Here is the full transcript, as promised, of team president Stan Kasten's address to fans yesterday at the NatsFest.
You see my friends here, you see Manny Acta and Mike Rizzo and Jim [Bowden] or, as I like to call them, 'the guys that get the blame for everything' -- so, thanks, but they've had their time to talk all day, and I want to talk to you a little bit today about how I see stuff and what I see for the franchise and what I see for the upcoming season. And I'm gonna try to be candid today. I hope that's OK with everyone. It isn't always OK, because sometimes when people are candid you don't get what you would like to get. I tell people the story -- during the 1999 NLCS I was with the Braves then and we were playing the Dreaded, Hated New York Mets. That's what we used to call them, the Mets, down there. It's also what we call the Mets here, by the way. But they were less dreaded then because in the '90s we always beat them. But, we were in the NLCS together, and the worst thing about playing the Dreaded, Hated New York Mets was we also got to contend with the Dreaded, Hated New York Media, who follows them everywhere.
And it was during this season that we had a young emerging star becoming a media sensation. He was our closer. Someone named John Rocker. You've all heard that name. Well, this was before he became really, really famous. (Laughter.) OK? It was like a month before he became really, really famous. So during the games there is always a media session beforehand, and John was just beginning his celebrity, and he was spouting off about New York this and New York that and just killing people -- and of course the New York media loves nothing better than this. And so the next day there's a column about what a great young face for baseball this is. What candor! What refreshing candor! This is just what baseball needs.
And so the writer, the columnist for the New York Post, was a friend of mine, and I went over to him because we saw a trainwreck about to happen. We knew this was riding off the rails in the not too distant future, and this was the last thing baseball needed. So I went to the writer the next day before the game and I said, 'You're out of your mind.'
And he said, 'No no, Stan, this is the best thing for baseball. Candor. Candor is great; we love candor.'
I said, really, 'You like candor?'
He says, 'Yeah.'
'You want some candor? I think you're an idiot.'
And a month later I was proven right when he did that famous story in Sports Illustrated. Anyway, I am gonna try to be candid to you and tell you what I see for this team, because I couldn't be more optimistic about where we are and where we are going. Just from my perspective you try to put things in context. Last year by the time the year ended we were the youngest team in baseball. By the time the year ended we were the most injured team in baseball. Now, young teams always have a problem winning -- not just in this league but in any sport. Injured teams always have a problem winning. And so when you're the youngest and the most injured, let's face it, you're gonna have a problem winning. And that's what we experienced last year.
But we've had a very productive offseason. I know maybe we haven't yet had the headlines you wanted us to make -- yet -- but we still have had a very productive offseason. The injuries, you know, we haven't talked a lot about this but we took it very seriously, and without pointing fingers or blaming one, we have completely revamped our strength and conditioning program. We have completely revamped our medical staff -- again, without blaming anyone, but taking a hard look at the things we could fix and we set out to do that. On the playing field, again without blaming anyone, we felt we needed some changes, some new blood on the coaching staff, and we completely replaced the coaching staff except for Randy St. Claire. Those are the subtle things we have done. But that young team and that injured team is now coming back a year older, a year more mature, with a lot of good young talent. And that team that was injured last year -- they're all healthy. They're all coming back healthy. Though I do have to tell ya: Tommy Glavine, back in Atlanta, once said to me -- and he couldn't have been more right -- that no matter how hard you train all offseason, after the first workout on the first day of spring training, nobody is ever 100 percent anymore for the rest of the year.
So, but we all have to endure that and young players typically can endure the marathon much better than older players. So, we're a little older. We're a little more experienced. We're quite a bit healthier. In addition we've made some pretty good changes to our team. I was very pleased that we could add a young, proven veteran like Josh Willingham, and now we have I think the makings of a very good offense. The team last year that was last in the National League in runs now has a chance to be very good offensively. That excites me. The other additions we've made -- Scott Olsen, Daniel Cabrera -- you can think of us as having replaced Tim Redding and Odalis Perez with Scott Olsen and Daniel Cabrera. I like those moves. Not that Tim didn't do a good job for us; not that Odalis didn't do a great job for us. But where we're going, I feel much better giving the shot to two young pitchers in our rotation so that we can all grow together. So I'm feeling very good about that.
