Extended interview: Royals owner David Glass talks playoff chances, payroll and more
07/15/2014 1:28 PM
07/15/2014 5:29 PM
The Royals stumbled into the All-Star break, dropping three of four to the Tigers and falling to 6 1/2 games back in the race for the American League Central Division. The team surged to the top of their division in the middle of June, only to sag through the final weeks of the first half.
From his perch in the owner’s box at Kauffman Stadium, David Glass described the season as a campaign of “peaks and valleys.” He hopes for more of the former as his club seeks their first playoff berth since 1985.
“It’s the inconsistency that has surprised me,” Glass said in a telephone interview. “But we’re in a good position, I think, to make a run for the playoffs. If we have a good second half, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the playoffs.”
Glass spoke with The Star on Tuesday morning about the state of his big-league club and various issues:
*He offered a vote of confidence for general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. Glass declined to frame this season as a “make or break” campaign for his front office and the on-field leadership. He said he expects the 2015 version of the Royals to be better than the team this season.
*Glass rejected the notion he does not share the urgency of the fanbase for a playoff club. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not just committed to winning,” he said. “I’m obsessed with winning.”
*He indicated he does not believe the Royals require to make a deal at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, but stressed the club would at least consider adding salary if necessary.
*Despite a franchise-record payroll, north of $92 million, on Opening Day, Glass repeated his stance has not changed on franchise building. He still believes the best course for the Royals is to develop from within, and supplement holes through free agency. He declined to predict if the club would pursue impending free agent James Shields.
Here is the transcript of The Star’s conversation with Glass. It has been edited for clarity.
How would you assess the first half of the season?
Glass: “I thought we’d be more consistent. At times, we’ve played extremely well. At times, we’ve played not so well. It’s the inconsistency that has surprised me. But we’re in a good position, I think, to make a run for the playoffs. If we have a good second half, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the playoffs.”
How would you assess the work done by Moore and Yost?
“I think they’ve both done a good job. Dayton is one of the best baseball people I know, and I’ve been around a lot of them for the last 60 years. And I think Ned is a very good manager. I think that he continues to grow as a manager. He’s got the balance that you need, as far as being a players’ manager, and also holding them accountable. I think that he does that.
“The one thing I’ve learned about Ned and Dayton both is they are as obsessed with winning as I am. All three of us have a real problem when we lose.”
How do you react when you lose?
“Not very good. You wouldn’t want to be around me.”
You’ve owned the team for many years. Has the viewing experience become more intense for you in a season like this, where the playoffs are a real possibility?
“I don’t know if it’s more intense. Your expectation levels increase. If you don’t have a very good team that you run out there, and you recognize that they’re not a very good team, then you don’t really expect to win every night. I joke with Ned, and I tell him that I expect to win every game. And when people tell me when you play 162, you can’t win every game, my answer is always ‘Why not?’
“The other thing that you learn, if you watch baseball for a long time, is every game you win in April or May or June is just as important as the one you win in September. So you’ve got to go all out to win every game. Coasting, or doing whatever to make sure that you’re good at the end of the season doesn’t mean much if you don’t win the games as you’re going through the season. The thing I like about this team is the players, they’re as committed to winning as all of us are.”
From your vantage point, how can you see that with the players?
“It’s my interaction with the players.”
You can tell when you talk to them that they’re on the same page in that regard.
“And a lot of these guys, I’ve watched them play at Class AA, I’ve watched them play in the minor leagues. I’ve been around them for a number of years. The great thing about players coming up through your system is that you get to know them. You get to know their character. You get to know the personal habits. And you learn what their ability is, and what their commitment is over a period of time.”
How encouraging is it for you to have three All-Stars for the second consecutive year?
“It really is. And we’ve got other players that could very easily be All-Stars. When you look at Hosmer, at some point in time, Hos is going to be an All Star. (Lorenzo) Cain has that type of ability. You look around on the team, and you say ‘Well, these guys are going to get it together one of these days. And they’ll be All-Star players as well.’
Do you feel the front office needs to make a move at the deadline to surpass Detroit?
“I think we can play with Detroit. They’re a very good team, though. You should not sell them short. I think they’re a better team this year than they were last year. But so are we. So are we.
