Friday, September 21, 2007

StanSpeak, 117th In A Series

Wow! It's a busy week of Stan-Translating as the man who says the most without saying a thing has another interview with a non-pesky journalist. I was a bit worried when I fed this thing into the StanSpeak Translator this morning; it started to smoke and hum. I think all the BS is gumming up the works. We'll press on anyway. That's what we do for you, our dear reader. (Wait, there's more BS!)

On the state of the franchise:
We understood walking into the team that there were problems in the area of player development thanks to Omar Minaya's incompetence and Bud Selig's greed (not that that's a bad thing). You know my philosophy and the philosophy of our ownership is to build through strong development and to make gobs of money. That was job No. 1 and No. 2 and we set our attention to that. And How! I tell people that there were two surprises my first year: First, the rathole stadium that we were in was deeper than I realized before we got here. But the second surprising thing has been that I could not have predicted we'd have made this much progress this quickly, especially if I'm the one who gets to decide the status of progress. All of a sudden we are just overloaded with pitching prospects, even if they're all future #4s. I'm very proud of the scouting staff we have in place, both amateur and professional. They've done a great job finding good players that will eventually play for the minimum salary. Ownership has stepped up and signed the players we identified, which, frankly, shocked me. That's where it all begins. And because of that progress, I think our future is extraordinarily bright. I really do. I feel great about it. Besides, did you really think that I'd say that we suck and we're always going to suck?

On the decision to retain Bowden and hire Acta:
I'm real comfortable with both of those decisions. I have to be. I have to tell you that when I came here, I had an open mind that was already made up, but I really thought I was probably going to wind up changing Bowden's personality and keeping Frank Robinson until the end of the '06 season. That was my mind-set. In time, after looking, learning and observing and being told to back off by my boss, I wound up changing my mind on both scores. I'm very comfortable with both decisions. I have to be. They were very tough because I'm sick of managing Bodes.

On Bowden:
When I got here I saw the "plan" Jim had in place, and went about changing it immediately. How his vision was very much in sync with how I wanted to build it once I told him 'my way or the highway'. His work ethic was impressive. His analytical skills were impressive. I said to some of my friends (like 29 other GMs) who are frankly detractors of Jim, that what I needed here was someone to get me out of this ditch and be resourceful (read: cheap). He really is cheap. Look at the pieces he's put together cheaply. But don't look at Hanrahan too much. He'll burn your retinas. The non-deals last summer, the cheap free agents we picked up cheaply last winter, the way we went about it (cheaply).

On the frustrations of building a team:
I'm impatient like everybody else, but I have to be realistic about where we are. I tell people that this isn't the NBA, where if you draft Shaquille [O'Neal] you can go to the finals or sign John Koncak to a giant contract and shovel the final scoop of dirt on your franchise's future. You can't build a baseball team like that, especially that giant contract part. You can't flip the switch...And unfortunately the right thing takes some time. But the payoff [note to self: careful with the double meaning of words] is very well worth it.

On the financial side of playing at RFK:
It's been OK. We obviously cut back our expenses because we knew it would be a tough year financially at RFK, even though National TV revenue and payments from MASN are roughly enough to cover our player payroll even before we sold one ticket.

On whether there are hidden costs at the new stadium:
No question. That's always a battle. But that's not different than any other construction project, so that's why we're suing the city for several million dollars of improvements. There are things you find along the way that you want to add. And you do, if you get the city to pay for them. It's too bad that we came into the picture so late because we might have designed some things differently and bilked even more money out of the taxpayers who are building this beautiful place for us. I, for one, could really use a bigger office. The design was done when we got here, so there wasn't much structurally we could change. But where we could we've done that. And it's gong to take tens of millions of extra dollars. The Lerner family, in limited cases, is going to be doing that. They're going to step up to the improvements in anything we need in the ballpark, because it really was a travesty that our luxury boxes didn't have first-class toilets. We can't ask our Senators to piss in public. You saw what happened last time a Senator used a public restroom.

