- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

Incoming Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten hinted yesterday the team will be active in acquiring young talent at the July 31 trade deadline, and reiterated his commitment to rebuilding the team’s depleted farm system.

“You are watching a team with a $63 million [payroll] that’s 15 games out of first place,” he said during a speech before members of the Potomac Officer’s Club. “I don’t imagine you want this … to go on that long. You want to improve, and that’s what I want to do.”

But, he said “Everything we do will be focused on improving the team in the long term.”

Several Nationals players including Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen and Livan Hernandez are expected to receive strong interest from other teams before the trade deadline, but Kasten declined to address the future of specific players.

“I can’t tell you what trades will be available between now and the deadline, because it depends on what other teams are doing,” he said.

Kasten will take over as team president in the next few weeks, when the family of local real estate developer Ted Lerner is officially given ownership of the team. He reiterated his belief the Nationals’ minor league system must be rebuilt after four years of relative neglect under the ownership of Major League Baseball. Kasten is credited with helping turn the Atlanta Braves from a bad team in the late 1980s and 1990 to a consistent contender by developing talent from within the organization.

“This is what I’ve been trying to explain to people whose first question is ‘Are you going to sign free agents?’ ” said Kasten, who referenced several failed free-agent pickups during this early days with the Braves in the 1980s. “And the answer is no. It doesn’t work. In my mind, there’s a time and place for it. But it’s the last step.”

The effusive executive and the Lerner family have promised a “grand re-opening” of RFK Stadium on July 21, with a cleaner appearance and entertainment around the stadium. He said details of the event likely will be announced within the next two weeks. He also said the team soon will roll out an aggressive new community relations program, with increased appearances from players.

Kasten also said he remained committed to working out a solution to the impasse between Comcast and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos that has left many fans unable to watch Nationals games on cable. He said talks are ongoing, and that “at some point in the near future we will resort to any means necessary to get the games on TV.” He declined to give specifics.

His comments came on a day when a U.S. House subcommittee issued a letter strongly urging the Federal Communications Commission to hear a carriage complaint filed by Mid-Atlantic Sports Network more than a year ago. While the committee has no power to force the FCC to hear the case, it could curb funding for the agency because it has oversight over the FCC’s appropriation.

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