Stan Kasten – The Direction of the Dodgers
Stan Kasten…is a leader. I don’t just say that because of the position he currently holds with the Dodgers as President and CEO. I say that because if you ever get the incredible opportunity to speak with him or even listen to him talk, you become inspired. You get this overwhelming excitement that you didn’t even knew existed. He got me excited about this current ball club that we have. Impressive, right? I walked away from it all not even really knowing why I was so optimistic, but I was. Listening to him talk is simply a wonder and a treat. He is the kind of guy that when you greet him with a polite, “Hello Mr. Kasten, how are you doing?” He quickly corrects you and replies with a laugh, “It’s Stan, but I’m doing great, thanks for asking.” He talks to you like a friend, and tells everyone exactly how it is, no matter the situation.
He knows exactly what he’s doing. This isn’t his first rodeo. He is an incredibly humble man that knows that this whole “business,” if you will, is 100% about the fans; and from the fans standpoint, the team comes first. The team…is everything.
Within the first week of him becoming president, Stan was walking the stadium. He was checking out lines at the food vendors, walking the upper deck, stopping to say hello to fans. This is a guy who has personally read over 3,000 suggestions from the fan box, performed 2 different public opinion surveys and 2 separate focus groups just last week. It’s not glamorous work by any means, but it is completely necessary. He doesn’t have someone do the dirty work for him, he does it himself.
This “interview,” for lack of a better term, wasn’t necessarily a question and answer type deal. It was more of a conversation with a few guiding questions. Instead of giving you exact questions that were asked, I will merely guide you in the direction that the conversation went, but mostly quoting Stan, so you can see first hand, what your Dodgers president is like. Now Stan is very in depth when he speaks to fans, his coworkers, his associates, anybody. So when he is asked a question, he answers to the absolute best of his abilities and in depth as possible for clarity sake. His responses and quotes can be long, but I can guarantee you they are worth your time. He is an amazing speaker, and will get you excited moving forward. So as you’d probably all like, I’ll stop writing and get to the good stuff. haha
Since the Guggenheim Group has taken over, there has been a definitely different vibe around Dodger Stadium. The average attendance has rose to around 39,000 per game, there are great promotions, and overall, fans are much happier with this new group. I think we’d all agree with that. Stan was very thankful for the credit, and was thankful for the fans as well:
“Thanks for saying that, and people tell us that, anecdotally, that the reaction has been fantastic. But I will tell you what I can say for sure, objectively, that we have sold a lot more tickets. We have sold almost 3,000 new season tickets since the announcement that we were selected had been made. Now I got to believe that most of that is because the team looks so good and the future I think is bright for everyone, but there is also that belief or that credibility that our group brings with it. Now everyone is going to need to see some proof, but I do not take their support and their reception for granted. We have to start doing things and the sooner the better for that. But again, giving us this latitude, giving us this time to feel our way through to find out the best things to do, we really appreciate it, and we don’t take it for granted. We do have plans, and we are working on things right now to not just get the experience better, but even more importantly the team better.”
The dreaded series against the Giants was brought up. When this all happened, it was all on our minds, and it was something that needed to be addressed — not just the series, but this recent lack of offense and overall performance. Stan didn’t back down from any of it and responded with integrity:
“Well you have to address the areas that are available to you, let me talk about that for a second. First of all, as you know, no matter how long you’re in the game, losses really hurt (chuckling) and losing streaks are the worst of all. So yeah, this is a bad week for all of us who are Dodgers fans. I do have to say, to be fair, I was thrilled that we were doing as well as were doing up until two weeks ago, given the unbelievable injuries to the key people that we’ve had. Ya know, we’d love to have Matt back, we’d love to have Mark Ellis back, we’d love to have Ted Lilly back, and yet without guys like that, and other people that we’ve lost along the way, we really held up well. That was a real testament to the fortitude of this team, the resilience of the backup players who had to step up and the managing of Don and the coaching of his coaches. So that’s a real strength I think and that hasn’t gone away, we still have those strengths. But when we get players back, we obviously expect to get better.”
We all know about Stan’s philosophy. He is very intent on making our farm system as strong as it can be, and dominant in the future. He has always been a big supporter of the farm system, it has worked wonders for him in the past with other teams, and he looks to bring the Dodgers back to where they were — the best farm system in baseball. Going off what he said about improving the team, the conversation went into exactly that, and what he was doing as of now, to improve the farm system or the big league club.
