One of the common traits of major-league baseball general managers is knowing how to pick your spots and carefully calculating every move. That's what makes Royals' general manager Dayton Moore's comments last night at a gathering at Kauffman Stadium of Royals' bloggers so surprising, if not staggering.
In addressing the bloggers during Wednesday night's Royal's game with Baltimore, Moore said, "We're not gonna out-talent anybody here. We've got one of the smallest markets in all of sports, period. Our owner is a terrific owner, but he's not going to go out and spend a $100 million payroll when we can only sustain a $55 million or $60 million payroll in this market."
Moore said there was a lot of criticism about why the Royals would sign a guy like Jeff Francoeur, "but the truth of the matter," Moore said, "is we're not going to out-talent anybody here in Kansas City. It's impossible to do so."
"Our team has to be better than anybody else," the Royals GM went on to say. "We have to have synergy. We have to have togetherness, very similar to what the Colorado Rockies had three years ago. They had some young, talented players," he said. "But they played together, they loved each other, their families got along, and they went out and played hard every single night."
It's difficult and probably dangerous to speculate what might have prompted Moore to say this, but he has to be feeling the same seemingly relentless frustration that everyone else in Kansas City - the media, the fans and, I'm sure, even the players - have been going through for too many years now to count.
Was it an innocent slip of the tongue brought on by another stressful season and mounting frustration, or did the Royals' GM actually have an underlying intent in what he said. We may never know the real motivation behind all this, but the timing couldn't have been worse. With the Royals having won 10 of their last 15, designated-hitter Billy Butler on one of his patented late-season rolls, outfielder Alex Gordon having a career year and all the excitement surrounding rookies and top prospects Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and infielder Johnny Giavotella, who was just called up yesterday to join the big league club, the times are pretty good right now despite suffering through another season of disparaging results.
All season long, Royals' management, including lead cheerleader Moore, have been beating the drum with the message to the fans, the media and all of baseball that a better Royals' future is right in front of us. With his surprising comments on Thursday, it sounds like the Kansas City general manager has come to a different realization - perhaps ultimately directed by the team's ownership - and is now hedging on his earlier optimism about the Royals' ability to put a winning team on the field, now or ever.
If Moore had said something like we're never going to be able to outspend other teams instead of emphasizing the inability to get better talent to come here, his point wouldn't have been taken nearly as negatively.
He used the example of the 2007 Colorado team that caught lightening in a bottle, so to speak, and won 14 of its final 15 regular-season games and 11 in a row, including a 20-8 record in September, to make it to the playoffs as a wild-card team, and rode that momentum all the way to World Series where they were abruptly knocked back to reality by the more talented and higher-priced Boston Red Sox. Colorado's team payroll that year was $57 million, but the Rockies did have a legitimate, high-paid major talent on in All-Star first-baseman Todd Helton.
It's rather obvious and not all that surprising that team owner David Glass has drawn a line in the sand that he is not willing to cross when it comes to the Royals' team payroll. To be brutally honest, that's been the case every since the former Wall-Mart chairman Glass took official ownership of the team from the Ewing Kauffman Foundation in the late 1990s.
O.K, let me get right to the point: I'd like someone to explain to me how a team that receives about $80 million in shared league revenues before a single ticket or concession item is sold cannot afford - or "sustain in this market," as Moore put it - a payroll greater than $55 million to $60 million to acquire solid major-league talent that could reasonably lead to a higher return on your investment? The Royals are not losing money, so how much profit is it that the Glass family is trying to ring out of this team, and why aren't some of those profits being reinvested back into the team to make the product better and hopefully improve ticket sales and revenue generation?
If you or I had the answers to those questions, we'd probably be running the Royals.
What's most disturbing about all of this is: How could Dayton Moore not have thought that his white-flag-waving-like comments regarding the Royals' failure to compete wouldn't be taken in an extremely negative light by the fan base the Royals are so desperately trying to retain and build upon to grow ticket sales and team revenues?
Why this choice of words and why now. Makes you wonder what's really going on with the Royals off the field and behind closed doors at The K? Whatever it is, it sounds like not everyone in the Royals' management is on the same page.