Q & A with Stan Kasten
Nationals president & founding partner speaks with MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- It has been two years since Stan Kasten took over as president of the Nationals, and during that time, he has overseen the opening of Nationals Park and played a role in the dramatic improvement of the team's farm system.
Unfortunately, the Major League team has not fared as well. Entering Tuesday's game against the Giants, the Nationals have a 38-61 record and are in last place in the National League East.
MLB.com recently caught up with Kasten to talk about the state of the organization.
MLB.com: The team completed the first half of the season at Nationals Park. How do you think it has gone at the stadium so far?
Stan Kasten: The park itself has been fantastic. We still have many things to finish, but we are so pleased with what we have been able to do so far. I think the reaction of the fans has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to build on that.
MLB.com: When you say, "We still have many things to finish," what do you mean?
Kasten: I'm not going to point things out to you that you haven't noticed, but I noticed them. And there are many, many things like that, but I think the things that are complete are wonderful and have been enjoyed by all of our fans.
MLB.com: The team has averaged 29,732 fans at Nationals Park this season. Are you satisfied with that number?
Kasten: I think the attendance has been great. I think it's very strong considering -- let's be honest -- where we are in our cycle of building this team. And still, we have had very strong fan support. We always knew the market would be great for our team. As we get better, I think that [attendance] will continue to grow.
MLB.com: What were you expecting to start the season, in terms of attendance?
Kasten: I don't do things like that. You heard me say before, "We get the attendance we deserve," and I think that takes into a lot of things: Performance on the field is one of them, but the stadium experience is another one, ease of getting here is another one. Given that we have had some extraneous problems, such as the bizarre first-half season of weather going into the mix, I'm pleased with where we are so far.
MLB.com: Do you think the stadium will get a name change?
Kasten: In time, it will. I don't know when. We are not in a rush to slap a name on. We are waiting for the right partner with the right mix and the right deal. That could be soon or it could be quite a ways in the distance. I just don't know. But we are not in any particular rush. There's not a need to do it.
MLB.com: How are the luxury suites coming along?
Kasten: They are OK. We are not sold out in our premium areas, but we have healthy attendance in those areas that are not sold out on a yearly basis. It has been a brisk business in nightly rentals. That has been an important part of our plan as well.
MLB.com: A report came out that the Nationals have the lowest TV rating in baseball.
Kasten: I don't know what to make of it. It's odd, and I've asked for the report. I'll be looking into it, and I'll be able to tell you more. I used to live and die by ratings [while affiliated with TBS in Atlanta]. It used to be an important thing in my life, because I was in the sales of TV. Here, we are just not. So it's not just something we pay a lot of attention to.
MLB.com: When you hear that only 9,000 households are watching the Nationals on TV...
Kasten: All I know is what I see with my own eyes, which is a very strong attendance here on a nightly basis -- [almost] the very middle of baseball, even considering what our record has been. There is a lot of inconsistency there [in terms of the TV ratings]. What I do know for sure is what I'm seeing right here at the ballpark.
MLB.com: How surprised are you that the team is this bad on the field?
Kasten: Which team? The team that is on the field now? It's very different from the team we penciled in to start the year. If the team we penciled in to start the year had this record, I would be very surprised. I can't be surprised at the record given what we have available.
MLB.com: During your 30-plus years in baseball, have you seen so many injuries to a team in one season like the Nationals? If so, when?
Kasten: Someone showed me some stats last week demonstrating that our injuries [to the everyday players] are not just the worst in baseball this year, but rank among the worst for any team in [the last 20 years].
MLB.com: You have been through bad times in Atlanta. How do you fix the Nationals' problems?
Kasten: First of all, we have pieces on the Major League side that when they all come together, we are going to have more success than what we are having. Let me remind you that it's only two years [since the Lerner Group took over the club] and, yet, we now have a pipeline that will fill the needs that we have up here. The pieces that we have here when healthy, in conjunction with the pipeline that is starting to produce players in the Major Leagues, I think we will only have a few holes left to fill to make us truly competitive.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.