“I was in Detroit when we won the three games in that series up there. We demonstrated then that we can play with these guys. A lot of it, it’s not so much who you’re playing as it is when you’re playing them. The beauty of baseball is that on any given day, the worst team in baseball can beat the best team in baseball. Other professional sports aren’t that way. But baseball is.
“So, it’s when you play these teams that matters. Detroit’s on a roll. And I have a lot of respect for them, because they may be as good as anybody in the American League. We’ve got our work cut out for us. But there’s no reason why we can’t win our division and make the playoffs.”
And you feel that way, even if a trade wasn’t made to improve the roster?
“Everybody always talks about making a deal to improve. I’m not sure what you can do. A lot of what you could do depends on what’s available. I like what we have. I think we can win with what we have. If there’s a way to improve by doing something, we certainly would consider that. Usually, what’s available is not what we need.”
Right now, there are starting pitchers available on the market, but few hitters. Your club does not really need another starter.
“That’s true. But it’s also nice to know that if nothing is available to you that is what you need to improve, that you feel good about what you’ve got. And I do. I think Dayton’s done a good job of putting this team together.
“And he and Dan (Glass) work closely together. Both of them believe that we’ve got a good enough team to win the division. In my mind, watching the team and interfacing with them, I think we’re good enough to make the playoffs. We just need to crank it up and make it happen.”
If Moore wanted to make a maneuver that added salary, is there the financial flexibility available to do so?
“Small-market teams are always limited. We’ve been willing, when we believed we had an opportunity to, to stretch and go beyond what logically made sense. Our objective, and Dan and I have discussed this before with the Royals, we’ve never viewed the Royals as something where we could make a profit.
“Our objective has always been to try to break even. I guess you’ll have a year where you might make a little. But you might have years where you lose money. Over a period of time, we’d like to come close to breaking even, at least. And you try to fit it into that framework. But if you have an opportunity to win, you consider doing almost anything.”
Because James Shields will be a free agent after this season, do you view this season as a failure if you do not make the playoffs? Does this year carry more weight than others to you?
“Not because of any particular player, because I think next year, based on my analysis of next year, that we’ll be better than we were this year. And our goal is to be better every year than we were the year before. We had a better year last year than what we’ve had in the past. And we have a better team this year than we had last year, in my opinion.
“I think we’ll have a better team next year than we’ll have this year. Based on our opportunities. To that extent, it’s not a make or break year. Where it is critically important to make the playoffs this year is because we haven’t made the playoffs in a really long time.
“I look at this a lot from my position as a fan. I’m impatient. I want us in the playoffs.”
What would it mean to you for this team to reach the playoffs?
“It would mean that Dan and I picked the right people to do the job. Kansas City deserves a winner. It’s a great baseball town. The people in Major League Baseball still talk to me about the All-Star Game here, and how the cooperation they got from the Royals, the way the fans supported it, the way the city supported it, is unique. Better than what they were accustomed to experiencing.
“They rave about Kansas City and the fans and the city and the organization. It’s a great baseball town. And these fans deserve in the playoffs. They deserve to be able to support a winner. And if you go to The K, and we’re playing, and we’re playing well, and it’s an exciting game, and you’ve got a big crowd, it is really fun to watch how much they get into the game. It’s not like they’re just kind of casual fans. They get excited about it.
“They deserve it. All of us deserve it. I’m a fan, too.”
There’s a perception among a segment of the fanbase that because you’ve afforded Moore and Yost an extended opportunity, and have yet to earn a playoff berth, that you are complacent as an owner. Is that perception frustrating to you?
“I’m not so much interested in what the perception is about me. And anyone who knows me knows that I’m not just committed to winning. I’m obsessed with winning. There are times I’m sure when Dan and Dayton and Ned would just as soon I’d go find something else to do.
“But what I want is for the fans to be really proud of this team. I want Kansas City to own this team. It’s great that you’ve got all these kids that came through the farm system. The fans have been exposed to them for a good deal of time now, and they can relate to them. It’s not like you go out and buy a lot of free agents, and you bring them in, and try to get the chemistry to make it work.
“These kids played together in the minor leagues. They’re playing together in the major leagues. All they’ve got to do now is go out and produce and win. And I’ve been watching baseball for the last 60 years. You put together a team, and the young ones have to learn how to win.