And, we're still working on stuff. I don't know where we're going to wind up, but I do know we're still working, and as Jim has told you he works every day to talk to the free agents that we're interested in, he talks to teams about the trades we're interested in, and I don't know that the team is going to be much different between now and Opening Day, but we all want it to be. We all want to continue to supplement what we have, and we're all working hard at it.
We also have an awful lot of depth, though, at least position-wise, so we know we're going to have some competitions on the diamond all through our extra-long spring training this year -- because of the World Baseball Classic it's longer than usual, so we have more time for more competition for more jobs. So, I know we're going to be better than last year already. I'm optimistic about it. And I can't wait to get started.
Your experience at the ballpark is gonna be better. Many of you know we're putting in our three statues that will be our in the centerfield plaza either by Opening Day or shortly thereafter -- Josh Gibson and Walter Johnson and Frank Howard. They will be out there. Big changes to the Red Porch right behind you. People don't know, I think, that the Red Porch was the last thing built in this stadium. The stadium was built starting from the right field bullpen and working around. And so the last thing completed was the Red Porch. We got it literally the day before the season opened. So all year long it was really just a shell. What's gonna happen there is the walls you see now out there where it says Red Porch are being blow out, and it's going to open up right into the ballpark with tables out into the stands. The other wall into the plaza is being blown out; we're having the patio with seats on the plaza with a firepit out there. And of course we're changing the floors and the walls and the menu, so it's going to be a much different experience.
We're also putting a stage in centerfield so that we can have even more pre-game activities and continue to make this a great place to come to three hours before the game, which is when we open up. It's a great place to watch BP, and if you don't want to watch BP there is plenty of other things you can do out there. Also new this year: We're gonna have the MASN pre-game show live from center field every night. And Johnny and Ray will be there and also -- there are still some surprises we have to announce about that; that's gonna be happening in the plaza before every game this year.
We have some changes coming in the food preparation and service and quality area I can't talk about yet, but we are going to make some announcements soon -- not just in the food quality, but also in the way we try to reach out to fans. We're going to have more in the way of value meals this year, because we know the budget is something everyone is worried about. (Applause.) We're gonna tinker with some all-you-can-eat sections on certain nights; this has become popular in other cities. We're going to try experimenting with it ourselves this year. You know that we've decreased the prices on season tickets on so many seats in the ballpark. We've decreased the prices on individual game ticket prices on so many seats this year. We're going to be announcing, I think soon, as soon as we can work it out, more of the packages that some of you have been asking about -- some of the specialty packages in certain sections, because it's something you have asked for. So we're gonna be doing that. We're trying to reach out in a hundred different ways to make what has always been true even more true in '09, and that is the very best [experience? value?... kind of inaudible, sorry] you can have, anywhere ever, to spend your three or four hours in the evening or afternoon at a major league ballpark. That has never been more true than it is today. Those who are watching their budget, you can't have a better time than coming to a ballpark. Irrespective of what that evening's score is, I know people have a great time coming when they come here, and they're gonna have a better time in '09.
Couple other things people ask me when I talk to them that I wanted to address here. First, payroll. 'Stan, what is the payroll gonna be?' I get that question a lot. I've always had it for all of the years I've been in sports, any of the sports I've been in, and I am bewildered why fans ask me that. Because first of all, I don't know. Second of all, if I knew I wouldn't tell you -- because I've never talked about payroll, and you know why? It's because you really don't care. You think you care. I know you don't care. And here's why: You don't care about payroll. Who here wanted us to sign Mark Teixeira? Show of hands. Anyone? OK. Me, too. But let me ask, do you care -- do you care -- if we paid him $180 million or $18 million dollars? You don't care what we're paying. You just want him here. I get that.
