To: David Glass, Owner, Kansas City Royals
From: Rany Jazayerli, Fan, Kansas City Royals
Dear Mr. Glass,
Hi. We’ve never met, though I imagine our paths have crossed on more than one occasion. I know who you are, obviously; you might know who I am, but only because of that little stink I caused in your front office earlier this summer when I had the audacity to be critical of certain members of the organization.
So I guess I should start off by making it clear that you were not one of the targets of my criticism, and in fact, you might be the one member of the front office that I have not been at all critical of in the last three years.
I must admit, that wasn’t always the case – certainly not during the Allard Baird era in
Whether it was nixing a trade of Mike Sweeney to the Angels which would have brought the Royals several top prospects; or cutting the draft budget at the last minute, which forced your team to draft a bunch of college seniors and then offer them $1000 to sign; or whether it was famously giving Baird 36 hours to move Jermaine Dye, resulting in the disastrous Neifi Perez trade, just a few months after you vetoed a trade of Dye to the Blue Jays for a rookie named Vernon Wells – let’s be honest, much of the blame of the Allard Baird era can be laid at your feet. (And the three incidents above are just a sampling; there are other, even more egregious examples of meddling that I have multiple sources for.)
But since you hired Dayton Moore over three years ago, you have been, dare I say it, a model owner. You have opened your checkbook repeatedly, not just to sign major league free agents, but to sign high-priced amateur talent, both in the draft and on the international market. You have given Moore the financial flexibility to hire as much front office talent as he felt he needed, a luxury that was on full display when Moore hired the well-respected Mike Arbuckle, who had been in the running to replace Pat Gillick as the GM in Philadelphia, to a job position that didn’t even exist – Arbuckle’s scouting eye was deemed valuable enough that he was worth creating a job for.
And most importantly, you have empowered your GM to run the organization without interference. They say that in business, success has two ingredients: hire the right people, and then stay the hell out of their way. For whatever reason, too many businessmen – and we’re talking about businessmen successful enough to be able to afford a baseball team – seem to forget this simple rule when it comes to building a major league organization. But for the last three years, you have followed this rule to the letter. Two years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a positive review of your new approach to ownership. Despite the team’s struggles since, I stand by my conclusion that you have become a net positive force in the owner’s box, and I hold you essentially blameless for the disaster that the 2009 season has become. This isn’t a popular position to take among the fan base, trust me.
So I hope that in reading the following, you keep in mind that this isn’t just another critical screed from a disgruntled fan who’s had it in for you for a long time. I truly – and some might say naively – believe that you are committed to building the Royals into a winning organization again, and that you are as frustrated by what’s happened this season as the rest of us.
Which is why I think it’s important for you to get another fan’s viewpoint to the unexpected news that you have granted Dayton Moore a contract extension. I believe I speak for virtually all Royals fans, and virtually all national baseball writers, whether they are Royals fans or not, when I say: Why?
Why on earth do you feel compelled to give
Now, let me make it clear: I am not advocating that you fire Dayton Moore. On the contrary, I feel – and once again, I am taking a position that is not popular with Royals fans today – that
It’s undeniable that virtually every personnel decision that Moore has made since the end of last season has backfired, and while a few of those decisions looked good on paper, the majority of them were panned at the time, both by myself and by the general baseball establishment. Now, a general manager is going to make controversial moves – and as long as some of those moves work out, you can forgive the ones that don’t. In
Even so, I think
No one would argue that
But there’s a hell of a difference between “he deserves to keep his job” and “he deserves an extension.” Particularly a four-year extension. There are three more Olympic Games scheduled between now and the end of
I asked the question “why?” above, and that was meant to be a rhetorical question, but maybe it shouldn’t. There must be a legitimate reason why you would decide, in the midst of one of the worst 100-plus-game stretches in team history, that the man who put this team together ought to be rewarded for his efforts. Particularly since, according to Moore himself, you were the one who initiated the contract talks. Here’s what I came up with:
1) You were afraid that if you didn’t extend
“It’s not like they were going to suddenly contend, so I have no idea why they rushed him to the big leagues,” commented another team executive, as far as the Royals’ decision making with Gordon’s development. “But I also have no idea why they traded Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez for non-tenders, or why they signed Jose Guillen, Horacio Ramirez, Sidney Ponson, and on and on and on.”
Mind you, Goldstein hadn’t asked about
I’m sure you know this, which is why I’m sure you had other reasons to extend
2) You felt it was necessary to issue a public vote of confidence for your GM, in order to quell the growing groundswell of sentiment in favor of his firing. You wanted to eliminate any distractions.
