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Kasten to Fans: Don't Worry About the Big Picture

Stan Kasten was a guest on Versus's $ports Take with Rick Horrow Tuesday night before the Caps game. This was a night featuring Twins-Tigers, Wiz-Grizzlies, Caps-Flyers, and fantasy football waiver wires, so it's possible you missed the segment.

The biggest disappointment was the word-association game they played included Ted Turner, Sid Bream, Dominique Wilkins, Hank Aaron and Bobby Cox, but not Jim Bowden or Thomas Boswell or Lastings Milledge. The happiest part was that he revealed he likes dealing with media members who have a sense of humor. That must be why he loves me so much! The oddest part was that he said fans don't have to worry about the big picture, they just have to pay attention to the score. If you say the big picture is great, and the scores are terrible, and yet fans should just pay attention to the scores and not the big picture, then you're pretty much advising your fans to go sit in the corner and stare at the moldy wall and just wait until snack time. Or whatever.

What is the level of your disappointment about the team's first two years performance in this stadium?

We know that the record on the field is deplorable. And every night that you lose, no matter how many years I've been doing this, I still can't sleep after a loss. So that's hard. But it's easier for me in some respects because I don't have to focus just on the standings or just on the score, like fans do. That's all that we need to ask them to do. They don't have to pay attention to the other things. It's not, you know, their job.

It's our job to focus on the big picture. That's made it easier for me, though, because our big picture IS so good, and we are moving in the right track, according to the plan we put in place and enunciated very clearly on our first day in the job. It's similar, not just to what happened in Atlanta, but what has happened in city after city after city that has had success. But not just success, sustained success, which is what we're after.

Do you ever resent the media?

Uh, no. I realize that I need them a lot more than they need me, and I've been beaten around pretty good. But on balance, when I look at other cities and other colleagues of mine, I think the media's been extraordinarily generous to me. I get it. The guys who understand taking sarcasm as well as giving it, I do better with those guys than the guys without any senses of humor, because I am a guy who doesn't believe I'm here just to be kicked around. I think it's fair to kick back. And some media guys have a problem with that. The ones who don't, I get along great with.

Do you consider yourself a big market team or a small market team?

Well, I never use those designations. I always talk about big revenue, small revenue, because you can be a big market like Miami but still be small revenue. I think right now we are a big market with medium revenue. I think when we do our job on the field, we're gonna be a big big market with big revenue. Two bigs in the market, only one big in revenue, because we're never gonna be L.A. or New York, but we don't have to be to win consistently.

Here's a big one, a big expense. Talk about Stephen Strasburg. Was that the most unique negotiation you've been in, and what was it like?

Because of the three teams, I've thought about this one, I've been involved in more player negotiations than anyone in the history of sports, so I don't know if it was the most unique. But it WAS different. It was trying to set a whole new paradigm for how players are paid, and his agent wanted to use this as a way to step forward. That's what the agent's supposed to do. We weren't buying the fundamental premise.

But we were early adopters of the idea that this was a unique, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime player, and we paid a lot to get him. Perhaps not as much as the agent wanted, but we set a record. So the agent did a terrific job, and the player came out really well, but we wound up with what we wanted, what our fans wanted, what our market needed, so I think this was a win-win all around.

You refer to Scott Boras as The Agent. Do you feel like you could sit down anywhere and do business with him?

I do have a good relationship with him. I think he and I see everything in life opposite. I'm not a fan of the things he does and the way he does them, but as I said before, I'm a huge fan of his success.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 8, 2009; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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I agree with you, Herr Steinbog, in that I don't think Stan really wants me to just pay attention to the scores of the games, because then I will begin despairing and stop going to the games. Those scores have been terrible.

I disagree with your use of the phrase "most unique."

Posted by: Lindemann777 | October 8, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

StanK just flat out doesn't get it.

Posted by: Section505203 | October 8, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Bad reading comprehension on my part. I disagree with the interviewer's use of the phrase "most unique."

Posted by: Lindemann777 | October 8, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Nice use of italics, Dan, they really help make Stan's smarminess come through.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 8, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Stan is the one that doesn't get it. Fans do care about more than the score because they aren't stupid and know that 'the big picture', if right and implemented properly, will ultimately result in winning scores. Geesh. How condescending.

Posted by: Wallpass | October 8, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, that was a pretty DUMB thing to say, Stan. If I wasn't paying attention to the big picture and only cared about the scores and the standings, I'd have never made it through as many games as I did this year.

Posted by: RobBob | October 8, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Here's the thing. Stan absolutely wants fans to focus on "the big picture." It's just that he believes that he can't say that, because he thinks it will alienate fans who think the Lerners don't care about the awful teams they have been fielding. So, he talks about how bright the future is and he panders to the fanbase about how torn up they are about the losing, with the underlying premise that if you are sophisticated and smart like him, you can see beyond that and you'll be happy about "the big picture." Which, as others have pointed out, is an incredibly condescending approach.

The amazing thing to me is how Stan has been able to get almost a free pass from the media when he makes these assertions that the "future is so good" or talks about his "long list of pitchers." The fact is, it's not true. Aside from Strasburg (who has not pitched in a minor league game yet), the Nats really don't have any standout prospects among all of baseball. His "long list of pitchers" is comprised of guys who for the most part don't have very high upside. And also, it's important to remember that every single team has prospects. Each of the other 29 teams have their own Derek Norris and Drew Storen, if not more of them. The top prospects lists are hardly littered with Nats. Here's something that Joe Posnanski wrote recently about the Royals, but it is equally apt for the Nats:

"Bill James said something a while ago that I thought was about as good a thought about bad baseball teams as anything I’ve heard. He said, “The future is not a plan.” And I think that’s exactly right. Every baseball team has a future. Every one. Every team has “prospects” — Baseball America next year will list off 30 for each team. Every team is loaded down with players in Class A who, if things go well, can emerge as the next great superstar. Every team has pitchers who could, and hitters who might, and catchers who should, and base runners who conceivably can. Every team in baseball.

"And because every team has a future, it’s easy to fool yourself. It’s easy to talk about how things will get better. This is not always a bad thing. This is what gives fans hope every spring training. This is what keeps players inspired. This is what keeps baseball people going forward. And sometimes, rarely, a team even might fool itself into believing that it is better than the apparent talent and play at that higher level, at least for a while.

"But … more often than not, fooling yourself isn’t much of a plan for survival. And thus, The Hochevar Principle: The future comes to all teams. Some teams wait for it. Those teams finish in last place a lot."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 9, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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