Kasten: "Mike Physically Led Our Team In There..."
Team President Stan Kasten just finished addressing the media about today's Normandy-like operation in the Dominican. First, I'll highlight what Kasten said in bullets. Then, you'll get the trasnscript.
* The Nats will reduce their Dominican operation from two teams to one
* The team has fired Jose Rijo and Jose Baez
* They have released 14 players
* They will relocate to a complex in Boca Chica
* They have replaced virtually all of the office staff and coaches
* The new complex will be up and running on Monday
* Fernando Ravelo will head up the new Dominican operation
* Kasten is doubtful that the operation in the DR will be operating at full-throttle this year; his plan is to be up to speed by 2010.
* Kasten did not directly address whether Rijo's firing correlates with new revelations of wrongdoing in Rijo's behalf
* When asked if other team employees still might be fired, Kasten returned the subject to Rijo and Baez, and later said that he supports all team employees.
Earlier today we did terminate Jose Rijo and Jose Baez, our two leading officials in the Dominican Republic. At the same time, we also terminated our relationship with that facility, the Jose Rijo training complex down there. We have replaced virtually all of the staff which includes office staff and coaches, player development people. We have physically removed everything from the complex and moved it to our new home where we will begin our sessions on Monday. We have relocated all of our players out of the complex to report to the new, much fancier complex actually on Monday.
We have made the baseball development decision that we've been contemplating for a while to go back to one team, presumably higher-quality players for only one team. Consequently we released 14 players today in addition. I don't have all of the names and statistical information on new hires, particularly coaches, but this was all handled by Mike Rizzo and I'll explain what has been going on for the last week in a moment, but Mike is on his way back home now. He will be here tomorrow. I'll make him available to you guys tomorrow for details, so he can fill you in on what we've been going through, give you a little background.
I got here, I don't know, Thursday of last week, and I met with Jose and told him I thought we were better off with him not at the camp for right now while this was going on. On Saturday we met as a staff and decided that this is what we need to do: We need to completely overhaul our Dominican program, cut ties with the way we've been doing it before. With the way it had been done really since the team got here from Montreal, and just completely change personnel, facilities, everything.
So Sunday, Monday, we designated Mike to lead this project and we took all day Sunday-Monday working 24-7 to line up the things we needed to line up. And there were a million details. This isn't something you do on the fly, typically. Finding places to play -- quality major league places to play. Replacing the staff. A lot of legal things, a lot of logistical things about making the move happen. We got that done. I sent Mike to the Dominican on Tuesday. [Assistant Director of Player Development] Mark Scialabba joined him on Wednesday. We have already selected a replacement for our Dominican operations, Fernando Ravelo. He's well-known down there, very successful down there; he's joined us. And he joined Mike and Mark on Wednesday, and together they visited I think eight complexes before they made their choice of where to go. We had a couple names that were very high on our list to take over in terms of player development. Mike did that, got them hired, got everything in place.
This morning he met with Jose after Jim and I first called Jose. Jim did. I was there with Jim when he called Jose to let him know he was gonna be terminated. Mike physically led our team in there this morning with all the formal things that had to happen with moving vans and, you know, legal documents and money and dealing with the 51 players in the camp and busses and all of that stuff. I just finished talking with him a few minutes ago and it's done. We're out of the camp. We have all of our stuff. We've notified our players. They're getting the weekend off, and they've been told where to report.
Mike told me he's had nothing but cheers, because they're going to a place very much nicer. The lodging will be nicer, and the facilities will be nicer. So there's a lot of optimism, a lot of enthusiasm, and the new staff, new facilities, we're optimistic about it. We set out to do this a week ago but didn't know how long this would take us, didn't know if it would take us three months or one month. So I said, 'OK, Mike, you have three days.' And then he did it, so I'm proud of him, I'm pleased for the franchise, this is a good move for us. Not blaming anyone down there, not pointing fingers at anyone down there. As you know there are open questions, many of which I'm not privy to the answers. I just don't know. I did know that as a franchise we needed to make a clean break, start over.
I will also tell you this about the Dominican. When I came in here ... I said privately and publicly how important the Dominican was to any baseball franchise, and we were way way way behind the curve then. So we set out to get up to speed really quickly. What shouldn't be lost in this is how aggressive our owners were in supporting that. They went right out and did the right thing. For this to happen in their first really well-intentioned effort is a shame; that's unfortunate. What is also a shame, we've been trying to run this stuff down for more than two years now, so it has held us back. We've slowed down in the last two years a.) because of this stuff and the background I could never talk about, and b.) there are always budget things that we're trying to manage, and that's certainly a factor and c.) sometime I'll share with you all of the research that we've done about the unbelievably high percentage of major league players from the Dominican who sign for contracts below $100,000. So we're re-thinking the way we do that anyway.
So all of those factors have slowed us down, but particularly the investigation, the ramifications of it, and my concern to be cautious has definitely slowed us down. That's unfortunate. I think '09, there's no question and no secret that we're placing a lot of attention on our draft, our major league draft, so I don't expect to be caught up down there by '09, but I'm looking forward by '10 to catching back up; that's my plan, and now I think we have a staff in place, a facility in place to do exactly that.
So, OK, questions.
[ed. note., For expediency, I am including the critical ones only]
Q: Where is home in the Dominican?
It's in the Boca Chica area. I really want Mike to talk more about that, and he deserves to talk about it. He visited all of the complexes. He knows a lot more about the details. As I said, I will make him available here to all of you tomorrow.
Q: Is Rijo guilty?
I have NO idea about that. I'm not involved in the investigation. I couldn't begin to answer that.
Q: In a different way - Rijo's firing, does that at all correlate with any revelations of wrongdoing by Jose?
It's just not a subject I'm going to touch. It wouldn't be right for me to do that. I'm not in a position to do that. I did become convinced with what I had learned that it was time for us to finally go ahead and cut that cord.
Q: Does it close the book on this?
It closes the book as far as we're concerned. We all know there is stuff going on, stuff I can't talk about, but stuff you do know about. Obviously there are ongoing investigations on this subject, in particular the discrete subject as large as the larger, overall subject.
Q: You said as far as you're concerned this closes the book on the team's side. Does that mean you do not anticipate any more firings or removals of team employees?
Well, related to the Dominican, I think it closes the book on Jose and the Jose Rijo complex and all of that. And that's all I want to talk about today. As I said to you the other day, I am supporting and continue to support everyone who works for the Nationals, and that's not lip service. I sincerely mean that. Having said that, there are many things going on behind the scenes that you all aren't privy to yet. When I'm able to talk to you about things I will, but I'm not going to discuss anything but the Dominican today, because I do not want to open any doors or lead you astray in any way, and believe me, I have seen stuff in the last couple days that are real head-scratchers. You know, things get out there and what passes for journalism, it just blows me away. But I'm just not going to be a party to any discussions about anything other than this for right now.
Q: Did anything happen in the last five days since Jose went on a leave of absence to prompt the termination?
No. No. I made my decision last Saturday when we sat down as a staff and said here's what we need to do, let's do it.
Q: Stan, there's a chain of responsibility with Baez, Rijo, and the chain is different in different organization. How much connection here is there between Baez to Rijo, Rijo to Bowden, Bowden to you?
You're right, that is the chain of command. I don't know how to answer your question exactly. I've taken the action I think is appropriate for this problem, both for the problem and to fix the problem. I think we've accomplished both by doing this.
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