Moore: Kasten has no peer in sports
Stan Kasten is peerless at his craft, not only in the Major Leagues, but in professional sports, and I'm talking about the history of professional sports. Nobody else could claim with a straight face that he was responsible for setting the foundation for the current and future success of three different sports franchises. Not Phil Jackson, not Bill Parcells, not anybody who isn't named Stan Kasten, in his third year as president of the Dodgers. He also is a partial owner of the team.
Neither president nor partial owner tells the whole story here, though. The most accurate way to describe what Kasten does with the Dodgers goes back to what I said about this ongoing miracle worker during his previous baseball stints with the Nationals and the Braves: He's the Grand Poohbah. He's adept at making everything work together for good inside an organization, ranging from team officials to coaches to players to secretaries to batboys to custodians.
"There are a few things I will say about that," Kasten told me recently, as I leaned closer with hopes of hearing something that would rival the mystery of the Great Pyramids or how the Mets really won the 1969 World Series. Instead, Kasten shrugged, adding, "The formula is not a secret formula, because I think you build franchises on three things: Your product, your customer and your brand. Your product is your team, which involves scouting and player development. There is your customer, which is your stadium and your ability to enhance the fan experience. And your brand is your community relations part of it.
"Those really aren't secrets, but I will tell you that I've always had a secret ingredient that has been a big part of my career. I've always had an owner who let you do what you do, and I've always had an owner who has given me the resources and the authority to make it happen."
Still, such owners need somebody who can match a clear vision with subsequent action along the way to swift results.
We're back to Kasten, a master at making things happen out of nowhere in a short period of time. Before he joined the Dodgers' new ownership and management group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, he was the president of the Nationals from 2006 to 2010. Then there was his stint as Braves president from 1986 through 2003.
The Braves, the Dodgers and the Nationals were struggling franchises before the Grand Poohbah arrived. Now they all are among baseball's strongest teams. In addition, they all could win their division this year, along the way to winning the pennant and a World Series title. They also could do all of those things next season and a few seasons after that.
They were built to last by Kasten, now 62, but he remains that 27-year-old whiz kid that Atlanta Hawks owner Ted Turner made the youngest general manager in the National Basketball Association in 1979. Seven years later, after Kasten became the first person ever to capture back-to-back NBA Executive of the Year Awards, Turner did the unthinkable. He gave Kasten dual presidency of the Hawks and of the floundering Major League Baseball team that Turner owned at the time -- the Braves.
A front-office star was born in baseball, and at the start of the 1990s, so was a mini-dynasty. The Braves won a Major League record 14 consecutive division titles after Kasten hired future Hall of Famer Bobby Cox as general manager before the run to get the talent and then as manager to guide it. Then Kasten pushed the Braves toward an even higher level by bringing John Schuerholz aboard as his new general manager.
Kasten also implemented those "secrets" for running a successful organization that he says really aren't secrets. Whatever the case, here we are, 12 years after Kasten retired from running the Braves, and they still are using his non-secrets to perfection. They are doing so through Schuerholz as the new Kasten as president and through Cox, who retired as manager, but who remains a consultant with a Braves organization that continues to churn out talent from a farm system that Kasten helped develop.
Then Kasten went to the Nationals, and they were a mess before he brought his non-secrets to a franchise that quickly produced current stars Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals also built a cozy new ballpark to "enhance the fan experience," just like the cozy new ballpark the Braves built a few years before during Kasten's regime.
The Dodgers already have a jewel of a home place in Chavez Ravine, but Kasten has made it better by the product inside. Suddenly, after years in exile, Dodger Blue is the rage again, with Kasten convincing his fellow owners to spend enough to produce more than just the highest payroll in baseball. They've also used that cash to turn the Dodgers into a perennial contender with standouts such as Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Yasiel Puig.
It also doesn't hurt the Dodgers that they have one of the richest local television deals in sports, and we're back to Kasten.
Or should I say the Blue Grand Poohbah?
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.