David Glass witnessed the first-half apex of his club in person. He flew from his home in Arkansas to Detroit in the middle of June, the hottest stretch of Royals baseball in 2014, as a 10-game winning streak culminated with three consecutive victories over their American League Central rulers and a temporary stay in first place.
The stretch confirmed Glass’ conviction in his club as currently constructed, which he voiced to The Star in a rare interview Tuesday morning. “We demonstrated that we can play with these guys,” he said.
In the weeks since, the Royals have stumbled back into the pack. They dropped three of four to the Tigers to end the first half, sagged to a mere two games over .500 and 6 1/2 games back in the division race. The subsequent deflation irritated Glass, who shares a concern with his long-suffering fan base about his team’s troubles.
“It’s the inconsistency that has surprised me,” Glass said. “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 struck an optimistic tone as he expressed his faith in the direction charted by team president Dan Glass, one of his sons, and general manager Dayton Moore. David Glass issued a vote of confidence in both Moore and manager Ned Yost, indicated the organization did not need to make a significant trade at the July 31 deadline to reach October and insisted 2014 is “not a make-or-break year” despite a franchise-record Opening Day payroll of more than $92 million.
Glass explained he does not lack urgency — “I’m obsessed with winning,” he said more than once in a 27-minute conversation — and rejected the notion he is complacent. In fact, he ventured to say the best days for this organization remain ahead. Despite the potential departure of James Shields, Glass said, “I think we’ll have a better team next year than we’ll have this year.”
The Royals won 86 games in 2013, their most wins since 1989. Glass feels this team features more talent. The improvements in 2015 will not result from an alteration in organizational philosophy, he said.
Last winter the club issued multiyear deals to second baseman Omar Infante and pitcher Jason Vargas. But do not expect the team to become more profligate spenders in free agency.
“I would prefer that we develop really outstanding players at every position, including pitching,” Glass said. “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.”
Glass declined to comment on whether the Royals would pursue Shields, 33, on the open market. But rival officials expect him to depart, and the Royals have prepared for that scenario. The idea of the team improving after losing their most-decorated pitcher sounds unlikely.
Save for creative solutions, such as dealing All-Star closer Greg Holland or dynamite set-up man Wade Davis this winter, the team must rely on internal improvements. Glass vouched for the health of the farm system, though he admitted there were few prospects ready to contribute in 2014.
To hear Glass tell it, the upgrades can come from within. He expressed pride in the trio of Holland, outfielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez. Glass expects others on the roster to reach a similar stature down the road.
“At some point in time, (Eric Hosmer) is going to be an All-Star,” Glass said. “(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.’ ”
For now, Glass said, the club will likely have to rely on the players in house. He explained that crafting a trade to improve the roster would be difficult. The most obvious deficiency appears to be right field, and there are few options on the trading block. Still, if Moore presented Glass with a proposal for a maneuver, the organization would consider it, he said.
Moore has shepherded the baseball operations department in Kansas City since 2006. Glass insisted he believes in Moore’s approach, and Glass praised Yost for his improvements as a manager in terms of communication with players. Glass expects the two to lead this club as they vie for a playoff berth. The Royals have a little more than two months left to catch Detroit.
“I have a lot of respect for them, because they may be as good as anybody in the American League,” Glass said. “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.”