This might be part of your motivation, but I don’t really buy it either. Sometimes an organization will need to do this for an embattled manager, to make it clear that the manager has the full support of his superiors, in order to head off a potential mutiny – a mutiny of the players, not a mutiny of the fans.
A manager needs to command the respect of his players above all else, and nothing is more damaging to a manager’s reputation than the sense that he doesn’t have the backing of his bosses. But for a general manager, who doesn’t interact with his players on a day-to-day basis, that respect is much less meaningful. If I’ve got a good relationship with my boss, I don’t really care what my relationship with my boss’s boss is like.
So I don’t really buy this rationale either. Which leaves:
3) You want to make it clear that, by extending Dayton Moore’s contract through 2014, you are committed to building a premier organization in the long term, and you want to make sure that the spectacular failure of the 2009 season does not distract your front office from that long-term goal.
Now we’re getting somewhere. If this is indeed your purpose, it’s a defensible one.
For one, I concede that it would be risky for you to let
(The classic example of this – a little history lesson here, if you don’t mind – is Dave Littlefield’s notorious trade-deadline acquisition of Matt Morris. On July 31st, 2007, the Pirates were 42-62 and 14.5 games out of first place, but Littlefield – whose job was on the line – made the inexplicable last-second decision to trade for Morris, a 32-year-old starting pitcher under contract through the 2008 season (at over $10 million a year). Morris had a 4.35 ERA at the time, but was operating on fumes – opponents were hitting .302 against him at the time. The Giants were just looking for a team that was willing to pick up a portion of his salary, and were as surprised as anyone when Littlefield not only agreed to pick up the entire contract, but gave up two prospects – including Rajai Davis, who’s turning into a fine outfielder for the A’s – for the privilege. [Two prospects for a declining major leaguer that no one else wanted. Sound familiar?] Morris would go 3-8 with a 7.04 ERA for the Pirates before he was released the following April; by that time the man doing the releasing was new GM Neal Huntington, as Littlefield was fired on September 7,
While Dayton Moore has made a ton of mistakes this year, the overriding theme that drove his worst errors was the mistaken assumption that the Royals could contend in 2009. I’m not blaming him for that assumption (I shared it to some extent) so much as the execution of his plan, but the point is that if Moore didn’t have job security past 2010, the temptation would be there for him to operate this winter under the short-term goal of building a contender for 2010. We’ve seen that movie before, and it sucked.
So if you decided to extend
But this is a very qualified endorsement. It’s great that you want to insure continuity and a long-term perspective in your front office. But keeping the same general manager personnel in place only makes sense when your general manager knows what the hell he is doing. Frankly, the evidence of that is still lacking. We know that your general manager can spend your cash; we don’t know that he can spend it wisely. I can’t imagine that you look at the millions of dollars
In all honesty, what I find more concerning than the mistakes made by the
This should trouble you greatly, because you’ve just promised to pay Dayton Moore a lot of money on the notion that he will learn from the mistakes he’s made this season. And my greatest worry about this extension is that
As fans, we are not privy to the conversations that you had with
It’s telling that, on the day the contract extension was announced, we saw the very best and the very worst of the Dayton Moore administration on display. At the major league level, the Royals lost a howler to the A’s, 8-
But that night, in
Or at least, it’s laudable so long as you don’t wait until 2014 to make that final decision. If the Royals haven’t made substantial improvement at the major league level within two years – and by “substantial improvement” I mean at least a .500 team – then it won’t matter if
If you don’t believe me, just look across the Truman Sports Complex, where Lamar Hunt stayed loyal to Jack Steadman even as the Chiefs had just two winning seasons from 1974 to 1988. When Hunt finally let Steadman go and hired Carl Peterson to run his franchise, the team’s fortunes turned around immediately. The Chiefs would make the playoffs seven times in eight seasons from 1990 to 1997, but after 1997 the talent dried up, and after treading .500 for the next nine years the Chiefs cratered in 2007 – but Hunt stuck with Peterson up until the day he passed away, and while his son Clark finally brought in a new GM to clean house, the mess Peterson left behind may take years to clean up.
Sam Mellinger points out that by granting
I guess what it boils down to is this: I’m fine with Dayton Moore getting a four-year contract extension…as long as it’s really a one-year extension with three option years. The money is guaranteed either way, but let’s be honest: you could fire Moore tomorrow and you’d only be out about $5 million, or about what you’re paying Farnsworth this year alone.
And that’s the point: the financial commitment to
Like so many other Royals moves, if handled correctly this transaction has the potential to be a shrewd gamble, and if handled incorrectly this transaction could be an enormous albatross on the organization. Given the team’s history, sad to say, I know which one I’m betting on. But I also know which one I’m hoping for. For a Royals fan, hope always trumps reason. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be Royals fans.
Thanks for reading,