Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm In Control Here

Stan Kasten had his Alexandar Haig moment last week, calling a press conference, disguised a luncheon, to assure the wary press corps that he had a plan. And that he was fully in command.

So, the flailing that you've seen with candidates like Girardi and Pendleton pulling out for the most flimsy of Washington excuses ("family reasons") is ok. That's all part of the plan. Accounts of prospective managers being called once or twice then ignored for weeks? That's part of the plan too. Have no fear. Stan Kasten is in control, and if those pesky, meddling scribes didn't need to fill inches for their yellow-stained broadsheets, there wouldn't be any controversy.

Whatever. An exhaustive search was hopefully part of the plan, but I have a hard time believing that Trent Jewett (god love him) was part of plans A, B or C. If Terry Pendleton hadn't pulled out, do you think they'd actually be interviewing Trent? It's possible, I guess.

But what galls me about the press conference is the ridiculousness of it. Kasten protested the media's coverage, basically implying that it was inaccurate. Well, if they want accurate media coverage, they need to be up front with the reporters. Let them know who's being interviewed. Let them know what's going on so the fans have a farkin' clue.

Because right now, the impression we get is one of managerial candidates running away from the Lerners like they have cholera, people we've never heard of phoning from Venezuela to throw their hat in the ring, and poor saps like Dusty Baker sitting longingly by the phone like a smitten teenage girl. And we're supposed to be confident in this search and the way it's being run?

The media is part of the story, Stan. Maybe in an attempt to control the story he's let the story take on a life of its own. It can't work that way; the Nationals don't control the media and don't have a monopoly on the truth -- and most importantly, the interpretation of said 'truth'.

  • Kasten continues to play the coy little "We're still interested in signing Soriano," game. Left out is the little parenthetical he mutters under his breath "As long as he's willing to take a contract significantly below his market value."

  • The Nationals, it seems, don't want to really bid on any free agents (other than the same class of crappy Ortiz-quality ones they scraped off their shoes last year.)
    "I don't want to rule anything out, but [signing big-name free agents] is not my current game plan," Kasten said. "I have said that when you sign free agents I actually think you take yourself farther away from your goal, if you are not ready to take advantage of the money you spend."

    Could someone please explain that last sentence to me? That doesn't really make sense. How does signing a free agent (and maybe most of this hinges on the definition of 'big-name free agent') hurt the team? Especially on the pitching side, there are holes that need to be filled with someone better than the Billy Trabers of the world. A Free Agent would not harm player development because it's not taking away a job that's likely to be filled by a minor leaguer.

  • The team said they're likely to pursue a slew of minor league free agents. There are some useful players floating around, and it's a good way to stock some emergency depth, especially at the AAA level, where the Nats are as barren as the Great Salt Flats, but they seem like they're counting on them for roles with the Major League team. God help us if I'm watching Mike Venafro throw innings for us.

    Minor League Baseball helpfully has a listing of available minor league free agents. Some decent bench guys there.... maybe a stopgap starter or two, but, other than cheap, they're not really offering much.

    To that end, the Nats have made at least one signing, Mike Restovich, the former Twin. Restovich is a slugging cornerman (stats)who fields like a slug. But he hits right-handed, and he does hit pretty well, especially in a platoon role. He's got as good a chance to make it with the team as any, and would be a good solution as a 4th or 5th outfielder.


    • Hey "Cap,"

      One of the things I like most about your site is your ability to connect and compare what's happening with the Nationals with what seemed to be a totally un-related piece of history. The "Haig" comparison is priceless.

      I am sufficiently in awe.

      Farid The Beltway Boy

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 9:48 AM  

    • One thing to keep in mind is that Kasten is not much more experienced at this sort of thing as the Lerners are. How much involvement has he had in hiring a manager before? Wasn't it Cox who was responsible for hiring Tanner and Nixon and then finally appointing himself manager?

      The only other GM he's had to deal with is John Schuerholz. How much input did Kasten have in the interviewing and hiring of Schuerholz, and how much of the process was done by Turner?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 10:20 AM  

    • Thanks, Farid.

      SOL -- that's an excellent point. And that was my biggest problem with Kasten from the get-go in that he was getting an inordinate amount of credit for the Braves success.

      But that shows the problem they have with Bowden. If they don't trust him to make the decisions, or they feel they need to keep him on a short leash, why did they stick with him?

      Unless Kasten is just a control freak who wants a puppet he can control. (Which is sort of the impression I got from this stinkin' press conference and the way everything has been handled anyway!)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2006 10:23 AM  

    • "I have said that when you sign free agents I actually think you take yourself farther away from your goal, if you are not ready to take advantage of the money you spend."

      My take on that Stan Kasten statement is, he does not feel its important to sign big dollar free agents, if you are not going to win right away. That money could be better spent elsewhere right now. I understand what he's saying, whether anyone believe it or not, is personal opinion.

      I actually believe the Nats will sign some Type B Free Agent Pitchers, players like Marquis, Meche or Eaton--all within anyones budget.

      The Manager situation does not concern me as much right now, its looks like they are looking for an up and coming manager to see if lightning can be caught in the bottle. If it doesn't work out, players will still be developing and another manager can be brought on board once the Nats become competitive. I am not expecting the Nats to compete for the title next year, but I feel they will be farther along and more competitive--working toward that goal. I guess I am more optomistic than most.

      By Blogger Screech's Best Friend, at 11/06/2006 11:20 AM  

    • I don't really care who the new manager is. What I'm worried about is what the search and the way it's being carried out have to say about the way the team's being run, and the perception that others have of the job.

      Sure, there's always a better way to spend money than dumping it into a pit. But teams usually keep a pretty solid stovepipe among accounts. $5 million saved in FA might not necessarily go towards the minors -- and as we saw with the Black negotiations, it's not clear that that $5 million would actually be used in a win-at-all-costs way.

      For sure, they're going to need to spend money to beef up scouting and the minors, but...

      I'm just underwhelmed at this point. But I'm typically overly cynical anyway.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2006 11:27 AM  

    • cheap shot. the nationals were 71 - 91 last year - 25 games out. they certainly need some help, if not from God, then maybe from Mike Venafro. Nats had 25 pitchers on roster last year -- only four had winning records and only six had ERA's under 4.0. Venafro is a local kid who gets guys out -- 1 -0 with a 2.45 ERA last year.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 12:38 PM  

    • Hey! Who knew that Mike Venafro's dad read my blog?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2006 12:41 PM  

    • I do not....dammit!

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 1:31 PM  

    • 'Left out is the little parenthetical he mutters under his breath "As long as he's willing to take a contract significantly below his market value."'

      Don't you mean, "below what Soriano believes to be his market value."

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 1:40 PM  

    • Well, to play devil's advocate (figuratively and literally), Girardi never had an interest in managing the Nats or in general (which was probably why the Cubs jumped for Pinella). As for Pendleton, I'll bet he is being groomed to be Bobby Cox's successor.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2006 4:00 PM  

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