Kasten has much to say about sports labor, little to say about himself
Stan Kasten is very busy.
The erstwhile Nationals team president (and current minority owner), who is visiting the team's spring training camp today, said so at least three times during a brief session with media members. Too busy to do any more work for the MLB Network, for whom he made some well-received on-camera appearances over the winter. Too busy to commit to any long-term project.
Busy with what? Glad you asked.
"A lot of miscellaneous things," Kasten said. "I can't talk about anything today, but I have been very busy and I've been moving around quite a bit. I'm just all around. I'm working on a whole lot of things, but I'm glad I had the chance to come down here."
So, that clears that up.
(If the tone of this post sounds a little snide, it is because I know Kasten enjoys some good-natured back-and-forth with reporters -- and I also want to see if he still has his fastball since leaving his Nationals job, in which case I'll get an angry, screaming phone call from him within five minutes of this being published.)
Anyway, Kasten did have plenty to say on a handful of topics that do not involve his current, mysterious projects. Of chief interest (at least to me) were his takes on the labor situations in the NFL and MLB. Given Kasten's background as a lawyer and a negotiator during labor battles in three different sports, his take matters.
Here are some of Kasten's thoughts:
*On the Nationals' offseason: "They had a very active, aggressive offseason and I'm certainly in favor of aggressiveness. If they don't ave the injuries they had last year in the rotation, they're going to be improved."
*On the NFL labor standoff: "George Cohen [the federal mediator in the dispute] is a longtime friend of mine. I've been in eight collective bargainings in the three sports. George was the lawyer for all three unions, [so] he was across the table from me. And over the course of time we became great friends. He's a great great guy and I talk to him frequently. You know he's a Nats fan and a Nats season-ticket holder.
"Obviously, we don't know the substance of what's going on behind the scenes, but I do think the way it's been conducted and, forgive me, but the media blackout - that's positive. It really is. Because nothing is gained when there's too much back and forth [through the media]. The fact they're not doing that is a positive. Who knows if it works, but I think it gives it a better chance than the daily screaming at each other in the papers. I'm hopeful. My guess has always been that they would not lose any games. I still feel that way.
"I was just at a legal conference this past weekend, and we were just discussing decertification and lockouts. And I have to tell you, it's very, very murky. No one quite knows, legally, what's on the other side of that decertification cliff. Let's hope we don't get there.... Can you just disavow your legal obligation to negotiate fairly by declaring you're not a union? I know the owners can't do that, and yet the union is going to try to claim that. That's a very complicated legal question."
*On the relatively peaceful opening of labor talks between MLB and the MLBPA: "Of all the sports, I see the least amount of trouble going forward for baseball. I don't think the issues are going to be as thorny, but there will still be tough bargaining ahead. But I think both sides have more of a common mind on big issues right now than the other sports do, so that bodes well for baseball. I don't know if it's smooth sailing. I don't know if [a new CBA] gets done much before [the deadline of] Dec. 12, but I suppose it will. And that would be a good thing at this point, to continue our string of relative labor peace. Let's be fair and give the commissioner an awful lot of credit for the state of the game - the good parts of the state of the game....
"This remains the only sport without some of the salary restraints the other sports have and that's what has caused a lot of the turmoil in the other sports."
*On the grumbling from the New York Yankees about the luxury tax: "Well, they do pay a lot. [But] there's a way to avoid that. That's the good news. We have a system where, if they don't want to pay a lot of luxury tax, they can avoid it. And I'm sure they're aware of that. So they've obviously chosen to pay it, and I think the rest of the sport is appreciative."
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