On the prospects of a payroll increase next year:
Obviously, we're going to spend more next year, because arbitration and contract extensions built in are going to increase the payroll by 20 million alone. and right now I don't know exactly how much that's going to be, although I have a solid estimate. We're going to be held to whatever promises we made, so that's why I never say anything publicly. I'd rather let rumor and innuendo fester, then when we do even a minor thing, I can say "AHA!" and point out that we've exceeded terribly low expectations that I never actually set in the first place. It's going to cost more money, but we're (me and Uncle Teddy) going to have more money next year. That's going to ramp up. I don't know how quickly exactly, but it's going to be ramping up. We can't pretend, though, that our pipeline is ready to produce up here. It isn't yet. We are stocked with prospects at the lower levels of the Minors. We're so stocked, in fact, we can barely fit any more prospects into our lower levels. We might as well close down.

On whether the team will ever have a $110 million payroll like the Dodgers or Mets:
Someday, like after a good half-century of 10% salary inflation. We'll be right up there in the $100-110 million range, easy.

On whether they receive Revenue-Sharing payments (ie: welfare money from teams that give a rat's ass about growing their market and drawing fans):
Oh yeah, at RFK, absolutely. Praise the Lord! Could that change next year? I don't know, but it is possible, though I hope not. That's free money, baby! First of all, we don't know what our revenue will be, but given how terrible our ticket sales were this year..., but revenue sharing is dependent on the other teams, too. It's impossible for me to predict. But, yes, it's absolutely possible that we can be a revenue-sharing payer next year, so at a certain point, we'll have to restrain ourselves in encouraging fans to come.


  • This schtick is really, really, really wearing thin. I mean, to the point where it sorta makes you look bad.

    I've got a lot of gripes with Kasten - most of which I share with you - but the pointless sniping of the "Stanspeak" posts adds nothing of value whatsoever (have you made a single new point or joke in any of these entries since maybe the second time you did this?), and nowadays comes off as irrationally angry sniping.

    I'm one of this blog's biggest fans, which is why I hate to see you doing this stuff. Again: there are many legitimate complaints about Kasten or the FO in general. (I happen to think that not going crazy on free agents is NOT one of them, but that's certainly a debatable point.) But this is just silly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 3:49 PM  

  • surprised you don't have the nats journal "stan and me" entry linked in what to read. That's some good stuff.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 4:05 PM  

  • Jeff B says: "But this is just silly."

    I think you got the point, after all, Jeff!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 4:26 PM  

  • Its Jon Koncak. No h. I only know this because I had not narry a clue as to who he is.

    Sillyness,what johnr said.

    I think my favorite stan speak was something like "Well, obviously the stadium is going to named for someone very deserving, and they are going to be deserving because they gave us alot of money-error, stanspeak not required, comment 100% accurate." That was my favorite.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 4:38 PM  

  • Chris, this is truly some of your best work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 4:39 PM  

  • "The Lerner family, in limited cases, is going to be doing that. They're going to step up to the improvements in anything we need in the ballpark, because it really was a travesty that our luxury boxes didn't have first-class toilets. We can't ask our Senators to piss in public. You saw what happened last time a Senator used a public restroom."

    Hey, this bit at least isn't the same tired old schtick. It's brand new, ripped-straight-from-the-headlines schtick. Give the guy some credit at least...

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/21/2007 4:41 PM  

  • We understood walking into the team that there were problems in the area of player development thanks to Omar Minaya's incompetence


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 5:28 PM  

  • Ha Ha Ha Jon Konack . . . maybe my finest hour when I made Stan think I was going to give that stiff a 5 year deal. Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha did we ever have a big laugh over that one. In one fell swoop, we cap crippled our biggest rival and stuck them with one of the biggest albatross contracts of all time! I am a freaking genius!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 5:33 PM  

  • Great stuff, as always. Keep up the Stan speak translations. They are genuinely entertaining. There is plenty of academic analysis of every front office move out there. This team is probably the most over analyzed suck-ass club in all of the MLB blogoshere. Need to laugh more about the absurdity of it all.