Another question. Do you want last year's -- I won't name the teams in the American League that had payrolls all over $100 million that ended up last -- do you want those $100 million teams? Or do you want the $40 million team from Tampa that went to the World Series? OK. You don't care about payroll. What you care about is your team. Payroll is not a guarantee of success, and it is not an excuse for losing. So don't be distracted by it, no matter how much the media wants you to be distracted by it. OK? Care about the team. Care about the moves we're making, care about the progress we're making. That's what you should be demanding. Be demanding that the team is aggressive, the team is making moves, the team has a plan -- and that is building toward the team that you want, not the payroll number that you want. Because that doesn't matter. Get the team that you want here. That is what you should always be focusing on. So that is my answer to that question.
And finally, a little philosophy. People ask me, 'Stan, how is the team gonna be in '09? How many wins are we gonna have?' And I don't -- it's impossible to predict, particularly because of injuries and particularly because we're a young team and the pace of development is something you can't know. And I also can't know how my competitors are gonna be. So you never can know. But I feel very good about our team across the diamond because we have young talent and even an excess of talent at all of our positions now. But the reason I really can't know about our team is because we could have the best offense in the league, and it still all comes down to pitching. That is just the way it is. It's always been that way. It's always gonna be that way in baseball. And for me, that is the big unknown about our team. We have at least five young guys that we're thinking will be in our rotation. I'm excited by that, because a year from now we may very well say, 'Wow, those were the five guys.' I think so. I hope so. I'd like that to be the case, because let's face it -- this is a personal philosophy of mine: I don't believe in signing free agent pitchers, at least not big ones.
I have this debate with people from time to time, usually also with agents for pitchers. I don't believe in signing -- I know [inaudible] will remind me that in my career I have signed big, successful free agent pitching contracts, and I'm sure I will again someday, but in my mind that really is a final piece in the puzzle. Before you spend money on a pitcher which is so expensive and so risky, I'd much rather go the way we're going, trotting out the young guys because not only are the young guys we have penciled in now really projecting to be big-time starters, but we also have a crop right behind them. So I like the way we're developing. If we get the five, or five of the eight, to turn the corner and become major league pitchers then we're off to the races -- right now, this year. If not, we have to keep working on it. But because you can't really buy pitching -- look at the contracts in the last five years of free agent pitchers; it's impossible to figure -- so because you can't buy pitching, I just believe in building our own... and I do feel it is happening. And I can't tell you which will be the final four or five pitchers that helps us cross the finish line, but I believe they're here, or I believe three or four of them are here and we can go get one more if that's what we need. So because I don't know how our pitching will be, I can't tell you how our season will be. But I feel good about our offense. I feel good enough about our defense out there. It will all turn on pitching.
I hope you're going to be patient with me as we watch our pitchers develop. I would rather do that than go out and make a very risky free agent pitching acquisition. Maybe that's too candid for some people. But that is how I feel about that. Anyway, that's all I have to say for now, and my time is starting to run down, so I do want to open this up and we'll now take questions.
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 26, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | January 26, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Aterio | January 26, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JohninMpls | January 26, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jctichen | January 26, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nats24 | January 26, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: baseballindc1 | January 26, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Section505203 | January 26, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BobLHead | January 26, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BobLHead | January 26, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kecoh | January 26, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jcampbell1 | January 26, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jcampbell1 | January 26, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nunof1 | January 26, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Section505203 | January 26, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BobLHead | January 26, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nunof1 | January 26, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Avar | January 26, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cokedispatch | January 26, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jcampbell1 | January 26, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Section505203 | January 26, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: leetee1955 | January 26, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: comish4lif | January 26, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 26, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: soundbloke | January 26, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 26, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NatsNut | January 26, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: muddapucker | January 26, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 26, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JohninMpls | January 26, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Offense-offensive | January 26, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: EdDC | January 26, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CALSGR8 | January 26, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mcwop | January 27, 2009 6:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sect104 | January 27, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: makplan20002 | January 27, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: makplan20002 | January 27, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: howjensen | January 27, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.