- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WASHINGTON | Wearing a red jacket with “Nationals” written across the chest, Stan Kasten made clear on his last official day as president of Washington’s baseball team that he really will not be cutting ties any time soon.

He will hold onto his minority ownership stake in the team for the time being, he said Wednesday in a half-hour meeting with reporters at Nationals Park.

And, Kasten noted, he will be available to help with ongoing projects, including a possible change in spring training sites from Viera, Fla.; a radio deal for next season; and work toward “fixing the problem that we have across baseball” with rules governing prospects in the Dominican Republic.

In March 2009, Kasten revealed that a top prospect from the Dominican who received a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Nationals lied about his age and name. Kasten said Wednesday he knew about the matter two years before that.

As for stepping aside after about 4½ years with the Nationals — he originally announced his resignation on Sept. 23 — Kasten said, “I wouldn’t say I feel excessively emotional.”

Perhaps that’s because he still will be connected to the club in a variety of ways.

“Probably even during spring training, I will still be an owner,” Kasten said. “Because I don’t really expect to do anything different by then, I don’t think.”

Asked whether he would be interested in succeeding baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who has said he’ll retire in 2012, Kasten replied: “First of all, I reject the premise. I know no one in baseball who thinks Bud is stepping down in 2012. And everyone in baseball, starting with me, is very happy that he won’t be, and we’ll all encourage him to continue to stay there.”

Kasten touched on a variety of subjects Wednesday, and delivered a lengthy answer when asked if he considers his time with the Nationals successful.

The crux of his response: “Is it success yet? No, it isn’t, because success is winning, and we haven’t done that yet,” Kasten said. “But we’ve made real progress.”

The Nationals finished last in the NL East each of the past three seasons — and five of the six years since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal — a far cry from the sort of perennial winners Kasten had during his time with the Atlanta Braves.

“I miss not being in the postseason. I really do,” said Kasten, who reached the playoffs a total of 30 times during his previous jobs with baseball’s Braves and the NBA’s Hawks. “And it will be worth all our struggles and pain once we do get there.”

He thinks the Lerner family, the Nationals’ principal owners, will spend the money it takes to improve a club that went a combined 187-298 the past three seasons.

“I know the owners are intent on making this successful and on winning here. Believe me, it’s their best case. It’s how all of us do better — when we win. They’re intent on backing (general manager Mike Rizzo) up and pursuing the things he wants to pursue and giving him the resources to do it. That’s all we talked about all summer. I think we’re all on the same page,” Kasten said. “I do know the desire is there. The willingness is there. And I think the follow-through will be there too, I really do.”

He hopes and thinks the Nationals will re-sign slugging first baseman Adam Dunn, who can become a free agent this offseason.

“I think it will be the right thing not just for us, but it would be the right thing for Adam,” Kasten said.

The Nationals always have held spring training in Viera, about 45 minutes south of Orlando, and the team has a lease that runs through 2017. But Kasten said the location is problematic because it’s not near many other major league clubs.

He expects the team to know within a year whether it will stay in Viera or find another spot for camp, and he said it’s possible the Nationals could become the only East Coast baseball team currently training in Arizona.

“We’re giving it a good hard look and examining all our options,” Kasten said. “And we’re not at all ruling Viera out.”

 

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