    jeff b. is a poop head.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 5:55 PM  

  • I have to say that although i like your blog, i agree with Jeff B.'s above comment. While the Nats have exceeded expectations this season, the level of snark and negativity on this blog has gone up. The StanSpeak thing is really not all that amusing anymore, and at times it seems as though you're really going out of your way to find something to bitch about in regards to the Nationals franchise. I understand this is supposed to be an "irreverent" blog, but sometimes you need to give it a rest.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 6:46 PM  

  • Funny funny stuff again. It's a target rich environment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 7:11 PM  

  • Thanks, guys. Well, most of you! ;)

    The rest of you... well.... there ARE other blogs out there. ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 9/21/2007 11:22 PM  

  • The rest of you... well.... there ARE other blogs out there. ;)

    C'mon now Chris, this is a bit too facile, isn't it? Yeah, there are other blogs out there, but there aren't any Nationals bloggers that do as good a job as you do. I criticize only because I love.

    I guess I'm just a bit taken aback by the relentless mean-spiritedness of these Kasten posts. You seem absolutely incapable of attributed any save the most dishonorable motives to him, and while he's obviously no saint, it just gets a bit tiresome. You bill yourself as a "fan" blog, but the quality of your analysis and commentary transcends rah-rah stupidity. Which is why these StanSpeak things are such an unwelcome contrast.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/21/2007 11:42 PM  

  • I'm ambivalent about StanSpeak. I mean, it's Chris' thing. Overly snarky? Probably. This one isn't his best (it must be hard to keep it fresh--because Stan says the same thing over and over).

    But you can't tell me Stan doesn't have this coming either. He's been particularly evasive and combative with the press and, therefore, us. He's calling press conferences himself and then telling us NOTHING.

    I'm a big Stan fan, believe in what he's doing, etc., but as someone over at NJ posted, his dealings with the media are a little too George W. Bush for my tastes.

    Interesting how muzzled Bodes is though. He hasn't been on the front line in ages. Throw him out there Stan. If you're going to repeat the same thing, let someone new say it.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/22/2007 8:59 AM  

  • At the risk of repeating myself, I just posted this on Barry's WaPo blog.

    I would add that no matter how legitimate the beef, it is not a good idea for the president of a corporation (read Stan Kasten) that lives or dies on public acclaim (or lack thereof) to carry a chip on his shoulder regarding the coverage of said corporation by the premier media outlet in D.C. (read WaPo).

    What I learned from decades of lobbying was that no matter what (negative) thoughts you harbored about the people on the Hill with whom you had to deal, you were always pleasant, supportive and cooperative. Reason? To get things done.

    People in this town are almost universally smart, and they can turn really nasty in a nanosecond. Stan needs to get over his habit of wearing his grievances (legitimate or not) on his sleeve and he needs to do it quickly or the knives will really come out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/22/2007 9:15 AM  

  • For what it's worth, I thought this was a good StanSpeak, even better than recent ones. Had me laughing.

    I don't see these as overly negative or mean-spirited... it's a joke. If you really hated Stan, you'd be doing something more serious. This is more of a shtick, I think, and a good one. I don't think anyone should take it too seriously.

    Stan and the Lerners set themselves up to look cheap based on things they do, like suing the city about the final touches to the park. So you poke fun of it here. Just cause you call them cheap for not wanting to spend a lot of money on free agents doesn't mean you disagree with them... I'm sure you don't want them wasting money either on bad free agents.

    Anyway, one more positive vote for the StanSpeak.

    By Blogger cassander, at 9/22/2007 9:44 AM  

  • Chris--any comments on this bizarre Barry S. post about how Kasten yelled at him for the latest Post chat? Seemed like Barry maybe got yelled at by his boss, and that post was his attempt to apologize and make nice with the boss.

    But geez, can someone tell Stan that he runs a BASEBALL TEAM, not the FBI or the Pentagon? I mean, lighten up!

