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Kasten's grade: Incomplete

By Ryan Korby

Stan Kasten’s greatest skill is what is keeping me from deciding whether his resignation as Washington Nationals President is ultimately good or bad for the team. Kasten is a master at playing things close to the vest. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore says,“Kasten reached his decision at the end of the 2009 season and informed Principal Owner Ted Lerner.”  Wait, and we’re hearing about this today? In this time of national obsession and analysis of sports I find this an absolutely amazing feat by Kasten and the Nationals organization.

This skill of Kasten’s has lead to his greatest accomplishments as part of the Nationals organization. At the top of this list was the hiring of a GM in his image, Mike Rizzo, who is another guy I wouldn’t want to sit across from at a poker table. The way the Nationals front office handled the signings of all-world prospects Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, by not negotiating through the media and keeping the back-and-forth in house kept any bad publicity from taking control. This ultimately led to what everybody wanted, Strasburg and Harper under the Nationals control.

I think it’s events like these that have Nats fans in early exit polling thinking of Kasten in such a positive light.

The support for Kasten is almost unbelievable considering the man has presided over a Nationals team that hasn’t had a winning season during his tenure which began in 2006. He’ll be remembered fondly by some and derisively by others for “The Plan,” an attempt to rebuild a Nationals organization that was strip-mined by Major League Baseball before the team sale to the Lerners. The Plan has helped field a major league team increasingly built on the talent developed in house: Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa, to name a few. The cynics will say this is the only way a team can be fielded given the shoestring budget the Nationals are supposedly forced to operate on by the ownership.

Kasten’s reign also hasn’t been controversy free. He was in charge when we found out Esmailyn Gonzalez was really Carlos Alvarez. He also spent way too much time with the free-wheeling, man-without-a-plan, Jim Bowden as his General Manager.

Kasten has been so good at keeping the team’s trade secrets that it’s impossible to decide how much blame to give him for the Nationals failures. Reading the news today, there were some stories that alluded to the fact that Kasten was hamstrung by the ownership’s desire for a small budget. True to form, Kasten hasn’t said a word about this and I doubt he will once he and the Nationals have severed ties. There won’t be any tell-all memoir describing Kasten’s time in Washington, that’s just not his style.

By Box Seats blogger  | September 24, 2010; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Next: Kast away - Nats president throws it back


A lot of fans love the Nats' frugal approach, with an exclusive focus on waiting for draftees to mature (with no big money signings or trades for too-costly players). Stan Kasten got the Nats to inch up team payrolls over the years. True, payrolls are still near the bottom of MLB. However, the team payroll direction was clearly up (slightly), and I am sure Stan had a lot to do with that.

Now without Kasten, the payrolls could even go lower next year than in 2010--going backwards for the first time. It may not happen, but it is a possibility. This will give fans of Nats' frugality much to cheer for.

Posted by: EdDC | September 24, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

RK: Kasten, the early exit polling notwithstanding, was no architect of winning in DC and he'll not be missed by this STH at least, that is for sure.

His hires were iffy -- Bowden, Acta, Rizzo, Riggleman (first timers and re-treads, not one hot commodity in the bunch) -- and ironically, Bowden who gets the most venom spewed his way for Nats anemia, was the most suiccessful of the bunch (which may not be saying much, but he does get the cred for Zim, Dunn, Desmond, Bernadina, Lanan, Flores, Willingham, etc -- while no one whom Bowden cast away turned out better than expected). Kasten's promotion of the club has been suspect, and he told flat out lies to serve whatever his purpose may have been over and over. The roster at the MLB level was never even within reach of competing either on paper in the spring or in reality in the season. The farm is not very strong -- and despite telling us years ago that it would be priority numero uno for the club to build it, they did not hire a full front office until last winter, they largely refused to draft players who would demand above slot, they failed to ink Aaron Crowe, they did not go hard after international signees until this year and the club not either inking Dunn at a dsicount last spring or trading him at the deadline shows that the deer in headlights Nats management style continues. Stan had them charging top third ticket prices as they maintained a bottom third payroll, losing badly all along the way. They moved into a brand new publicy financed park in a big TV market full of Richie Riches and they elected not to put coins into the roster to draw fans and try to win games. All this and more took place under Stan's watchful, expert "build it the right way" eye.

So, the club has failed on almost every level and the fans are supposed to think that we're worse off having Stan fly away? Good riddance Mr. Kasten.

Posted by: dfh21 | September 24, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

You're wrong to think that the "exit polling" necessarily shows support or that Nats fans see Kasten in a positive light.

I see it more as a rats fleeing the ship issue: If even that schmuck Kasten is getting out, the plague in NatsTown must be really, really bad. In that sense, his leaving is a blow to the But he's still a rat.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | September 24, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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