For over a year there had been rumblings that Stan Kasten would be leaving the Washington Nationals. So, when word broke on Thursday that Kasten would be stepping down as president of the Nats at the end of the season, many that follow baseballâ€™s inner workings were not shocked.
But, determining where Kasten will land next could be more compelling than his exit from the Nationals.
Bobby Cox first said it, but it was far from the ramblings of an aged dugout manager. Cox thinks Kasten would be perfect to replace Bud Selig when his contract expires in 2012 (it should be noted, Selig has said he was going to retire on more than one occasion only to have the owners get him to accept an extension).
"I've never talked to him about that, but I think it would" appeal to Kasten, Cox said to the Washington Post. "He's qualified to do that job, absolutely. He's a lawyer. He knows the game. He loves baseball more than anything. He knows the inner-workings of it. He'd be a solid choice, in my opinion."
Kasten certainly brings much to the table in terms of commissioner qualifications. Cox mentioned that he is a lawyer, but heâ€™s also been president of not one, not two, but three major league sports franchises, at once (Braves, Thrashers, and Hawks). He was married up as a minority owner with the Lerner family to help the group meet the leagueâ€™s muster. Heâ€™s been a soldier for baseball even in when he was in â€śretirementâ€ť after his time in Atlanta.
In a 2005 interview with Hal Bodley, then with USA Today, Kasten spoke of eliminating player agents from the labor equation. "That's the way it is in virtually every other union," Kasten said. "Those unions have a much greater role in determining salaries. There aren't individual agents in other collective bargaining environments."
Further, in dealing with Scott Boras in two consecutive drafts, first with Stephen Strasburg and then with Bryce Harper, Kasten has been vocal in saying that the amateur draft system is broken all but calling for a hard-slotting system.
"I'm confident it will only be in place one more year," Kasten said in July to the Washington Post. "Because it is just silly, to think the industry operates this way. There's no reason for it. And the worst part? The worst part is we've now institutionalized taking young talent at their prime development age, and now we say, 'Go sit on the shelf for this season.' That's the worst thing of all. It doesn't help the talent. It doesn't help the teams. If nothing else, that law needs to be fixed."
Kastenâ€™s also 58, old enough to be seasoned, but young enough to allow him to be in place for a considerable stretch, should the owners take a liking to him.
Throw in Stanâ€™s incredible political prowess which the media has deemed â€śStan speakâ€ť, and the idea of Kasten moving into the Commissionerâ€™s Office seems a near perfect fit.
But, it may be that Kasten doesnâ€™t move directly into Seligâ€™s chair, or for that matter, moves into the chair at all. Itâ€™s possible that he could fill another high ranking spot, just below the role of commissioner.
ESPNâ€™s Buster Olney reported on Saturday that MLB president and COO Bob DuPuy is being pushed out. DuPuy, the number 2 man in baseball is â€śon his way outâ€ť according to three high-ranking executives within MLB saying that DuPuy and Selig are not as close as they once were.
Reached for comment late Friday, Kasten danced around the topic of working for the Commissionerâ€™s Office. â€śI'm just not going to be talking about myself for a while,â€ť said Kasten in his own â€śStan speakâ€ť way. After all, he didnâ€™t say noâ€¦ or yes.
What is known is that Kasten is not going off into the sunset. Thereâ€™s nothing that points to him retiring. As Nationals owner Ted Lerner said in his statement on Kasten leaving the Nationals, â€śWe certainly respect his decision to pursue other interests at the end of the regular season.â€ť When it was mentioned that it would be odd not seeing him at the Winter Meetings he replied, â€śMaybe you will.â€ť
It seems clear we havenâ€™t seen the end of Stan Kasten. Just how high up the ladder he goes remains to be seen.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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