“The thing that is really difficult is that it is a long season. One hundred and sixty two games is a long time to play. You’ve got to get up to do it every day. And you learn over a long period of time how to win. And I think that you’ll see them produce and get better as the year goes along.”
You mentioned homegrown players versus acquiring free agents. But the team was more active on the market this past winter, with multi-year deals for Omar Infante and Jason Vargas. Do you envision the club becoming more competitive for free agents and spending more if the club continues to win?
“I would prefer that we develop really outstanding players at every position, including pitching. To the extent that we have a deficiency, or a hole, then you go out and fill that, with the best player that you can find. And that’s exactly what Dayton did this offseason. He replaced (Ervin) Santana with Vargas. We needed a second baseman. He went out and got Infante, who all of us have admired for a long time.
“What you want to do is you want to do it with your talent, that you’ve put together, and you’ve developed and you’ve taught how to play the Royals way. To the extent that you can’t do that, you fill the holes with free agency.”
Because there were so few obvious holes on the roster, the front office could be targeted with their resources.
“The chemistry of the team, it’s important that in the clubhouse the team gets along well. And I’ve seen teams with a lot of really good players that were put together that were a little bit dysfunctional. They don’t all have to love each other. But they have to be committed to winning together.”
How much of the credit for the current clubhouse atmosphere belongs with Shields?
“Well, I think Shields was a big part of it. I think he’s sort of a natural leader. If you want to be a leader, you’ve got to be able to produce as well. And he has always produced. So I think his addition to the clubhouse helps. I think that Alex Gordon, for example, is a great presence in the clubhouse.
“He’s not as outspoken as some others. But if you wanted to put a picture in the dictionary of somebody leading by example it would be Alex Gordon. So I think you’ve got different leaders in different ways. But I think we have leadership in the clubhouse. I think probably in years past, we’ve had some Royals teams where we didn’t have strong leadership in the clubhouse.
“I think that’s important. I think it’s particularly important when you face adversity. Adversity can do one of two things. It can either cause you to get discouraged and fold your tent, or it can make better. And I think that every sports team, whether it’s a baseball team or whatever, needs a certain amount of adversity to toughen them up. To make them better, to make them more determined.
“And then that’s where the leadership comes in. That’s where they turn all that into a positive rather than a negative.”
Do you expect the team to pursue Shields as a free agent this winter?
“I don’t know. And the baseball decisions, I’m just like every other fan. I have opinions. But I leave all the baseball stuff to Dan and Dayton. The two of them are in a much better position to decide what we can do, and what we should do and shouldn’t do. The baseball decisions, you’d be better off asking them.
“I get into games free, and I get a few perks. But other than that, I’m a big fan.”
In talking with members of the front office, there is confidence that if Shields leaves, there will be internal replacements available. Is that encouraging to hear, after so many years of struggling to develop starting pitching?
“Dayton and his people have rebuilt the farm system. They’ve made it into something that I take great pride in him. I spend a good deal of time keeping up with our minor-league players. We’ve got some kids in the pipeline that are going to be really good.
“And we don’t have right now the high-profile prospects like Hos and Moose and those kids were when they were coming through the system. Because they were pretty spectacular in Class AA and Class AAA. But we’ve got some kids now in High A and Class AA, and even lower, that are going to be really good. So I’m pretty excited about it.
“If you ask me if we have major-league ready kids, during this season, that we could bring up, I would say probably not. By next year and the following year, you’ll see an influx of really good young talent. So I’m excited about what we’re developing.”
The team had the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft, the No. 5 pick in 2011 and the No. 5 pick in 2012. None of these players are in a position to make significant contributions to the big-league club this season. Is that frustrating for you?
“No. The draft itself is an inexact science. There are a lot of No. 1 overall picks that never played in the major leagues. Which actually verifies that it is an inexact science. You hit it really well some years. And some years you don’t.
“(Jarrod) Dyson talks about the fact that, what was he, a 50th-round pick? And he’s playing in the major leagues. This (Christian) Binford kid that just pitched in the Futures Game. He’s a big surprise. He was a late-round pick as well. It is truly an inexact science. And I think Dayton and his team do a really good job of identifying the best available players at our position, wherever we pick in the draft. You’re going to hit on some, and not on others.”