a very nice core of young building blocks already at the Major League level. But building a baseball team will always involve the same things.
dedeshon: Nats 2007 World Series champs.
Kasten: Wow, I love your enthusiasm and optimism. The truth is none of us can know how far we will go. I remind people that the last time I had a team predicted by some to finish last was in 1991 ... and of course, that team went to the seventh game of the World Series. That's not a prediction, but it's just a reminder that a season is full of many surprises, and a few breaks along the way can carry a team farther than you might imagine.
Bcuddy: Mr. Kasten, looking at the young talent that the Nationals have, and could acquire, I think the team will be serious contenders in the NL East next season. How much of a reality is that and which players will play the biggest parts in a winning season?
Kasten: Well, as I've said, we already have a lot of building blocks in place. I believe we will have a very good offense, a very good defense and a very good bullpen. That's a great place to start. Of course, we all realize that we have big questions about starting pitching, and so that's why we have spent as much time as we have trying to assemble as many young arms and prospects as we can. I don't know how soon that element will really come together, but we are working hard on that every day. Adding more quality pitching for this season and beyond is job one for us each day.
natsrgr8: When will the seat relocation info for the new stadium be available? Also, will pricing information be included?
Kasten: Sometime this summer we will be notifying our customers of the procedures for selecting seats at the new ballpark. At that time we'd also expect to announce ticket prices, which haven't been determined yet. As most of you should know by now, the priority for seat selection will go to our existing customers, starting with our oldest ones first.
louieC: Hi, Mr. Kasten. Is there a television deal in place sufficient to bring us 162 games in 2007, and if so, is it MASN/Comcast again?
Kasten: Yes, this year you should be able to see all games in most of the D.C. area, including Maryland and Virginia. It will be MASN mostly, except what they give to their local over-the-air affiliates and those games reserved for network telecast by MLB.
evolution33: Could you give us any hints as to what the next move will be in the foreign prospects market? I thank you for what has been done so far with the farm system.
Kasten: No hints! Our competitors are reading this. What I can tell you is that we've gone from a team with very little scouting effectiveness in the Caribbean to one of the industry's leaders. Already this year, we've signed prospects by trying to get out early before some of our competition. We're also starting to get organized in the Pacific Rim, but that's a little more complicated, especially in Japan, which has the posting agreement with MLB that we saw with Daisuke Matsuzaka this past year.
natsrgr8: With the recent Caravan just ending on Monday, how do you think it went? What changes will we see for 2008?
Kasten: I was so impressed with the Caravan, and a big tip of the cap to all on the Nats staff who made it happen. We tried to cover as many elements as we could, whether it was schools, or hospitals or youth centers or malls or restaurants, and we tried to mix a lot of different elements like players, manager, broadcasters in addition to Screech and the Presidents. We had fantastic reception wherever we went, from Maryland down to Virginia Beach. We plan to do it again next year, and hopefully expand it. We'd also like to have a FanFest in the future, but for this year, we thought it would be better to go out to see all of you rather than asking you to come see us.
natsrgr8: How are things going at MASN? Will there be any high def broadcasts in the future? I've read that the studios for MASN are in Baltimore. Will there be a D.C. presence for MASN?
Kasten: MASN is a very new business and is growing right alongside the Nats. There almost certainly will be high def in the future, but not in 2007. And whether or not the studios wind up being located in one place or another, you can count on a real and growing D.C. presence on the broadcasts and through all of the other programming.
linroy62: Mr. Kasten, I'm overjoyed that baseball is back in Washington. In fact, the new stadium will be within walking distance from my home. However, it is incredulous that Frank Robinson is not a part of this team. I think you and the powers that be appeared to be...
Kasten: I'm sorry that you didn't finish the question (maybe you got censored?), but I think I get the gist. When I came to town I told everyone how much I admired and respected Frank as a baseball person and human being. That continues to be the case today. But after working here for the last six to eight months, I reached a decision that, in the best interests of building this organization, it would be best not to have Frank in a full-time position. We would, however, love to keep him in the family and have him come to Spring Training, as so many great players do with their former teams, and, of course, we'd like to honor him with a special day. We're talking to him about all those things, and I hope we can work them out.
bumsfan4: My neighborhood in D.C. is diverse with a large Spanish-speaking population. I don't know why you don't have Spanish language broadcasts; you are missing a potentially large fan base.
Kasten: Great question. It's not as simple as it sounds, but it's absolutely something we plan to do. I know we will have it soon, especially now that Manny Acta is here, whom you've probably heard me say, is charismatic in two languages.
natsrgr8: I haven't heard anything more about the garages that were planned north of the stadium. Are garages still planned for that area?
