Today was Stan Kasten's last official day as president of the Washington Nationals, a job he stepped away from last month, as the 2010 baseball season in Washington drew to a close.
As most people do on their last day of a job, Kasten spent about 30 minutes discussing various issues with members of the media the Lexus Presidents Club at Nationals Park. The departing president's thoughts on some of the issues facing the franchise are after the jump.
"I wouldn't say it's been excessively emotional," Kasten said of his final weeks as an official employee of the Nationals. "I'd planned this for more than a year, after all."
Kasten described the nature of his exit as "kind of slow-motion," and said that he would continue to hold his minority ownership stake in the Nationals "at least through the winter and into spring training for legal and tax reasons" which would preclude him being employed by another MLB team in that time.
Among the things that Kasten would be overseeing in his continued reduced capacity would be the negotiation of a new radio deal for the team and the organization's exploration of possible new spring training sites. "We're continuing to look at [the current site] in Viera [Florida] and we're looking at alternatives in Florida and Arizona," Kasten said. "Viera has a certain set of challenges," Kasten continued. "Those challenges have increased with the departure of the [Los Angeles] Dodgers." The Dodgers trained in nearby Vero Beach, Florida from 1953 until their departure for Arizona after the 2008 season. The Nationals currently have a lease on the Viera site through 2017.
Kasten also laughed off suggestions that he might have a future as the Commissioner of Baseball beginning in 2012, when current commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to retire. "I know no one in baseball who thinks Bud Selig is stepping down in 2012," Kasten said. "There's no point in asking hypothetical questions. That's silly."
Kasten did provide one somewhat surprising revelation when he disclosed that he had first known about the Smiley Gonzalez scandal in 2007, two years before it prompted the resignations of then-general manager Jim Bowden, Dominican Academy Coordinator Jose Baez, and Special Assistant to the General Manager Jose Rijo.
"I started hearing some stuff that troubled me [in 2007] and it took a little while before everything unraveled and we got to the bottom of it," Kasten said. "I'm very proud of the work our staff has done to turn [our international scouting operation] around over the course of 18 months."
Kasten also addressed the Nationals declining paid attendance numbers over the previous five years, saying "This is the right market for baseball. It's a very diverse fan base. It's much better suited in terms of disposable income than many other markets. As soon as we get our product to where we always wanted it to be, the fans will come back. The fans will come if we do our job."
When asked about the state of the team, Kasten was bullish. "I'm most proud of the scouting and player development. We've developed a pipeline that delivers players annually. Could it have been done quicker? I think that's a fair position to take. But that finished product would not have had a [Stephen] Strasburg or a [Bryce] Harper. The Nationals now have what a lot of teams don't have for decades at a time, and that is real marquee star power."