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Stan Kasten: Nats "so much closer than it appears"

On the one hand, the Nats have won two straight, have one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and have at least two other promising pitching prospects who are about to return from injury. On the other hand, they're in last place in the NL East yet again. On the one hand, they seem likely to improve by about a dozen wins this season. On the other hand, that would still leave them with about 90 losses.

If you want the optimistic spin on things, and you don't want it from an award-winning Washington Post author, the best place to go is Stan Kasten. Kasten talked for close to two hours on ESPN 980 this week, and he yet again gave his pitch for why we should believe that this thing is about to turn around, and quickly.

He said when interviewing prospective GM candidates last year, one candidate whom he really liked and respected suggested the Nats needed to blow everything up and start over.

"And I had to tell him as I told our owners then, that was just dead wrong," Kasten told 980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro. "I will tell you from being inside, we are so much closer than it appears from the outside, because we have the pipeline of pitching almost here. And once you have the pipeline to back up the rotation, you're ready to go, and that's why I think we're so much closer than our current record would suggest. I know what our record is, I know it's bad, I know it's last place, but it's all about the starting rotation."

So, when does "closer" finally become "now?"

"It can be as soon as next year," Kasten said. "You can't predict those things because it's impossible. If everybody's healthy, we should be thinking about not just competing but even contending next year. That's what I'm thinking about, that's what our whole organization should be thinking about and is thinking about....I know how quickly you can go from 106 losses -- which I had once with a team -- to the World Series three years later. I know that that can happen. I think we're on a track to make that happen."

A whole lot of people -- present company included -- are content to just print these quotes and let readers make of them what they will. Loverro, though, is a more questioning soul. So he asked Kasten, with all due respect, whether he really believed the Nats had a big enough pipeline of position players up the middle to take advantage of the starting pitching boomlet.

"Well, let's look at that," Kasten said. "I think that if you have a starting rotation you'd be surprised what you can succeed with. You don't need All-Stars at every position if you've got that starting rotation; you need good, competent productivity everywhere. If I can simplify, I think you need your defense up the middle, I think you need your power from the corners, and I think we have a lot of that now and can get the rest.

"It doesn't have to be internally. If it's one or two needs, then we should just go get it. And now would be the time - and I've talked about this from the day I got here - there will come a time when your final pieces are free agents. I think we're close to that time. if we have a rotation, if we have enough of the position players identified and it's only one or two spots, well, then go get it.

"I do think we have players coming. I think you're selling us short to a certain extent, because we do see a big future for Danny Espinosa and for Chris Marrero and Derek Norris right behind him, and a couple other names. It's true that we have gone heavy on pitching, but that was by design."

(You can listen to the entire two hours here, if you're so inclined.)

One final interesting nugget came when Kasten was asked to address the nature of D.C. as a sports town.

"It's exactly what I thought when I came," he said. "It's a huge town, a lot of rabid support, also a lot of affluent potential customers. We've seen what happens when you get really into their skin, like the Redskins did, but now we've seen how easy it is when you just have a little bit of success, like the Caps have had. And it'll be the same with the Wizards, with all the excitement that we're already seeing because of the change in ownership with Ted taking that over, with John Wall coming in. And we see how easy it's been to turn with Strasburg. We're coming off two 100-loss seasons, and we're going to be in the middle of the pack attendance-wise before long, and that's a real tribute to the fans that we have in this area."

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 22, 2010; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Next: Clinton Portis's offseason

Comments

3 things must happen for me to believe it.

If they re-sign Dunn, go out and grab the best free agent 2nd baseman available next off season and maybe another proven outfielder and finally, if the Pitching Rotation has Stras, Zimm, the kid from Cuba, Leivo/Lanahan/Olson. Sure then they are ready.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 22, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The guy is delusional. What starting pitching? They have 1 pitcher for the future. Everyone else is a rehab maybe. That's it. They have a minor league rotation thanks to Kasten and Rizzo. It's a complete joke.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 22, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"Everyone else is a rehab maybe. "

You have no idea what you're talking about. Go sign a defensive lineman or something.

Posted by: Section406 | July 22, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is in rehab, that is an absolutely correct statement, we have been hearing all season about the glut of starting pitching that is going to arrive any day now. To quote Goff: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Kasten has been preaching about this team being close to turning things around since the day he walked in the door, anyone who believes anything that snake says is a fool.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | July 22, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

What I think StanK really means by "so close" is the Phillie fans poised to invade NatsTwon next weekend!

