Tag Archives: Stan Kasten

Stan Kasten is the former president of the Washington Nationals. He oversaw the team’s move to Nationals Park and the signings of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. He had previously served in a similar role for the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers.

Evaluating Stan Kasten: Nats player development

In September 2006, a season ticketholder invited me to meeting with Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten. In the meeting, he explained his three pillars of running a baseball team – player development, customer satisfaction, and community involvement. It seems appropriate to judge his tenure against these 3 pillars. Today, I will focus on player development.

Q: Name all player the Nationals drafted who has been an All-Star since Kasten became president of the team

A: Ryan Zimmerman, drafted in 2005 before Kasten was involved.

Okay, that might be too simple and since Kasten was only around for 4 seasons, so let’s offer a different question:

Q. Name all the position players that were drafted under Kasten that have been a starter for more than 1 season

A. zero

3B Zimmerman was in the big leagues before Kasten arrived. SS Ian Desmond was drafted by the Montreal Expos and just finished his rookie season. 1B Adam Dunn was a free agent (probably will be again). 2B Danny Espinosa, drafted in 2007, who got called up late this year seems to have a good shot at being a starter. At catcher, two free agents, Ivan Rodriguez and Wil Nieves were behind the plate for most of the season. Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Minnesota Twins for Matt Capps spent time in the minors before being called up late. Rule 5 draft selection Jesus Flores is still trying to heal from shoulder surgery. I think prior to being injured, the case could be made that Flores was a solid pickup.

In the outfield, LF Josh Willingham came in a trade with Scott Olsen for Emilano Bonifacio. Roger Bernadina was signed in 2001 and only became a regular this year. Nyjer Morgan arrived in a trade. Willie Harris was a free agent and 28 year old Michael Morse arrived in a trade for Ryan Langerhans.

So, the Kasten record on position players is not something to brag about, though that may improve if Espinosa continues to play well.

The Nats have developed one starting pitcher who was a member of the rotation for at least two seasons and that is John Lannan who was drafted in 2005. Lannan had sub-4.00 in his first two complete seasons, but regressed in the first half of this year and was demoted. He returned to the majors and regained his old form in the latter part of the season. Two promising pitchers, Jordann Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg (#1 overall pick) have both had Tommy John surgery. Zimmermann is just coming back, Strasburg has to get through his rehab. Ross Detwiler, a 2007 #1 pick, had a hip injury that cost most of the 2010 season. There is still hope with starting pitching development, mostly from Zimmermann and Strasburg, but it remains less than a pipeline of talent.

International development, something Kasten suggested the Nats were better primed to take advantage by virtue of being in Washington, has not happened. Perhaps the Smiley Gonzales/Carlos Alavarez scandal made him or ownership gun-shy about international prospects, because nothing seems to be happening on that front. Given that in addition to Gonzales/Alavarez lying about his age there were allegations of criminal misconduct by GM Jim Bowden and other subordinates, I can’t fault Kasten for going easy in Latin America. Yunesky Maya, a Cuban defector, was signed this season though and has made several starts for the Nats.

The elephant in the room of Kasten’s tenure of player development is Bowden. There are plenty of cocktail party suppositions that Bowden had more influence with the Lerner Family than Kasten did and Bowden prevailed upon them that he could take shortcuts with teambuilding by grabbing questionable characters on the cheap instead of spending significant money and following Kasten’s Atlanta Braves model. Throw in some poor drafts by Bowden and the farm system that was gutted during MLB’s ownership of the franchise and Kasten was in a very deep hole. I don’t think he ever got out of it, but history may vindicate him a little bit. I certainly hope so.

Overall, I don’t think Kasten was getting too many good pitches to hit and he couldn’t overcome it. In 2 years we will have a better idea of Kasten’s player development record but so far it isn’t good. Current GM Mike Rizzo, handpicked by Kasten in 2006 as an assistant GM and promoted in 2009, is an improvement over Bowden but his grade is also incomplete.

In my next installment, I’ll look at the Nats community involvement under Kasten.

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Is Stan Kasten leaving the Nats?

THOMAS BOSWELLAs Nats embark on next journey, will Stan Kasten be on board?The Post
Boswell thinks that Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten has grown tired of not being able to influence the Lerner family into spending more on payroll (especially for the Nationals Park debut) and misses his family in Atlanta. Boswell’s conclusion — Kasten is gone.

Boswell suggests that Kasten’s sarcastic and argumentative style might clash with Ted Lerner, who is a self-made billionaire. Boswell also acknowledges that this may be an effort by Kasten to provoke the Lerner family into taking him more seriously about matters like raising the payroll.

Kasten has frustrated me for over four years now and generally, when he does something right he goes off and does something boneheaded like overtly market to Phillies fans instead of D.C. area residents. I am inclined to agree with Boswell that the Nats are in better shape if Kasten sticks around though.

By the way Bos, Kasten was president of the Atlanta Thrashers, not the Flames, who left for Calgary since about 1980.

