For Nats, adding Kasten is a positive development

NL Notebook


When baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced Wednesday that area real estate developer Theodore N. Lerner and his family would be the new owners of the Washington Nationals, the club's direction became clear.

The Nationals will soon have one of the more active scouting and player development departments in the sport.

Aligned with the Lerner group is former Atlanta Braves executive Stan Kasten, who will take over the club president reins from Tony Tavares once the sale officially goes through in the middle of this month.

Kasten, who was Braves president from 1987 to 2003 and also ran the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, has always put a major emphasis on developing from within.

"The thing that's really important is Stan's strong belief in scouting," said current Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, whose future under the new ownership is unclear. "That's how they did it in Atlanta. You know we have one of the smallest staffs in baseball. Atlanta's always had one of the biggest staffs in baseball."

The money should be there, but Kasten will have some work to do. The Nationals' farm system was ranked 24th out of 30 major league teams by Baseball America. At least he has a track record for finding and signing talent.

"They have always been able to get the Andruw Joneses or Jeff Francoeurs or the Chipper Joneses," Bowden said, "whether they are picking first or late. They have always done a very good job there."

Kasten also has a reputation for putting skilled people in the right positions. He was the one who hired Baltimore native John Schuerholz to be the Braves' GM in 1990. Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox have combined to win 14 straight division titles.

"[Kasten] was an integral part of building what the Braves have over there right now," said Nationals reliever Mike Stanton, who spent parts of his first seven seasons with Atlanta. "So I think he will be a great addition to come over here and help get this organization moving in the right direction."

Triple Crown?

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has the skills to challenge for a Triple Crown. But according to someone who has done it, Pujols will need more than ability.

"It takes a heck of a season, No. 1. And it takes luck," said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who led the American League in homers, RBIs and batting average while with the Orioles in 1966. "Somebody in one of those three categories has to have an off-season, home run hitters, guys who hit for average, guys who drive in runs. Somebody somewhere has to be off."

In 1966, it was the Minnesota Twins' Tony Oliva who finished second to Robinson in batting average (.316 to .307). The previous two years, Oliva won the batting title with averages of .321 and .323. The Boston Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski was the last Triple Crown winner (1967). The last National Leaguer to do it was St. Louis' Joe "Ducky" Medwick in 1937.

Very superstitious

The Florida Marlins think they know why they've struggled at home. There is a black cat living behind the dugout at Dolphin Stadium, and players have tried to lure it out without success.

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