Stan Kasten resigns as Nats President

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Jon Heyman reports that Washington Nationals President Stan Kastan has resigned. He’ll stay on until the end of the season for whatever that’s worth. Jon Paul Morosi reports that he’s leaving “for personal reasons,” but you know and I know that’s usually code for “I gotta get out of this monkeyhouse.”

Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column foreshadowing this just this morning. The real reason for the resignation — if you believe Boswell — bodes ill for the Nationals. Kastan has been lobbying the Lerners for years to raise the payroll and act less frugally when it comes to promotions and just about any other aspect of team operations.  Boswell says that Kastan is tired of fighting — and losing — that fight.  Noted Nats blogger Chris Needham — no Kastan fan by any stretch of the imagination — worries about Kastan leaving, as he may very well have been the bulwark preventing the Lerners from going with their instincts and nickel-and-diming the club to death.

This makes sense to me, as Kastan was perhaps the most important figure in Atlanta as the Braves were transitioning from the joke they were for much of the 70s and 80s into the highly professional organization they’ve been for the past 20 years. Ted Turner’s money, sure, but he always had money. Kastan knew how to spend it wisely and who to let spend it wisely.

There are always two sides to every story, so it’s premature to bury the Lerners over this or to assume that, with Kastan out of the picture, they’ll turn the Nats into the Florida Marlins North.  But it’s certainly not a good sign when a guy who is as respected in professional sports feels it necessary to leave like Kastan is.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