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Nats sign #1 overall pick Bryce Harper at 11:59

Washington Nationals sign Bryce Harper to $9.9 million contractThe Post
Zuckerman: Nats Sign Harper Before DeadlineCSN Washington
Nats, top pick Harper agree to five-year dealnationals.com
With Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals now have three franchise playersThe Post
The Washington Nationals signed #1 overall pick Bryce Harper to a $9.9 million major league contract with a $6.25 million signing bonus included. The 17 year old former Sports Illustrated cover boy is expected to play in the minor leagues for 2-3 years. Nats scouting director Kris Kline compared Harper to Jason Heyward. Kline, who had drafted Heyward while with the Atlanta Braves would not elaborate on which one he thought had more potential.

The contract terms were not agreed to until 11:59 p.m. yesterday, coming down to the wire. Harper actually signed later than Stephen Strasburg did last year. Both players are represented by uber agent Scott Boras, so this was not unexpected. Nats president Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo both expressed that they had doubts up until the final minute that the deal would get done. Kasten celebrated by sticking a shaving cream pie in Rizzo’s face. Someone else put the Silver Elvis wig (remember that? On Elvis death day too) on Rizzo.

Harper will join the Gulf Coast League and likely the Arizona Fall League. He will be introduced to D.C. during the Nats next homestand.

More draft coverage coming over lunch.

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What are you going to ask Stan Kasten tomorrow?

Tomorrow morning at 10:00, Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten will appear on WTOP’s The Politics Program with Mark Plotkin. He’ll likely ask Kasten a tough question or two (plus the “what are the Nats doing for D.C. voting rights question) and maybe even let some callers ask some too. I don’t think I’ll get to call in, but if I did, I would probably ask a question like one of the following:

After several years of losing, front office scandals and disagreements with the District, what are you doing to make people love the Nats? Just putting Stephen Strasburg out there every five days isn’t enough.

What have you learned about the fanbase, D.C.’s political establishment (local and national) that you wished you had known when you took over the team 4 years ago?

Why were the Nats unwilling to give the general public a chance to buy single game tickets to Opening Day?

Will the Nats ticket reps be courting out of town fans for group sales for big games like Opening Day, July 4, etc.?

I am sure I could come up with several more, but I think these are some pretty good ones. I encourage you to participate and ask similar questions. Something along the lines of “You have handled your hair loss with dignity, why hasn’t Mark “The Combover” Plotkin done the same?


The Nats are due back from a nasty 1-5 Lake Erie road trip (Nats Insider). The only game they won — the one Stephen Strasburg started last Sunday at the Clveland Indians. He gets to be the stopper again as he takes the hill at Nationals Park against the Chicago White Sox Friday night.

As for that road trip, the Detroit Tigers sweep was the first time the Nats lost a whole 3 game series. Since the logistics of a mayor’s bet are too hard (half-smokes don’t go through the mail well), my friend J.J. and I agreed that the fan of the team that lost the series would call the other. I left a message.

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Nats should be candid about how many group sales were made to Philly

Nationals Park infiltrated by Phillies fans on opening dayThe Post
Whether the Washington Nationals acted in good faith selling Opening Day tickets is really a moot point. It is possible that the Philadelphia Phillies fans group ticket buys simply snowballed before anybody figured out that Washingtonians would be left out of an opportunity to buy Opening Day tickets — they sold out in 7 minutes in the public sale. There may not have been anything they could have done about it. The Lerner Family and Stan Kasten do not get the benefit of the doubt though, not after Kasten begging Phillies fans to come to last year’s opener on Philadelphia radio and not after two consecutive 100+ loss seasons.

The article above reveals that one ticket agent, Bree Parker*, sought out one Phillies fan group and sold them over 500 tickets. The team should reveal how many more times this happened. They don’t have to of course, but transparency with fans and other stakeholders is the most responsible way to handle the situation. Additionally, we need to get Kasten and the Lerners “WWTLD” bracelets — What Would Ted Leonsis Do?

In his book “The Business of Happiness” Leonsis talks about building communities and uses the Capitals as an example. For the last several years, that fan community has been a happy one, for the obvious reason that they are winning, but also in large part because the people running the Caps have been open about what they are doing. Making Caps fans happy is the franchise goal which has translated to record-breaking ticket and merchandise sales. When bad things have happened, Leonsis has faced the music which has built up trust in the Caps brand. The Nats would do well to learn this lesson.

In summation, hey Nats — people want to like you, maybe LOVE you, so don’t make them feel stupid for being a fan. It is just good business.

By the way, with less than a week before Opening Day 2005, I was able to get four together at Citizens Bank Park for the first official Nats game. Just sayin’

About that Philly fan invasion – DC Sports Bog, The Post

How Philly fans overtook D.C.Nats Insider

*Parker was very helpful setting up my group ticket buy for my bachelor party in 2005.