Kasten: Garages are there, and there will be plenty of lots surrounding the general stadium area by the time we move in 2008. But Metro is going to be an even better alternative than it's been all these years at RFK. It will only be half the distance to the new ballpark. And for those of you who are curious, go to the new stadium renderings on our Web site and you'll notice that you can't really even see the garages from the seating bowl.
bammer102561: What do you think of the offseason spending on free agents by other clubs, particularly the Cubs? Can you compete against teams like that?
Kasten: Like most of the free world, I was left scratching my head at some of the contracts I saw. We go through this in MLB every so often, and it's usually followed by a leveling off and then more contracts from this year being offered in trade at a big discount. I think this was a good year to be sitting out the big free-agent market activity, and next year might be a very good year for us to be quite a bit more active.
bumsfan4: With respect to Nationals broadcasts, I hope that our announcers will remain objective, like Vin Scully or Red Barber, and not become homers like the Braves' announcers. Although Don Sutton is a good guy, when I heard him do Braves game, he was not very objective.
Kasten: I think Don is one of the very best analysts in all of baseball. I think our fans will start to understand things about the inner game, particularly the mano-a-mano pitching battle, that they've never known before.
bammer102561: Will Chad Cordero be a Nat when the season begins or do you think there's a chance you could deal him to strengthen some other areas of the club?
Kasten: That would certainly be my guess. Obviously, even though he's attracted so much attention from other clubs, we haven't seen anything that would interest us enough to trade him. I guess that could change any time, but I'm not expecting it.
bammer102561: Is Ryan Wagner ready to be a Major League closer?
Kasten: We're all very high on him, and we're very pleased with the progress he made once he began working with pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Fortunately, he doesn't need to be a closer here, but he could make us one of the deepest, youngest and best bullpens in the league, when you add him to the likes of Jon Rauch, Luis Ayala, and, of course, Cordero.
bammer102561: What are the highlights of the new ballpark design?
Kasten: Well, first of all, please make sure you go to our Web site and check out the renderings for yourself. In addition to great sightlines and all the best modern scoreboards, we will have so many more places to eat, much more variety, a number of other entertainment areas for kids and adults alike, bands, games, etc. In general, just a whole lot of ways to enjoyably spend three or four hours -- in addition to what we expect to have as an exciting young team.
jsandoval: How, if at all, does your approach to player development with the Nationals differ than when you were with the Braves?
Kasten: When I joined the Braves, the Minor Leagues were a little farther along. Here, we're having to spend so much of our time building both in the Minor Leagues and scouting up from the ground. But what's exciting is how much progress has been made in such a short time. We had some great additions last year and with another year of development, plus the additions we still plan to make in 2007, I think we can have the stable foundation which all teams need in place within a very short time.
bumsfan4: What is our season-ticket base for 2007 at this point?
Kasten: Truthfully, the number is fluid at this point in time, as it is for most teams this time of year. We're still hard at work finishing up renewals in addition to trying to accommodate the people who have expressed interest in relocating their current seats. Advertising and sales for new season tickets are starting right now as we enter our two busiest sales months of the year. I should have a much better handle on things by mid-March and I'll be letting everyone know then.
KenzAFan: Good afternoon, Stan. First, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat win us fans. Question: There's a major online rumor stating that it's very possible that because of pain suffered during his winter workout regimen that John Patterson may ...
Kasten: Beware of online rumors! I haven't heard that one. John is raring to go, and I fully expect him to be our Opening Day starter.
senators2005: Will the new stadium appropriately honor Washington greats like Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard? Currently there is no club that pays homage to Walter Johnson -- not even the original club in Minnesota.
Kasten: We'll be doing a lot of things like that. We're in discussion with both the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, as well as the great Phil Wood, to determine what we'll have. It's definitely in the plans.
jsandoval: What was your favorite team and who was your favorite player when you were a kid?
Kasten: Like three-fourths of America, I was a Yankee fan, and of course my idol was Mickey Mantle. My daughter just recently found my Mickey Mantle scrapbook from when I was 13. Very embarrassing!
thunderstrucknatsfan: John Patterson, when healthy, is one of the most dominating starters in the NL. He should be healthy in 2007 and is set to be the ace of the staff. Why, then, are you offering him a contract so far below what he is worth?
Kasten: I thought we had a strict rule against agents logging on to this site. I don't know what you mean about his worth. We think he's going to be very important for us and will be compensated correctly. The way I know that is that a neutral arbitrator will decide the correct amount, and that's what he'll get.
Anyway, it appears my time has run out. And it looks like there about another hundred or so questions I didn't have the time to get to. I'd like to be back as soon as possible to do this again. Thanks to all who participated ... see you at RFK.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.