Glass' conservative approach paying dividends
Blaming the owner for a team's shortcoming is nothing new. Fans and media have been doing it for as long as there have been professional sports.
That blame game is particularly evident today in small-market baseball, where frustrated fans must watch the Yankees and Red Sox and Phillies and other large-market teams spend four or five times as much on their payrolls as the Royals or A's can. The lack of a level playing field simply adds to the fans' frustrations.
The solution? Too often, the easy and go-to answer is to blame the owner for being cheap. In the Royals' case, that would be David Glass, who has been the owner for 12 years and has been the target of many fans' anger much of that time.
To be fair, that anger may have been well-placed early in Glass' tenure. But since Glass hired general manager Dayton Moore six years ago, the Royals have been inching toward becoming the model franchise they once were under Ewing Kauffman.
Of course, before anyone can truly suggest that leap, the Royals must return to competitiveness year in and year out. The Royals aren't there yet.
But if the Royals do turn the corner, maybe then fans will view Glass somewhat differently. And if they do, they will remember this era as the turning point.
Glass will never be confused as a mad spender, and don't expect the Royals to start pumping out $200 million payrolls anytime soon.
For one thing, reckless spending in baseball is one of the issues Glass has been fighting against since Kauffman entrusted him with the team back in 1994.
Kauffman could see the gap between the large markets and small markets starting to widen as he neared his death in 1993. He and Glass spoke about it often, and they worried about the Royals' future in the changing landscape. Glass fought hard in the 1990s for NFL-type salary cap and revenue sharing, and has continued the fight ever since.
Kauffman would be proud. Don't be confused with Kauffman's spending spree near the end of his life. He simply wanted one last chance at a championship and thought he could literally buy one.
But as former general manager Herk Robinson said of Mr. K, "He hated losing money. He wouldn't be throwing money away today on huge payrolls. People think if he were alive, the Royals would have this massive payroll. Just not true."
Mostly, Kauffman believed in spending wisely, through drafting and developing the Royals' own players. Glass shares that philosophy, and has believed in that from the beginning.
It simply took several years for Glass to find the right man in Dayton Moore to re-organize a chaotic organization.
And now the Royals are doing things the right way, and the only way a small-market team can flourish. They are not throwing away money on dead-end free-agents, and instead are putting money in the procurement system.
Glass can't be considered cheap when he has invested millions in Latin American signings.
Moore has pointed out several times that when he took over the Royals they were last in baseball in Latin American spending. Now they are in the top 10.
In the last three years, Glass has invested $6.9 million on Cuban left-hander Noel Arguelles, $3.05 million on Dominican outfielder Elier Hernandez, $1.4 million on Nicaraguan third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, and over $2 million on two young shortstops, Venezuelan Humberto Arteaga and Dominican Orland Calixte.
In the last four years, the Royals have increased their number of scouts, added over a dozen assistants under Moore, and added a minor-league team in Burlington, N.C. – the Royals are one of only eight teams with seven minor-league affiliates.
The Royals also have invested over $24 million on their draft picks since 2010, including $7.5 million on Bubba Starling last year.
"We've talked since the day I got here," Moore said, "that for us to be successful, we have to develop our own. And that takes a commitment from everyone in the organization, and we're getting that."
It starts at the top, where Glass has put his trust in Moore and opened his pocketbook.
That trust has carried on to Moore's handling of the 25-man roster.
Before the start of last season, Glass and Moore gave a long-term deal to Billy Butler – four years worth $30 million.
This spring, the Royals locked in catcher Salvador Perez for five years at $7 million, shortstop Alcides Escobar for fours years at $10.5, and, of course, Alex Gordon for fours years at $37.5 million.
That's an $85 million commitment from ownership. And Moore and Glass aren't likely finished in establishing and locking in the right core of Royals' players.
Now, no one is suggesting that the Royals won't lose a player or two to free-agency. Whatever semi-successful, small-market model you want to use from the past – the A's, Twins, Indians – all had to endure the loss of free-agents. That is life in a small market.
The key is keeping as much of the core of young talent as possible, at least as much as your small-market revenue will abide.
That's how Ewing Kauffman did it. And that's hopefully how David Glass will keep doing it.