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The end of the "In Viera…even better" meme? Nats looking into Ft. Myers

City of Palms will be in National spotlightThe News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.
Thanks to @cnichols14/@RoscoeNats I learned why Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten wasn’t at Nationals Park Media Day — they were scoping out the Boston Red Sox spring training City of Palms facility in Fort Myers, Fla. The facility is becoming available because the Red Sox are building a new one elsewhere in that area. The Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays also train nearby and that is one of the selling points — less travel. Currently, the Nats have to travel at least 50 miles for any spring training game.

I don’t know Florida too well and I’ve only been in Palm Beach and Broward counties, plus Walt Disney World, so I cannot add anything from personal experience about Viera or Fort Myers. Washingtonians have been critical of Viera in the past. Currently, the Nats lease there runs through 2017, but they can buy their way out. They have been there since their days as the Montreal Expos.

Oh and in case you are wondering, a Panera is located 3.9 miles from City of Palms Park. Close enough, Barry Svrluga?

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Nats partnering with Cherry Blossom festival a positive step

PRESS RELEASE – Washington Nationals partner with National Cherry Blossom Festivalnationals.com
I have been critical about the Nats nearly non-existent marketing from about day one. Back then it was because MLB did not want to spend money or do anything to offend cowardly, coddled Peter Angelos. The Lerner/Kasten regime did not improve matters much after the first weekend of ownership. To say they have had a learning curve would be understating it — they have a learning sphere (about the size of the baseball that was proposed for behind centerfield). So, when the press release linked above came into my Inbox, I was pleased. I can’t say if partnering with the long-running National Cherry Blossom Festival will sell them many tickets in 2010, but it is a step in the right direction.

“The blooming of the cherry blossoms and the crack of the bat have come to signify the start of Spring in Washington,” said Nationals President Stan Kasten. “The Nationals are excited to take part in the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a long-standing tradition in the District celebrating the beginning of new seasons – Spring and baseball.”

Kasten is exaggerating about the baseball part, but hopefully it won’t be an exaggeration much longer. The exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox on April 3 and the second and third games of the season vs. the Philadelphia Phillies are also officially part of the festival.

Good work Nats PR, you are showing signs of improvement.

By the way, the cherry blossoms peak bloom is predicted to be April 3 – 8 (The Post)

In other news: I can’t get worked up one way or another about spring training games. The Nats went with split squads yesterday and got crushed (Nationals Journal, The Post) by the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins. Maybe I’ll listen on Monday when Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler are doing the game.

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Good thing I knew a season ticketholder; Nats Opening Day nearly sold out

Opening Day tix nearly sold outNats Insider
I would love to think that the Washington Nationals selling out all but singles to Opening Day by 10:07 a.m. meant a healthy fanbase, but I have a bad feeling it means a lot of seats were sold to Phillies fans already. If that’s the case, Stan Kasten is going to be raked over the coals.

Let me publicly thank my friend Joe Riley for ordering me some tickets ahead of the public sale. Not only did he secure me some seats, but he saved me some money.

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Nats: Hey, Stan Kasten! Did the Braves lead MLB in arbitration when they were winning?

Nats win arbitration case with Bruneynationals.com
Brian Bruney, late of the New York Yankees and now under contract with the Washington Nationals, lost his arbitration case yesterday. This saves the Nats a whole $375,000. As FJB points out, the Nats go to arbitration an awful lot. Somebody with a press pass needs to ask Nats president Stan Kasten if was that the business model in Atlanta during the 14 consecutive division titles run under his watch. Then they need to see what he says and run it against the historical record.

Given that the Nats have had a whole 2 seasons out of 5 that expectations were exceeded and three that were pretty bad perhaps it may be time to re-evaluate this policy. Arbitration is a tough process where the team has to list why a player isn’t worth more money. It is reasonable to assume that players who have been badmouthed by management and paid less than they wanted might not give as optimum an effort all the time. I’m not saying I feel sorry for guys like Bruney who will make only $1.5 million, I’m just saying it is the way it is.

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Nats have a real front office now? We’ll see

Front-office overhaul gives Washington Nationals new respectThe Post
Entering their sixth season (wow, already?!) the Washington Nationals appear to finally have a MLB quality front office after two years of MLB rule and another three years of excuses and Jim Bowden. At long last, the Lerner ownership seems to be following The Plan that Stan Kasten preached but didn’t actually follow. The promotion of Mike Rizzo, well-regarded from his long career as a scout, to general manager has given the franchise credibility throughout the sport. At least, that is what the Nats front office keeps saying.

The story is framed in part by the hiring of Jay Robertson, a Texas Rangers cast-off with over 25 years of scouting experience. Robertson was 95% committed to going to a different team and only spoke to Rizzo as a courtesy. However, Rizzo talked Robertson into signing with the Nats before they even got to specifics like car allowance and per diems. After a 10 hour session with the whole braintrust over the organization’s players and the free agents available, Robertson said he had not had that much fun in 10 to 15 years. Rizzo says the Nats now have “manpower and brainpower.” Sounds good, but we’ll need to see the results.

Conspicuous by its absence in the article was any mention of international scouting.

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