- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

Outside the entrance to the National Press Club yesterday was a large banner that read, “Shame on the National Press Club.”

That won’t work on Stan Kasten. He won’t be shamed, bullied or provoked into telling Washington Nationals fans what the rest of the world already seems to believe — that Frank Robinson won’t be back as the manager.

Kasten spoke before the National Press Club yesterday, and he brought his cone of silence with him. Oh, he spoke a lot about the three pillars of their plan to build the Nationals into a successful franchise, and he answered questions submitted in writing by the 100 or so members in attendance.

But when it came to the question on everyone’s mind — the future of Robinson — the president of the Nationals felt no particular compulsion to reveal what he and the team already know, even though he was in the hallowed halls of the National Press Club.

After the session, reporters asked Kasten in several different ways whether the team planned on making an official announcement about Robinson’s future. Kasten declared gleefully that he had given the reporters “no guidance” in his answers.

And for this, the National Press Club gave him a mug, a certificate of appreciation and an autographed ball by the Press Club’s 2006 championship softball team — a perfect gift for this event.

It was as if when Kasten answered a question about Robinson’s future, that once he answered it, the issue no longer existed.

Robinson already has acknowledged meetings between himself and Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden. They didn’t happen in Stan Kasten’s world.

When someone from the audience asked when an announcement would be forthcoming on Robinson’s future, Kasten replied, “It’s that time of year when, as seasons end, you know there are hard decisions that have to be made, evaluations that have to be made. Those will be made in due course. I don’t have anything to say about it today, but our season is ending soon and then it will be time to make decisions like that and make announcements about things like that.”

Notice he said “things like that,” which didn’t necessarily mean this thing here. In other words, while he was saying decisions will be made when the season ends, he wasn’t saying the club would announce this decision then. It’s difficult to believe that it would just let the final two games come and go with nothing to say, though Kasten said he will not be at the season finale tomorrow at RFK.

Remember, no guidance. They should put that up on the National Press Club walls, right under Kasten’s picture.

And when asked what plans there might be to honor Robinson, Kasten said, “You mean of course whether or not he is the manager,” realizing that an acknowledgement of such a ceremony without that caveat would be an acknowledgement of reality, and we can’t have that.

Kasten then went on to say that Robinson “is a walking, living, breathing example of how to play baseball and as such there’s obviously a role for him. Everything he’s done deserves to be cherished and respected and with a tribute at the appropriate time. You can count on the Nationals to do the right thing.”

That would be a change from the way they have handled the Hall of Famer’s status so far.

There may be much more to all of this wrangling about Robinson and his future that goes beyond a simple announcement, and maybe the Nationals have privately been trying to do the right thing all along — or not. But whatever has transpired, it has turned into the first public relations snafu for the Lerner/Kasten ownership.

It was an unreal scene at RFK Stadium yesterday when Robinson held his pre-game meeting with reporters. There were the standard questions about how Mike O’Connor is pitching, or if he could make a judgement yet about Jose Vidro’s play at first base, and it seemed so absurd that this roomful of people knew Frank Robinson wasn’t coming back next year, including Frank Robinson, yet no one has officially said so yet.

Finally, Robinson was asked if he expected some kind of ceremony in these final two games, and he said, “I hadn’t thought about it.”

On a brighter note, Kasten told the crowd that he has been meeting with embassy officials from various nations to cultivate scouting roots for the team. He said he told one ambassador that “if you have a great countryman who wants to come over here and play baseball, what good does he do you in Cleveland or Dallas, and they could not be more excited about helping us out.”

Of course, he didn’t say whether the ambassador was from the Dominican Republic or Luxembourg.

And Kasten also said they are thinking about adding a fifth president to the president races — perhaps holding an election to do so.

“That’s how you chose a president,” he said.

But this isn’t how to deal with a baseball legend. And that’s a shame.

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