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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.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 26, 2009; 5:14 PM ET
 
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Next: "It Was Time To Cut That Cord"

Comments

Wow. I am impressed. Without casting any blame on anyone, we definitely needed a clean break in the DR. Amazing what they got done in that amount of time. Way to go FO. Anyone know anything about Ravelo?

Posted by: Section109 | February 26, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

And way to go Chico. I can't keep up with all the high-quality information you're sending our way.

Posted by: Section109 | February 26, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Just thought of a question. (Where is everybody BTW?) Continuing my monologue, will Frownie be staying with the organization & going to the new digs in Boca Chica?

Posted by: Section109 | February 26, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

This does not read like JimBow is still in a lead role for this franchise.

My grasp of the obvious is truly awe-inspiring.

Posted by: ArlingtonNatsFan | February 26, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

" 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. "

Sure sounds to me like they anticipate making more front-office changes.

Posted by: Section406 | February 26, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Ravelo was the GM of the Tigres de Licey of the Dominican League. Many current and former Nationals have and do play for the el Tigres in the winter, including Belliard, Hernandez and others. Tim Tolman was a manager down there at one point. so Ravelo was a pretty obvious point. so it was a complete breakaway from the previous situation, but there's still familiarity with the new boss.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | February 26, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I'll second sect. 109 on the props for Stan and the FO both in making the break and in identifying an alternate facility. I'm not gonna try to read the tea leaves on actions to come, but I appreciate what strikes me as a prudent and thorough approach so far.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 26, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and thanks to Barry and Chico for the ongoing coverage. Wasn't somebody criticizing the Post in an earlier thread for having a man in the DR rather than here? hmmm...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 26, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

@bottomfeeders10--thanks for the info.

Posted by: Section109 | February 26, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Licey also won the Dominican League this winter. They are the Yankees of that league, so Ravelo does have some cred down there.

Regardless of the FBI/Frowny situation, the Nats' DR operation wasn't getting players to the States, so a change of course was probably warrented anyway. I also think Stan is on the right path going with $100K max players, foregoing some of the bidding wars. Prospects in general are a crap shoot, and in the DR it's much worse considering these guys are signed at 16 (or there abouts).

Posted by: sec307 | February 26, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

But for today, I'd rather focus on the 3 K's from Don't-Call-Me-Ryan in his first outing. The pressure is on now on Hill to keep pace with the youngsters.

There are a lot of battles for us to watch this spring, in no particular order:

Hill vs. Balester vs. DCMRZim vs. Martis for two spots.
Nieves vs. Valentin for back-up C
Kearns vs. Pena for roster spot
Willingham vs. NJ for 1B
Bullpen Battle Royal
Anderson vs. Belliard vs. Harris for 2B

Assuming an 11-man bullpen with 14 position spots, here is my roster predictions (heavily biased by cold meds):

Locks:
1. Flores C
2. Zimmerman 3B
3. Guzman SS
4. Harris 2B,OF
5. Anderson 2B
6. Belliard SS
7. Johnson 1B
8. Dunn LF,1B
9. Willingham OF,1B
10. Dukes OF
11. Milledge OF

With a backup catcher, there are only 2 spots left for everyone else, probably Gonzales and then I believe it should come down to the best potential pinch-hitter of the group: Kearns, Pena, Orr, Casto or whoever may tear it up in the next couple of weeks. Looking at these numbers, I believe Kearns is jeopary of being out of a job unless a move is made. We have enough flexible that the last spot does not need to be a particular position. There are already 5 guys that can play the OF, so Kearn's D is not needed. He's going to beat the others at the plate, and I don't think he can do it. I think there is also something to be said for taking Orr. He's has proven to be a solid bench player and he can play both INF and OF as well as pinch run. As long as Gonzales doesn't embarrass himself at the plate, I think he makes the team because he'd be the only true backup SS.

We really need to move some of our surplus to shore up the bullpen. (But it's pretty freaking cool to talk about a surplus of players for once.)

Posted by: sec307 | February 26, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Don't-Call-Me-Ryan has to stick as a nickname - that's good!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 26, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Let this be the first action to indicate that business as usual before the Lerners took over the team is no longer going to be tolerated. It wouldn't surprise me if Bowden curried favor with the owners by telling them he could save them money by doing things the way they had ben done in the last dying days of Montreal and the first two seasons here by cutting corners and through wink-and-nod agreements with little to no oversight because there was no money. JimBow probably told the Lerners "Hey, we didn't spend much money in Cincinnati either..."

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 26, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

So my 14 position players:

C Flores
1B Johnson
2B Hernadez (I called him Anderson above... stupid Dayquil)
3B Zimmerman
SS Guzman
LF Dunn
CF Milledge
RF Dukes

Willingham R
Harris L
Belliard R
Gonzales S
Nieves R
Pena R

Pretty light on left-handed pinch-hitters, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and write off last year due to injury and predict WMP shows some pop and makes the team. I have Orr and Kearns as the last two out.


Posted by: sec307 | February 26, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

@307:

Whoa - We're only two days into ST games; let's calm down a little. Three are 10 SP's and four STI's in camp for FIVE starting spots. Let things play out for two or three weeks before you jump to any rash conclusions.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

@307(redux):
I also think Manny will go with a 13/12 player/pitcher split to start the season (5-man rotation, 7 in the BP), not a 14/11 as you allude to. Acta, in the past has looked at pitch-counts from his SP's early in the season, and has relied heavily on his bullpen early in the year; some stripes never change.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Just trying to distract myself the Jim Bowden Death Watch. As for the starting spots, Olsen, Cabrera and Lannan are all in. Manny has said as much. So why not start the speculation for the last two.

