In a quick transitional interview between shows on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio, former DC GM and current "Inside Pitch" host Jim Bowden was asked by Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette, hosts of "The Power Alley" if Stan Kasten's lack of input in baseball decisions had anything to do with the Nats' team President's decision to resign? Mr. Bowden was quick to say, "No,":
Jim Bowden: "He certainly was given the ballclub and the presidency, and he was involved in every single decision. There wasn't a baseball decision that didn't go through him, there wasn't a baseball decision that he didn't take above him. It's an organization where everyone is extremely involved in every decision, there's no autonomy for anybody. He certainly, probably, would have liked to have more resources at the major league level. I think that when he was with the Braves, and they won those 14 divisional titles, at least 12 of them they had the highest payroll in the league, and so he was used to going out there and getting frontline, big league players, and that type of payroll was not available to him."
"He's very passionate," Mr. Bowden said of his old boss, "...very bright guy, highly intelligent, tremendous brain speed and, look, they existed a long time, I just think there comes a time where, it's probably, the organization's not where he thought it would be at this point and maybe he looks at it and says the fit isn't there any more and he wants to do something else."
The current DC GM, Mike Rizzo, sat in for an inning with MASN's Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight during last night's Nats' win over the Astros, admitting that it was a, "bittersweet day, specifically for me, my personal relationship with Stan, and not only with that, but what he brings to the organization, to the ballclub, he's been an instrumental figure for a long, long time since the beginning of the franchise, he brings a lot to the table and personally I owe the man a lot, he's mentored me in my job here and gave me the job when I first arrived as the assistant GM and then gave me the GM job thereafter."
The interview quickly turned away from Mr. Kasten to the future of the team with the Nats' GM commenting on the Nationals' new middle infield, talking first about Ian Desmond's struggles in the field, and explaining that when the season began, and Desi won the job at short out of Spring Training, "These errors [were] not unexpected. We figured that he was going to make somewhere between 35-38 errors this year because it's typical for a young, rangy shortstop to make a lot of errors. We feel that those errors will be cut drastically next year by just learning the speed of the game, the speed of the major league hitters and the baserunners, and when you have a guy that has such a strong arm like Desmond, with such great range it leads to errors often because you're going to think that you can make every play, every throw, it's sort of like a John Elway at quarterback, he thinks he can slip the ball into the smallest of holes and sometimes it gets intercepted."
As for the alignment of next year's infield, Mr. Rizzo says "nothing is set in stone". Though he believes Danny Espinosa's "learning curve at second base is going to be a small one," when they go to Spring Training there will be some competition, "Competition is great," according to Mr. Rizzo, "I love when guys battle over things. It gives the manager, it gives the general manager some flexibility and some option down the road. We need to see long-term where Espinosa stands as far as in the 2011 club out of Spring Training." In Mr. Rizzo's mind, however, "September baseball can fool you sometimes, and we're trying to figure out who these guys really are and what we really have."
As for what they don't have, the DC GM tells MASN's Mr. Carpenter that the biggest offseason need is, "Starting pitching. Get ourselves a front of the line, top of the rotation guy that we can lean on every fifth day which makes every other rotation spot a little bit more palatable." "We run across the Mets and the Phillies, Marlins and the Braves so often," Mr. Rizzo continued, "they're such pitching rich organizations that we need to keep up with them, we need to outdevelop them, we need to acquire players that can compete in that division."
One area of organization's strength, however, that might have unanticipated, might just be behind the plate. While he's a long way away from being back, and has been out for the better part of two years, Nats' catcher Jesus Flores saw his first game action Thursday, albeit against some younger competition in the Florida Instructional League. (Oh yeah, Bryce Harper made his competitive debut yesterday too, going 0 for 2 with 2 K's). MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, who covered the first Instructional League game, reported at the end of an article on the Nats' 2010 no.1 overall pick entitled, "Harper makes his professional debut", that Flores was not only healthy and finally back behind the plate, he was still flashing power with the bat. According to Mr. Gonzalez, Flores, "...who missed the entire season due to an ailing right shoulder...was behind the plate for three innings and homered to left field in his first at-bat." Battles in the middle infield, the potential for a battle behind the plate between Pudge Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores if he can make his way all the way back, and a potential battle for the five starting spots in the rotation, especially if the Nats can add a front-end starter. Mr. Kasten may be missed, but he's not leaving the cupboard bare as it was when the team arrived in D.C. There is a foundation, that was the plan.