Kasten: "We can't ever have excuses"
Team prez Stan Kasten has been in Paneraland since pitchers and catchers reported, but Friday afternoon, Kasten informed the daily media contingent that 1.) he was skipping town for a few days and 2.) he'd be happy to hold court for a few minutes to address team issues. So he did. Here's the transcript.
Q: What was your message to the team when you talked to them this morning?
I did emphasize the heightened level of excitement this year, particularly when you consider how far we've come from this meeting a year ago where we were having all kinds of turmoil. What a difficult year it was, but what a very productive year it was. And how different the atmosphere is, because of the strides that were made during the season last year, the strides that have been made in the offseason, and the excitement about the next wave that is around the corner. So I encouraged them all to have fun, I encouraged them to consider how fortunate we all are, but I did also remind them that with this excitement comes increased expectations -- from me, from ownership, from Mike [Rizzo], from Jim [Riggleman] -- and that they were all capable of fulfilling those expectations. My thing is, we can't ever have excuses here. And if any came to the park last year not prepared to win, that's not going to be accepted going forward. We want everyone to expect to win when they come to the park, and that was the same message Jim had for them, it was the same message Mike had for them, it's how I feel strongly. Best news of all, I think everyone in that clubhouse feels that way. I think everyone in that clubhouse is coming to the park expecting to win everyday, and so it's a very very exciting time for us.
After the workout today we had a different meeting; I haven't done this since I've been here. I did it in the past when I was with high-profile clubs. We had a good session in dealing with the media, marketing, being out in the community, those kinds of things, going over the rules for community appearances -- how important it is, not just for us, but also for them. Because remember, we live, as you often hear me say, in the most important city in the world. We take very seriously our representing the national pastime in the nation's capital. And we're also very fortunate for that, because we can and do meet people who can help us, who can impact us for the rest of our lives if we're smart about how are in the community, how we are with fans. And we discussed ways to take advantage of those things, ways to put their best foot forward, ways for our franchise to put its best foot forward. And then we discussed some techniques for getting the best out of the media for themselves, for putting their best foot forward, for portraying themselves in the best possible light. We then also spent a lot of time on all the many pitfalls that currently exist in the brave new world of media, in the world of Facebook, twitter and YouTube and TMZ. We all know the missteps that athletes have made; it really is something that you need to prepare for. You need to prepare to not be in a bad situation. You need to prepare to not get caught. It can be you, it can be a media person, it can be a fan with a cell phone camera, it could be a friend or a loved one who has their own Facebook. Those kinds of things. We've all seen that. We ran a video, kind of a collage of some of the missteps that we've all seen in the world of sports in the last couple years. That was humorous but informative.
Q: Why should this team be more competitive this year?
First of all, we saw the progress that the team made over the year last year. Clearly the team was better in the second half of the year. Let's remember, we're currently on a seven-game winning streak. We had a very, very aggressive offseason where we addressed a lot of needs from starting pitching to the bullpen to offense and defense. We did have a very good and aggressive offseason. And then finally, this next wave that everyone in baseball is waiting to see, starting with Strasburg, starting with Storen, but others, too -- Desmond and the players right behind him -- all those things together, I think, puts us in a place that has a lot of optimism and a lot of anticipation for the very near future.
Q: In terms of a measuring stick, then, what will you consider a successful season?
Well, there's no way in spring training to give you a metric that will define that. But we always look for progress. I think over the course of the year last year we clearly saw tangible progress, and that's what we're looking for. I think we're all waiting for the day -- we won't really turn the corner until that next wave does get here, and when it does we'll be pretty close to where we can really take advantage of that.
Q: How different is the vibe from this year to last year?
Last year was about the worst vibe you could possibly have. This year isn't the best possible vibe -- yet. But it's on the way. Because we haven't done anything yet. But people do feel the air of optimism, the air of possibility, and that is as far from last year's air as one can imagine.
Q: To what do you attribute that change?
It's not one thing. As I said, it was the tangible progress we saw last year -- the addition of Burnett and Morgan, the growth of young pitchers... then step two was the aggressive offseason we had to fill specific needs which we identified ahead of time and went ahead and filled. And then of course what everyone else in baseball is curious about -- our next wave. It's truly not just us that is anticipating what it's going to turn into. Everyone in baseball is looking for that. You put those three components together, it's a very exciting picture and a very exciting time for our franchise.
Q: What indicators will you look for to tell you Strasburg is ready?
You should talk to Mike and Spin Williams about that. I think they all know that his stuff is there. It's about the chess match, the cat-and-mouse game of the best mano-a-mano confrontation in sports. Pitcher-batter. That's what he has to manage. That's what he has to learn. How do I now use what I have in that chess match? That just takes time. But believe me -- trust me when I tell you, we're not going to hold him back if he's ready to go. We want him up here quicker than you want him up there.
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