Q&A with Stan Kasten

Kasten talks about how to build a winner

New team president Stan Kasten indicated he wants to build the Nationals franchise like the Braves, who have won a record 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and one World Series. And in order to do that, according to Kasten, the team must rebuild the farm system.

He should know. Kasten was an integral part in helping the Braves become the model franchise when he was president of the organization from 1987-2003. During that period, the Braves won more games than any other big-league team.

Kasten has been very busy ever since the Lerner group was tabbed as the Nationals' new owners on May 3. This past weekend, Kasten had meetings with general manager Jim Bowden about the state of the Major League and Minor League systems. He is also putting his own ideas together on how the new Nationals stadium will look, and he is trying to make sure that everyone in the D.C. area gets to see the Nationals on TV.

MLB.com caught up with Kasten recently to talk about the Nationals and his plans for the team.

MLB.com: You were out of the game for the last two years. What did you miss about baseball during that time?

Stan Kasten: I wasn't running a club, but I was still involved with many, many people inside the game. I've had a blast the last two years, examining different deals, examining situations, going all around the country. So I had a lot of fun. It was really a good time for me. As I've said, when I stepped down from the Braves, the next thing I do will be building something. I need it to be bigger and better than anything I've done before. Here in Washington, I have found it.

MLB.com: What was your reaction when commissioner Bud Selig told you and Mark Lerner that the Lerner group had control of the Nationals?

Kasten: I felt great, relieved, pride, satisfaction, gratitude -- all those things at once. It was a 19-month marathon and we came in first. It's a special feeling to be in that competitive situation for that long and prevail. Now, I am confronted by the reality of a very large task, but I'm exhilarated by the challenges and hurdles in front of us.

MLB.com: What is your biggest concern about the franchise right now?

Kasten: I can't narrow it down to No. 1. A president can't because I have to be concerned with all of the many challenges. I have to be concerned with the challenges Jim has, that [manager] Frank [Robinson] has, that our ticket sales department has, that our broadcast people have. They all have challenges. I have to be concerned with all of those.

MLB.com: During your press conference, you talked about fixing the Nationals' farm system. How do you go about doing that?

Kasten: It takes a re-dedication of resources, and it starts with money and then it involves getting the best people you can. I want to talk to Jim, and I believe that Jim has the same game plan that I have. And I want to talk to him about how he envisions things and how they should unfold.

MLB.com: How did you do it with the Braves?

Kasten: First of all, we had to redeploy the money that we were spending year in and year out on free agents. We thought it was better spent on Minor Leaguers, scouting, adding Minor League teams, drafting more players, adding trainers and instructors in every level. It took us a little time to do it that way, but we thought it would pay off in the end, and it did.

MLB.com: It took four years for the Braves to become contenders. Could it take that long in Washington?

Kasten: Well, the process of maturing players from the draft to the Major Leagues is not the only way to build up your system. Whether it's trades or signing existing free agents, there are other ways to do it, and I won't rule out any of that.

MLB.com: What about the Major League side? What needs fixing there?

Kasten: I haven't been at it long enough. I couldn't begin to give you that comment. That's something Jim knows intimately and I'm going to start spending time with Jim. It's a long process -- it's weeks and months. You can't just learn everything in one day, especially when you deal with this many personalities. A baseball team is about the molding of personalities.

MLB.com: Besides the farm system, what else makes a championship club?

Kasten: A ballplayer is more than simply batting averages and ERA. A ballplayer has heart, makeup and competitiveness. The more of those qualities you have, the more successful players you are going to have. The more players you have, the better makeup of the team you have.

Now, everyone is not perfect. Many players with great tools are not vocal leaders. You don't have that with every player, but the more of those elements on a team, the better it is. Leadership is important. A manager can do but so much. It also has to come from the characters of players that you have on the team, in addition to the physical talent that you have.

MLB.com: Has the Lerner group decided what it will do first once it takes over the club? Have you and Mark Lerner talked about this already?

Kasten: We have ideas and thoughts. Hopefully, we are going to announce a series of things all at once. That's what my hope is. That time is more than a month away, but we are working on it.

MLB.com: Obviously, the fans in Washington want to see a winner. What do you tell them knowing that it will take a while before they see one?

Kasten: Well, I think when you look at the Atlanta Braves, you see a winner. You want to see a winner? That's how you see a winner. Let's build this together. Get on board because it's going to be a lot of fun, even through the building process. It will be extremely rewarding when we turn the corner.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.