    Maybe the Post should send Dana Milbank to the next one of these little roundtable talks, and we can see how he likes that! Oh, except that he ISN'T IMPORTANT ENOUGH for that.

    By Blogger Steven, at 9/22/2007 9:48 AM  

  • There ARE ways to build a great future and do more in the present at the same time. For example, a small market team can unload a player in a trade if the player's contract is too great and he is perceived as a liability relative to contract value. The Nats can pick that guy up in a trade and overpay him--and still upgrade the team. Just takes money.

    Similarly, one of the Nat's guys can be traded if the Nats pay some of his salary. Dmitri comes to mind. The player recieived in return can be an upgrade, especially when the Nats are trading cash as well as a player.

    These kinds of moves do not hurt the future at all. In fact they help, since they attract fans in the present and stimulate revenues to improve the club further.

    Even in the dreaded case of getting a youngish FA, the future is not harmed all that much. You have to sacrifice a second rounder, which is often a good deal for a FA that may play 4 or 5 years for the Nats. You can't make a practice of it.

    So there are ways. Chris is right to question the STANdard answer of not spending money.

    We do have to push the Nats some. Most of us are not saying "Get a new Plan, Stan." Most of us like the Plan. Just be a little creative with the present too, in ways that do not hurt the Plan.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/22/2007 10:32 AM  

  • "So there are ways. Chris is right to question the STANdard answer of not spending money."

    Funny, I don't see a lot of (real) quotes from Stan (or the Lerners for that matter) saying "We're not going to spend money." What I do see are a lot of quotes saying "We're not going to spend money the way YOU are telling us we should." And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/22/2007 11:02 AM  

  • Chris, keep up the StanSpeak. There's always at least one laugh-out-loud funny line. My favorite this time was, "But don't look at Hanrahan too much. He'll burn your retinas." Classic!

    To those who don't like the bit, I'm sure Chris will take into account your concerns -- as soon as he receives your check for the subscription fees!!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9/22/2007 11:41 AM  

  • So, about Friday night's game...anyone else think Shawn Hill is hurt - beyond the left shoulder? (We all know that bothers him and he's having surgery in early October.)

    A pattern seems to have emerged in that these quick declines in effectiveness are followed by statements of "forearm tightness" followed by awkward statements of "He's just a little tired. It will only take a little rest", followed by major surgery and a 12 month rehab period.

    Given Hill's never been healthy for an extended period, and has had arm troubles in the past, is anyone else worried? Are there too many expectations that Hill is going to be the Nats' go to guy next year?

    Sound familiar?

    By Blogger Jim H, at 9/22/2007 12:22 PM  

  • Jim H:

    Count me as worried.

    The Nats do not have a decent #1 or #2, nor do any of their current lineup of starters seem able to go beyond six innings.

    Also, Cordero is iffy as a closer.

    With this combination, the Nats will need some big boppers in order to score a lot of runs. Anyone see that happening?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/22/2007 1:06 PM  

  • I'm not all that worried about Hill. He wasn't sharp last night, but aside from the home run balls he really didn't get hit up. And he wasn't getting any strike calls at all on the low slider, which didn't help him in getting ahead in the counts against a team full of tough hitters. He's facing surgery on the shoulder in a couple of weeks, and he readily admits that the shoulder bothers him and messes up his mechanics. It was probably bothering him last night, but he pitched through it and didn't totally suck up the joint, unlike some of the 100% healthy guys the Nats have thrown out there this year. (Can you say...Speigner?) Our retinas are safe, no matter how long we gaze on Shawn. And he's not J Patt 2.0 either.

    There is one free agent pitcher out there, though, who I think the Nats would be very wise to pursue for next year. His name is Livan Hernandez. I believe Stan and JimBo are familiar with his oeuvre.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/22/2007 1:26 PM  

  • hilarious, pure and simple. The Blog rulz, dont change a thing.

    By Blogger Mac G, at 9/26/2007 1:16 PM  

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