“Well for this time of year, what has happened when I say all you can do is what’s available, is going in to June and in to July, it’s a scouting and player development time of year, that’s because the draft is the first week of June. And I can tell you that I think we had an excellent draft; I watched the process, I spent a week with the scouts to learn them, to see how they worked, to find out who I can really trust and where we might need to add more. I think we had a terrific draft, I think we need to get our first round picks signed, but I expect that to happen very soon. After the draft, the next thing that happens is the July 2nd, international day. And you know this is such a big thing for me because its such a big part of modern baseball. It is an area that the Dodgers did not emphasize in the last few years. I think it’s a really important thing. And this year, new rules are kicking in pursuant to our new collective bargaining agreement. So there’s a window where you can sign people before July 2nd, and I’d like to see if we can do something before then. So that’s Monday. And then starting Monday, after July 2nd, we all now have a cap amount – an allotment of money – that we can use to sign international players, and I hope to start using that money for that next group of players starting first thing monday. So I hope by this time next week, (which at that time would be Wednesday, July 4th) we’ll be able to announce the signings of all our first round draft picks, maybe a pre-July 2nd singing, maybe some post July 2nd signings, so that we can say that in the course of one month we’ve really, really started the process of beefing up our minor leagues. So that’s what can be done now. After the July 2nd period, or the week thereafter, you really can start to turn your attention to the major league club because that’s when other teams are turning their attention to their major league clubs as well. Where the scouts are now fanning out, and also, the closer you get to the deadline, July 31, the picture becomes clearer which teams are going to sell, which teams are going to move their players. Right now it’s kind of merky because, as we know, this year there is now a second wild card team and that means more teams have hopes so teams are staying in it longer. I think that will clear up by August 31. And all I will say to you is this, I think we demonstrated with Andre Ethier that we will be aggressive in retaining the players that we really appreciate. I think that when we get going on these international signings, we will demonstrate there too that we’re going to be aggressive in pursuing international talent. And I hope by August 1, we’re able to show that we’ll be aggressive in pursuing additions to the team in mid season as well. And then next offseason, we plan on being aggressive in doing that too. So we still have things to prove to our fans, but I promise you that is our plan, and we plan to deliver on that.”
Now…I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t know how that wouldn’t just get you excited right there. His plans are so in depth. He has already done so much in just ONE month as president to beef up our minor leagues and explains vividly why he hasn’t made moves in the majors yet. I think this gives all the fans a sigh of relief to know that its not something he is forgetting, and is on a to-do list that is miles long. Oh, and just so everyone knows he’s not blowing smoke, he’s already delivered. Today, the Dodgers DID sign their first round pick Corey Seager to a $2.35 Million deal, and they also signed international Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig to a 7 year, $42 Million deal. He said they were going to be aggressive, and they have been. This interview was before any of those signings had been made too. So you can bet that all of the other things he mentioned, he plans on delivering. It’s a very exciting time to be a Dodger fan.
Kevin Kennedy from Dodger Talk always loves taking questions from fans about players that could potentially be a trading target for us. Obviously, Stan can’t comment on specific players because that would be tampering, but Kevin Kennedy can. A caller brought up the name Mike Moustakis to him, and Kevin brought up the fact to the caller that Moustakis had just recently been locked down for the Royals and won’t be available. Dodgers will, however, be looking at “bottom feeders,” as he put it, to deal with. When this was brought up to Stan, he had this to say:
“Well let me say this, (laughing) as a management guy, I don’t like thinking of teams as “bottom feeders.” They are “building” teams, or “rebuilding” teams, but they are at a different stage of their process. We are the Dodgers. We are full of Dodger pride that we have earned over a century of baseball. We expect more here; everyone expects more of me, and I get that. We’re not one of those building teams, we’re a team that needs to go for it right now, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Going off of that Dodger pride, the point came up that this lineup that is filled with utility players being used as everyday players is not a lineup that fans can be proud of. Being swept by the Giants without scoring runs is a terrible feeling, and watching games, day in and day out without scoring runs is, being completely honest, embarrassing. The other point was that we have old, tired players in the lineup as well. Long story short, it’s a really tough lineup to be behind and support for the fans. Again, Stan was not hesitant to take on the criticism:
“Well let me say a couple things about that (that phrase seemed to be a trend when he answered a question) First of all, I know how you’re feeling. You’re feeling like I’m feeling given how the last ten games have gone (1-9). Two weeks ago, we were feeling pretty darn good about this same group of players that you just mentioned. And secondly, on the front office’s behalf, and on the manager’s behalf, let’s remember all that led up to the acquisition of those players, whether they were acquired last year, or through this winter, and the circumstances that the front office had (referring to the confusing ownership situation of course). And I think going forward, it’s a new day with a little more resources, with a little more aggressive philosophy than they’ve been able to have recently, and I don’t think I need to say more about that. So I hear what you’re saying. There IS a value to a veteran bench. We’ve had many nights this year, where our veteran bench has really come through and, in fact, until two weeks ago, they were doing it regularly all season, so lets give them that credit. But I hear you moving forward, and there is nothing I like more than young talent. You need to have that pipeline, and every team that has had sustained success did so on a foundation of young talent. It’s what we don’t have here quite as much as I’d like, to be frank, and it’s what we need to build and we have turned our attention to that. But we’re not waiting for them to get here! If we need to go out and find reinforcements, we’re going to aggressively seek them out right now.”
One last quick point that was brought up, was that even though Stan can’t mention any one player by name, as generically as possible, could he say if he anticipated any type of move before the deadline:
“Well I anticipate trying, ya know? I mean it takes two to make a deal. I know we’re going to be aggressive. It won’t be a matter of resources as I’ve described to you before. At the trade deadline, the currency that is most valuable is not money, it’s prospects…and there are a number of teams that are deeper in those than we are, frankly. So that’s why you need to build that organization up, not just to build the pipeline and use players yourself, but to use as currency to improve your team in other ways. So we’ll see if we’ll be successful in doing so. I can tell you that our front office has a mandate from me, and from Mark, and from Magic, to be as aggressive as they can in acquiring other players. My guess is we will find things to do and I can promise that we will be working hard at accomplishing that.”
Sigh of relief, right? I know it is for me. He is an incredibly smart man, and I am so proud to say that he is in charge of leading this team to becoming a dynasty again. He has a definitive plan, even if he can’t give all the details he would probably like. I wanted to make sure that all fans have access to as much of Stan as humanly possible. It’s nice to know what your president is doing and to pick his brain a little bit. I hope you all found this as informing as I imagined.