At 63-50, the Los Angeles Dodgers, once mired in last place, have opened a comfortable five-game lead over Arizona in the National League West standings – an encouraging development for team president Stan Kasten, who is accustomed to winning.
Kasten became Atlanta’s president in 1986 and helped the Braves to one of the winningest, most consistent stretches in baseball history from the late-’80s through the early 2000s. He became president of the Dodgers in April 2012.
Kasten inherited what he felt was a middling franchise – one that struggled through some up-and-down years and had a minor-league system that, especially internationally, was well behind the curve.
Of course, signing prospects like Yasiel Puig certainly helps. Puig, who signed a seven-year, $42 million deal last year, is hitting .372 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs on the season.
“We’re pretty happy with the pieces that we’ve added,” Kasten said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We trusted our scouts, and we’re being rewarded for it now.”
More important, Puig has spearheaded the Dodgers’ worst-to-first turnaround – a run that likely saved Don Mattingly’s job. Kasten had frequent closed-door discussions with his manager early in the season.
“It was the same thing I said publicly,” Kasten said. “I think Don’s going to be here a long time. I’m a big fan of Don’s, and the reason I think he’s going to be here a long time is because I still think everything is going to fall into place. I think we put a good team together. Yeah, we’ve had some issues with guys underperforming and then a lot guys being injured – not just one guy at a time, but the carousel kept changing – so I think when we get through that, things are going to fall into place and they’ll be fine. If I’m wrong and they don’t fall into place, well, then other stuff is likely to happen.
“And those were the kind of conversations I had with Donny. He completely understood it. I didn’t (keep) any secrets from him. But look, that was nothing revolutionary what I was saying. If things work out, it’ll be great. If it doesn’t work out, it won’t be great. And that’s basically as direct as I could be with Don.”
Did Kasten considerable possible replacement for Mattingly? Sure.
“Mentally, I could name 10 guys today even though I’m not looking for (a replacement),” Kasten said. “But I wasn’t making calls or hiring people. That wasn’t going on.
“Remember, I believed then that things were going to fall into place because I really did think we had put a good team together. I really did. Did I know we’d be 32-8 for a stretch? I can’t tell you I knew that, but I thought we were pretty good. And if we stay healthy, I think we can still be good for the rest of this year and hopefully into October.”