Owning a Major League Baseball team is a sweet gig. Can you imagine? The best seats, the tax loopholes, the certainty that no matter what happens on the field your ROI makes everyone but Facebook’s initial investors jealous.
David Glass has lived the good owner’s life, too. He bought in for $96 million, and now his Royals are estimated to be worth 10 times that much. Glass helped turn Wal-Mart into a global powerhouse, but he never lost that boyish obsession with baseball. For him, owning the Royals is even better than his childhood dream, playing second base for the Cardinals.
But ownership is not entirely privilege, or at least it shouldn’t be. There’s real responsibility, too — or at least there should be. Responsibility to do right, to treat your people well, to reward those who’ve helped you make money and gain credibility.
Last week, Glass stiff-armed the Atlanta Braves’ request to talk to Dayton Moore about their open GM position. That is Glass’ right. Moore is under contract for a few more years, and Glass is not required to do anything more than meet the terms of that deal.
But, come on. Glass owes Moore and everyone else on the baseball side of the club more than that.
Right now, that means the 82-year-old telling Moore about the club’s ownership-succession plan and asking what he wants and needs to solidify the future. A raise, a front-office restructuring, more support. The Royals are likely on the brink of their second rebuild under Moore, and they’ll need to be even better and smarter than the first time around.
That’s pretty basic, right? Moore literally does not know what will happen if Glass decides he no longer wants to run the team, or is unable to. That’s not specific to Moore. Nobody in the organization seems to know, with the possible exception of club president and owner offspring Dan Glass.
The owner can do what he wants, butdenying another team the opportunity to talk to Moore without the second step of support to his front office would only harm his own reputation and make it harder for the Royals to compete.
Three years ago, the Braves were interested in Moore, and Glass said he wouldn’t restrict anyone from talking about other jobs. Why would he want to keep someone against their will, he said. But now he won’t allow it?
Moore isn’t a job-hopper. He was with the Braves for 12 years, and has been in Kansas City for 11. He turned down the Red Sox and Diamondbacks before coming here, and declined to pursue the Braves’ job at least twice since.
Even so, Glass has now formally blocked Moore from talking. That doesn’t mean Moore is being kept against his will, but if this is as far as Glass goes, he’s being short-sighted and in the long run counterproductive to the Royals’ best interests.
All the credibility and most of the respect Glass enjoyed while Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Wade Davis and others won a World Series is gone if this is all he does.
This is a real opportunity for Glass. An opportunity to lock in the future of his franchise. An opportunity to chase the next championship with the same innovation this club showed in capturing the last one. An opportunity to make sure 2015 doesn’t become this generation’s 1985 — the last smile before decades of disappointment.
A general manager is the single most important person in a baseball organization; they are the most influential GMs in major sports. The game of baseball is entirely about the players, but GMs are ultimately responsible for who those players are. Owners decide how much money is available, but they need GMs to tell them where to spend it. In the Royals’ case, Glass needed Moore to convince him to spend a little more, too.
Before Glass met Moore, the Royals were on their way to a third consecutive 100-loss season, an almost unfathomable run of incompetence made even worse by a mostly rotten front office, terrible morale up and down the payroll, and deficient basics like scouting resources, minor-league equipment and an international presence ranging from bare-bones to nonexistent.
Moore helped change all of that. Convinced Glass he needed to invest more in infrastructure, and convinced good baseball men to give this crazy idea a chance.
One scout’s interview overlapped a blowout loss at home. The scout said he was convinced to take the job by a family sitting a few rows back, chanting LET’S GO ROYALS in the late innings of a hopeless game. That scout’s former team took the unusual step of allowing him to copy much of its reports and blueprints, so dire was his new situation in KC.
They built the Royals from the ground up, though that probably shortchanges the challenge, because expansion teams at least have certain advantages in initial player acquisition.
Moore has made mistakes here. The winning came overwhelmingly fast when it came, but the first winning season should not have taken until his seventh full year in charge. The Royals had to eat money and cut Omar Infante, Gordon’s second contract has backfired, and others like Joakim Soria haven’t been worth the price. The Royals never should have attempted this win-now-and-rebuild strategy for 2017.
But GMs without backfired decisions are GMs that haven’t been around long enough. And not all GMs led their franchises to championships, helping their team’s owner make hundreds of millions of dollars.
The respectful move now is to ask Moore what he wants in order to push forward, and make clear where he fits in the franchise long term. Either that, or let Moore go.
Because if Glass is no longer confident that Moore is the best man to lead the Royals forward, then what does it matter anyway?
If the denial is a mechanism to generate compensation, then fine, but there was never an indication Moore wanted to leave Kansas City — quite the opposite, actually — and Glass has now drawn a line that didn’t need to be drawn.
Look, Moore isn’t the only good man for the job. There are many good baseball men out there.
The problem is that if Glass doesn’t take one more step, those good baseball men are going to look for other places to work.