Funny that Red Zebra would even allow StanK on their airwaves. Isn't that the 24X7X365 mouth piece of the B&G. StanK must be negotiating next years broadcast rights w/Synder

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 22, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

skins-fan, as your "handle" says it all why even bother to comment? 12 games better is turning it around and new pitchers will be up, perhaps as early as the next two weeks, powerboater. I will guarantee you one thing, the NATS will not have the number 1 over all pick for the 2011 draft (think that team up 95 way).

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | July 23, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

In 2006-2007 the Caps won just 28 games, one year after winning just 29 games. On Thanksgiving in 2007, the Caps were in last place in their conference yet came out of nowhere to win their division and have won their division 3 years in a row. Quick turnarounds when you have a lot of young talent on the roster.

The Nats could turn it around just as quickly and seemingly come out of nowhere to contend next season. I wouldn't bet on it but I wouldn't be calling him delusional or a snake for thinking that it could happen.

Posted by: CapsNut | July 23, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I actually think StanK is right, they do have a lot of pitching in the minors, and rehabing, but there seems to be some difficulty in getting it to translate to the major league level. I think what he's saying is that if all their "IFs" pan out, the pitching is set for a long time. But that's a LOT of "IFs".

For next season, they need to re-sign Dunn, lock up Willingham, get an everyday 2B, look for an upgrade at CF (or move Bernadina and get a RF), find out if Desmond can cut down on the errors, find out if Flores can ever play again and at what level, and have the3pitching continue to develop.

My only problem with Zim / Dunn / Willingham in the middle of the lineup is that they all tend to be very streaky hitters, and unless 2 of them are on the same streak, it can be difficult for this team to get consistent production.

Posted by: kingrob76 | July 23, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

As a military brat with no hometown, I latched onto the Braves. I now love the Nats. Washington, welcome to Stan Kasten's 90's Atlanta Braves...strong pitching, no hitting....one World Series title in 14 or so straight division titles. I would have traded 10 division titles for just one more WS ring. I don't like what I'm hearing, we have to build position players, you cannot just have good starting pitching. C'mon Stan.

Posted by: jbfromfc | July 23, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't like what I'm hearing, we have to build position players, you cannot just have good starting pitching. C'mon Stan.

Posted by: jbfromfc | July 23, 2010 10:21 AM

I'll take the 90s Braves, thank you very much!

Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"My only problem with Zim / Dunn / Willingham in the middle of the lineup is that they all tend to be very streaky hitters, and unless 2 of them are on the same streak, it can be difficult for this team to get consistent production."

True. But a lot of hitters in the majors are streaky, and most teams can deal with it because they get production throughout the lineup. It's not just middle of the lineup, wait it out a few innings, middle of the lineup.

This is crude, but I'm looking at RBI production on Washington v Atlanta. Dunn-Zimm-Willingham have driven in 161 runs. Those three guys account for 42.1% of our RBIs.

Glaus-Heyward-McCann have driven in 153. A little less. But Prado-Jones-Hinske have 113. Desmond-Rodriguez-Bernadina have 93. Infante and Cabrera add 51. Guzman and Harris have 45. Then there's five other guys after them in the double digits. We only have four, then Craig Stammen with 6. Overall, their top three RBI producers only provide 36.7% of the production.

I just picked Atlanta because they're the division leader. But I doubt you'll find another team that reliant on its top three hitters. Or another that gets only 221 RBIs without them.

Posted by: 202character | July 23, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"one World Series title in 14 or so straight division titles." I'd like either one of those things for the Nats.

Posted by: 202character | July 23, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

We actually do have some good pitching in the pipeline. Strasburg, Livo, and then we just need a few of the following seven to work out: the Cuban guy, J-Zimmermann, Detweiler (who is coming off of hip surgery, not elbow or shoulder), Wang, Lannan, Olsen, Marquis.

The bullpen is actually pretty solid -- Capps, Storen, Clippard, etc.

So, I think I hear what Kasten is saying: if just a few of those seven potential pitchers work out, _then_ they will be close enough so that it makes sense to go free-agency to get those last few missing pieces in the field.

Posted by: ADCWonk | July 23, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

kasten=snake oil salesman

Posted by: jpfterps | July 23, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Kasten the Carnival Barker has no other job but to put lipstick on the pig that is Lerner ownership. He's insulting our intelligence with this drivel, we're too smart a market to keep buying his silly PR lines.

The GM and manager are here because they came cheap, and now act like spineless company men. The manager is remarkably unqualified, and could lose if you gave him the Yankee lineup, he'd start Willie Harris over A-Rod. Whether they re-sign Dunn or not, the dysfunction will continue, it's far stronger than one contract. And Mini Me is going to take over when his old man Lerner dies?

This team is not close to anything except setting records for losses.

Posted by: tgt111 | July 25, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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