Kasten: Strasburg will get even better
Nats president sees phenom as symbol of building winner
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make his fifth Major League start against the Braves on Monday night at Turner Field.
Strasburg has been dominant so far, winning two games with a 1.78 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. The last time he walked a batter was in his second start against the Indians.
Everybody is talking about the possible matchup between Strasburg and Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who is hitting .251 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Nationals team president Stan Kasten is already in Atlanta and MLB.com caught up with him via phone to talk about Strasburg and his impact on the Nationals.
MLB.com: Everybody knew about Strasburg's potential, but did you think he would be this good?
Stan Kasten: I agree we all thought he would be very good. But let's face it: The early performances are as good or even better than anyone thought they would be.
MLB.com: How amazing is it that Strasburg is already the ace of the Nationals' pitching staff?
Kasten: Well, sure that is amazing. I couldn't disagree. Although, he still has -- I think -- greater things to accomplish with more experience. He will improve, and he will get even better than what he has been so far.
MLB.com: Everybody is talking about Strasburg playing in the All-Star Game. How do you feel about the possibility of him going to Anaheim?
Kasten: We have several different ways for players to be selected. I'm perfectly happy living with whatever the results of those things are. I remember Chipper Jones in his rookie year. I asked him what his plans were [for the All-Star break]. He said he was going to do some fishing. And I told him, 'I hope he enjoys it, because it's going to be the last three-day vacation he will get for very long time.' That's how I feel about Stephen.
MLB.com: Is it a stretch to call Strasburg the Michael Jordan of baseball? It seems a lot of members of the media and many fans want to see him perform.
Kasten: I think it's a stretch. It is way, way too early. So far, it's still a phenomenon. He has to build a track record. Let him develop some consistency and longevity. For now, it's just a wonderful phenomenon for people who love baseball. Let's all enjoy it for what it is. I don't think it's fair to Stephen to make comparisons to anyone until he gets his legs under him and a little more of his career behind him.
MLB.com: How much has he helped the Nationals off the field?
Kasten: His role as a symbol is very important. When we came in four years ago, we talked about wanting to build through scouting/development with an emphasis on pitching. Continuing with the fulfillment of that commitment, I think it's very important that fans could see that we are close to turning the corner. We are close to having a really terrific, good, stable young rotation as some of our guys come up from the Minor Leagues and come back from rehab. But clearly the symbol of that movement is Stephen.
MLB.com: There are limits when it comes to Strasburg dealing with the media. He only talks right after his starts. Why is that the case?
Kasten: It's out of necessity. He was such a curiosity from people that the initial media interest was overwhelming. And there was no way to deal with it by accommodating every request. He wouldn't have a life, so we had to come up with instructions to allow the media to get their jobs done, while still allowing him to have proper professional development and leading the life that he deserves to have. Once he was doing as well as he was the attention increased.
I will tell you that Stephen hopes that attention reaches a comfortable level, so we don't have to take the unusual measures. But, clearly, we are at that stage where the attention is so high and so extreme. We have to put these common sense measures in place just to deal with it.
MLB.com: Stephen will pitch on Monday and could face Jason Heyward, who has a sore left thumb. How excited are you to see that possible matchup?
Kasten: That's a great thing for baseball. They are two of the brightest stars. They are two guys who have the possibility of being big-time players for years. That's a great thing for fans. Those of us inside of baseball are as eager to see it as anyone.
It's so interesting: I asked people in baseball -- old guys, young guys -- if they saw Stephen's first game. Every single person I spoke to -- everyone without exception -- was watching that night and have watched his subsequent performances. That's the kind of interest level [he has]. Being down here in Atlanta, I can tell you that Jason is building up the same kind of following. He truly had some early season heroics that made him the new face of the team. It's a pretty good team with a lot of great faces on it.
MLB.com: What do you say to me and everybody else who calls Strasburg the savior of this franchise? Do you think we are going overboard, or do you think the statement is correct?
Kasten: I think you are going overboard. Baseball is not that way. Baseball takes 25 guys, and it take 200 guys in the Minor Leagues to get your 25 guys. One player doesn't push you over the top. I often make the comparison, if you are in the NBA, and you draft Kobe Bryant, you draft Shaquille O'Neal, you draft LeBron James, then you are going to the Finals. That doesn't happen in baseball. It takes 25 guys [to win the World Series].