The overall point I was getting at is that other than the bullpen, there aren't too many spots up for grabs and it's interesting to look at the group fighting for just a spot or two. For the first time since the Nats immigrated, there are more major league players than spots available and some guys who used to be shoe-ins are gonna have to bust it to make the team.

Posted by: sec307 | February 26, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Fair point on the 13/12 split. However, I think the starters will be counted on for more innings earlier since there are more know commodities this year (in regards to innings pitched). The top three guys all made 30 starts last year. So we'll see. 13 position players only leaves one open spot, per my assumptions (and yes, I know what making assumptions makes me).

Posted by: sec307 | February 26, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

It's too bad the Rijo firing leaked. It was the right move but it's a shame Rijo found out from the media before the team could do it face-to-face.

I hope we don't lose a year in the DR but it sounds like we might. I doubt the 100K is etched in stone, if they find the right player they'll probably go higher than that.

I'm glad we made a clean break with Rijo and it looks like we're moving in the right direction.

Like so many others I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think this is a lousy time to make a change at GM but it might be time to wave 'bye to JimBo. Opening day is only 6 weeks away and there's a lot of work to do to shape this roster (they really have to trade an outfielder IMO). If they're going to make a move they'll have to do it pretty quick or wait until after the season starts.

Posted by: grforbes | February 26, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty impressed at the speed and efficiency with which they pulled all that of in the Dominican.

But does anyone else worry that with all the flurry of activity and hiring and firing and moving facilities and overhauling staff, that other shady deals could be going down as we speak? That all the Ts might be getting dotted instead of crossed and 4 years down the road we're going to be hearing about some other scandal happening in The Big Dominican Move of 2009?

I dunno. Maybe all this dirty baseball is making me jaded.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 26, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Locks:
1. Flores C
2. Zimmerman 3B
3. Guzman SS
4. Harris 2B,OF
5. Anderson 2B
6. Belliard SS
7. Johnson 1B
8. Dunn LF,1B (Bats left, slugging %)
9. Nick Johnson 1B (Bats left, slugging %)
10. Dukes OF
11. Milledge OF

Willingham gets traded: poor fielder Dukes will likely prove to be better as will Millege. Kearns is adequate as a reserve.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Dmitri Young makes the team as reserve 1st baseman.

Why? He is a power hitting (slugging %) switch hitter.

Everyone else (except Kasto) bats right.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

They still need more left handed hitting.

Assume a trade. Willingham, starting pitchers, to obtain relief pitching / left handed hitting.

The problem is that now has to be on hold as the machinery churns negotiating Bowden's termination as GM. His replacement will have to rapidly come up to speed to make these adjustments. Not going to be easy.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Only 3-4 left handed hitters (3 power, one unknown).

1. Adam Dunn
2. Nick Johnson
3. Dmitri Young
4. Kory Casto

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

BinM, 307 - I think most teams in the NL last year went with 13 /12 split, at least that was the case when I looked in May, when I thought they were running too short on the bullpen and wanted Schroeder up with the team. If T. Young shows enough to try to be stashed for a year on the roster, then I'm thinking 13 position players and 12 pithcers is quite likely.

As for who the 13 should be, I might be inclined to keep Gonzalez in the minors, unless Desmond starts the year in AAA. I want to see him play every day so he is ready to take over if he is really needed due to injury. However, I'm not sure of his options situation. I think his first call up to the majors was in 2007, but perhaps he was on his MLB 40 man in 2006. For now, I'll say 2 backup IF and 2d base starter among Harris - Belliard - Hernandez, plus 3 other IF slots among the likely starters (Johnson, Guz, FotF), 4 OFs among Dunn, Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, 2 catchers (Flores + 1 of JV/WN) puts us at 12 out of 13 slots. Injuries would affect who else makes it - most likely Kearns, possibly Valentin as a pinch hitter in addition to Nieves, outside shot for Pena, or perhaps a Langerhans, Casto, or Orr if they don't want a guy they have hopes for sitting most nights.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 26, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Follow-up on AG - he was added to the D-backs 40 man roster in November 2006 before the Rule 5 draft, was traded to the NYY in the Randy Johnson deal in 2007, and first played in the majors that September. If I understand the option rules, AG has one more option.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 26, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

@jca:
That's the way I read Gonzalez as well, in terms of options (1 left). He's in-play to make the 25-man, but might be better served in SYR to start the season, unless a trade or two gets done (let's say Belliard+ an OF, and a 1B/DH candidate+ others, in combination for a solid LHRP, another bullpen arm & a prospect or two.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

BTW, If anyone on the WaPo staff could ferret out the names of the DSL players who got cut, it would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

10. Dukes OF
11. Milledge OF

Willingham gets traded: poor fielder Dukes will likely prove to be better as will Millege. Kearns is adequate as a reserve.


Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2009 8:36 PM


"Poor fielder Dukes"? - obviously you don't watch many games. Sorry to get snippy but that is one of the MOST idiotic things I've ever heard.

FRANK 20

Posted by: tradervic1313 | February 27, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

NatsNut, that had occurred to me as well. Hope that it's not the case.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 27, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

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