Vahe Gregorian

David Glass reflects on Royals’ rise and 'taking the heat'

Kansas City Royals owner David Glass.
Kansas City Royals owner David Glass. The Kansas City Star

Drenched in champagne, Royals owner David Glass stood in the corner of a boisterous clubhouse on Wednesday night braced, maybe even eager, to absorb more.

“The players that poured champagne over me … have done it in a nice way,” Glass said, smiling and adding, “They’ve been very polite with pouring it over my head.”

On cue arrived catcher Salvador Perez with a bottle of Korbel Brut that he casually drained over the head of Glass … in as mannerly a way as such a thing can be done.

Time there was that Royals fans would have relished the chance to douse Glass, too … but inhospitably and in cold water through most of the endless drought and infinite futility since 1985.

This Glass house induced a lot of stones cast its way during the 21-plus years since he began his tenure at the helm of the organization. He started in 1993 as interim CEO and chairman of the board, administering Ewing Kauffman’s will, and purchased the franchise in 2000.

During dismal times that many blamed on his spending, Glass, 79, no doubt could hear those pings and jeers and feel those jabs. He surely heard it and felt it plenty even in the near-decade since he’s drastically changed tactics.

But he downplayed that in the glory of the moment Wednesday.

“Taking the heat never bothered me because … as long as I knew we were going in the right direction and doing the right things for Kansas City and for the Royals,” he said. “You know, so be it: In the end you win.”

It was a long time coming, of course, and even three weeks ago today those last words would have seemed preposterous as the Royals were seeking that night merely to clinch their first playoff berth since 1985.

Now, they’re American League champions, bound for the World Series on a berserk 8-0 playoff tear.

But Glass wasn’t crowing over the Royals’ breakout when he said that about winning in the end.

His point was more about the worthiness of the broader venture of custodianship of the franchise, something he still describes more as a civic mission than an exercise in capitalism.

That seemed on his mind as he surveyed the field before the game Wednesday and spoke of how “tickled” he was for all the fans, and it was on his mind after the game, too.

“Our goal here has never been to make money on this franchise: It’s to keep the franchise in Kansas City, to win pennants and to try to break even,” he said, later adding, “The Royals were hurt somewhat by trying to execute Ewing Kauffman’s plan.”

Kauffman left the team to a charitable trust, stipulating that it be kept in Kansas City but having the impact of putting it in financial gridlock as the five-person board sought to implement it.

Or, as Glass put it Wednesday: “The government wouldn’t let us do it. The IRS wouldn’t let us do it, (so) we sort of treaded water for a number of years. When we finally could do it, it wasn’t until Dayton (Moore arrived in 2006) and built the organization that we could do it the right way.”

As he reflected on hiring Moore, Glass reminded that he’d been a devoted baseball fan since the late 1940s.

In 1947, he even saw the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson play the Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

“He took the longest lead of any base-runner I’ve ever seen and taunted the pitcher,” Glass said. “Just drove me nuts.”

Perhaps similarly frazzled by the state of the franchise in 2006, he made numerous calls to people he’d known in the game for years seeking input on the best man to hire for a general manager who wasn’t one already. Moore, then the assistant general manager in Atlanta, was endorsed unanimously.

Glass found him “a perfect fit” and a man he’s since learned from and at times even defers to.

But even since hiring Moore, there were times this Royals rebuild seemed to be going at a glacial pace.

So Moore is grateful to Glass for his patience, particularly in a world where patience no longer is considered a virtue.

That was especially essential because Moore’s process was predicated on developing homegrown players for the long-term.

“It takes a lot of time, a lot of success and a lot of managing failure at the minor-league level to make it to the major leagues,” Moore said, later adding, “It’s one thing to put a plan in place; it’s another thing to execute it.”

It’s drizzled down from there.

Or is it up from there?

Empowered by Glass and engaged by Moore, an enormous investment in scouting cultivated a fertile minor-league system that produced many of the players on the field and in the rotation and bullpen now.

It also reaped commodities such as Wil Myers, who enabled the pivotal trade for James Shields and Wade Davis.

And vital to executing it, Glass and Moore both said, has been manager Ned Yost.

“He has done everything he could to pull this team together and make it work,” Glass said.

Asked Thursday what his most important move has been, Moore instantly said, “Hiring Ned, without a doubt.”

When Yost replaced Trey Hillman in May 2010, Moore said that Yost “energized” the team with his intensity and standards just as morale and the sense of purpose was flagging.

There were countless growing pains since then, too, but ultimately all surged forward and came to a pinnacle this October.

And to hear Glass tell it in the clubhouse Wednesday, there was never a doubt.

“I knew it would happen,” he said. “I just didn’t know when.”

That’s not a lot for others to go on, of course.

But even if it was a faith many others didn’t share, it proved as true as the aim of the champagne-sprayers around him.

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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