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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.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 26, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
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Next: Scott Olsen: "I'll be ready" for Opening Day



Looks to me like Boz is on the case. As are the other beat writers. What they say apparently **HAS** some effect on management as it directly affects the rabid portion of his all-important, revenue producing fan base.

As I mentioned before on this blog. My feeling is is that Mike Rizzo must learn to "manage up", not just "down". He has to learn to manage both Kasten and ownership in a way that is beneficial to the owners, their franchise and its fans. This also takes time, as in "Rome wasn't built in a day". According to Boz he appears to be doing just that. But he needs credibility to continue to find that "middle ground" for this big market franchise and its owners.

And that may be why he is erring on the conservative this year ... bringing in those veterans just in case the youngster falter again. Trying to stay within the Lerner's budget while still attempting to acquire a plan A, plan B, plan C and even plan D fallback. It seems like he is doing everything in his power to avoid continuing that cycle of long losing streaks.

But yet, the Lerners are still cheap. Perhaps that will change with time if Mike Rizzo's moves provide competitive baseball with fewer losses and more wins along with larger gate receipts and brand marketing profits.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse


I wanted to take this opportunity on your last day on the beat to thank you for your work over the past two seasons. You're a heck of a writer, and I've enjoyed what you brought to the gamers and to NJ.

You certainly have had your detractors, but I think much of the criticism of the Harlan Regime is more than a little unfair. You have always been forthright with us, and I appreciate your honesty and your perspective.

I would wish you luck on your new beat, but a writer with your talent need not rely on fortune. Please know that, like Barry and Tracee, you will always be welcome at NJ.

Omedetou, Chico.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 26, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Best of luck, Chico, don't be a stranger 'round these parts.

Posted by: Section506 | February 26, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"But yet, the Lerners are still cheap. Perhaps that will change with time if Mike Rizzo's moves provide competitive baseball with fewer losses and more wins along with larger gate receipts and brand marketing profits."

I'm not sure there's a professional sports team in existence that isn't accused of being cheap. I heard some Yankees fans in a bar griping about how cheap Cashman was, no joke.

Posted by: Section506 | February 26, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Everyone in DC agrees that the Lerners are cheap so can we please move on. This team will be exciting and since most people are predicting them to lose a ton of games again they are playing with nothing to lose.

This team is going to go 84-76 and are going to be fun to watch doing it.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | February 26, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Chico, thanks and drop by from time to time. Have a safe journey and lots of fun on your new beat.

On a related coverage note, I am really enjoying WaPo's pics from spring training, which seem to have new shots added on a regular basis. Makes we wish I could go to Viera!

Posted by: NatsFly | February 26, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

"This team is going to go 84-76 and are going to be fun to watch doing it."

If George Mock suddenly becomes as good as Matt Cain (which I suppose he has the potential to be) then you might be right.

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Good luck, Chico, and thanks very much for your efforts. You're a wonderful writer and I look forward to continuing to read your stories.

Posted by: Section220 | February 26, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

There is no Washington National named George Mock.

On a separate note, I want to chime in and throw my weight behind the "thanks Chico" movement. I've appreciated the perspective that you've brought to covering the team, and I agree that the detractors have been a bit overstated and the supporters a bit understated. That comes with the territory, however, as I'm sure you've learned. I'm hopeful that you will find the new challenges ahead to be ones worth conquering in the same manner that you have the Nationals beat.

I don't know any languages from your new beat well enough to write a message, but best of luck hopefully still translates for you.

Posted by: faNATic | February 26, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Chico: Best wishes on your new adventures. Continue to do interesting, innovative things with the English language, and always stay curious. I look forward to seeing your byline in the "A" section.

Posted by: Bethesdangit | February 26, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Sorry there Fanatic ... I meant to say Garrett Mock ... I guess I was thinking George Nock ... although lord knows why?

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Chico can be a "secret" Nats scout in Japan? ;)

Posted by: periculum | February 26, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Fun article about Atlanta's prospect Jason Heyward.
By Charles Odum, AP

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP)—Jason Heyward’s(notes) batting practice drives are costing the Atlanta Braves—but local body shops aren’t complaining.

Heyward launched a shot over the right-field wall this week that smashed through the sun roof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno’s car. The bill was $3,400.

Heyward has dented other vehicles, too. So much damage, in fact, the young slugger is turning the parking lot into Jason’s Junkyard.

The daily demolition derby has forced the Braves to take action. Stadium workers are installing protective netting to safeguard the cars and any unsuspecting people walking around.

The Braves spent 12 years at their spring training home without worrying. Heyward, a 20-year-old outfielder and perhaps the top prospect in baseball, forced a change after one week of workouts.

“I guess they just figured it’s time to stop waiting around on that,” Heyward said.

Other hitters reached the lot long before Heyward. But the frequency with which the 6-foot-5, 245-pound masher sends line drives over the wall made it necessary to take immediate steps.

“It’s more pronounced this spring with everyone looking at Heyward and he’s the one doing it,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said Friday.

The parking lot is behind the bullpen at Champion Stadium on the Disney World property. Behind the parking lot is a wall about 20 feet tall—Cox calls it the Yellow Monster and Heyward has also cleared that wall, sparing some cars broken glass.

Full article

Posted by: Sunderland | February 26, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the good work, Chico. Besta luck in Japan!

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 26, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

CHarlan: Well done - A nice closure to your stint on the beat. Best wishes, and thanks for all the fish.

Posted by: BinM | February 26, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Chico, good luck out there in the East. I hope you know that the stench of Stan's BS from this interview will remain on you long into your journey. Scrub as you may, it will linger.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 26, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Goodbye Chico. I wish you good fortune.

This city has had some great baseball writers, not just Boz and Shirley Povich, but Bob Addie, Francis Stann and Moe Siegal. Not to mention Sir Barry.

You can hold your own in that distinguished company.

Posted by: deMille_Ondefloss | February 27, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

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