One of the many changes that Royals GM Dayton Moore has brought to the organization is to create a Speaker's Bureau. By making himself accessible to the public, Moore hopes to bridge the gap between frustrated fans and the club.
I experienced this first-hand Thursday night when Moore visited my brother's church. Moore spoke for about an hour, most of which was Q&A with the audience.
Moore began his talk by discussing his background and how he came to become the GM of the Kansas City Royals. Moore stated that as he began his career in baseball, at the college level, his feeling was that he did not want to be a part of Major League Baseball because of what he had observed as an erosion of morals as people moved up through the ranks of professional baseball.
The Atlanta Braves approached Moore to join their organization, and Moore declined the job. A few days later, Roy Clark called Moore and persuaded him to take the job, and after a great deal of prayer and contemplation with his wife Marianne, he took the job.
Moore was greatly successful in Atlanta, starting as a scout, then Director of Player Personnel, and then finally Assistant General Manager. In 2005, he was named by Baseball America as one of the top 10 Up-and-Coming Power Brokers in Major League Baseball. In 2004, Moore was Baseball America's top general manager prospect.
Moore's success was not going unnoticed. First, the Arizona Diamondbacks approached Moore hoping to hire him as their GM. He passed.
Then, after Theo Epstien so famously left the Boston Red Sox, they tapped Moore to be their next GM. Moore said that he felt excited about the opportunity, but after much prayer and deliberation, he and his wife decided to stay in Atlanta. Moore said that he felt that John Schuerholz would be retiring in a few years and he would take over for the Braves.
Then, in May of 2006, David and Dan Glass requested permission to speak to Moore. Again, Moore was excited about leading a baseball organization, especially his boyhood team. He considered the opportunity, but in the end, decided to stick it out in Atlanta. He called his wife and they agreed that they should stay in Atlanta. But, alas, Moore had a gnawing feeling about the Royals' job. He called his wife four hours later and she mentioned the same "gnawing" feeling. Together, they decided that he should take the job.
After the game that night, Moore called John Schuerholz into his office and told him that he had decided to take the job. He was excited to "go do something special."
Moore expressed his belief that the success of a baseball player depends mostly upon his moral character. He mentioned that there were several players in Kansas City that he felt did not have the character needed to be successful, and those players are now gone. (Affeldt? Burgos?)
Moore opened it up to questions from the crowd, which I will paraphrase below:
Q: How do you turn this thing around?
A: By doing things the right way. We know that it will take time, but we are putting people and processes in place that are the right thing to do. From that, we expect success. I know of people in other places who didn't care about their jobs or about the success of their team because of the way they were treated. We will treat our employees well and do things the right way so that everybody will work together to bring success to Kansas City.
Q: How do you rate the KC farm system?
A: My only point of reference is how Atlanta did it, and they were very successful. We are beefing up our player development and scouting. We are focused on pitching, and we have some good prospects – Luke Hochevar, Tyler Lumsden, Billy Buckner – but not enough. We've added another minor league team to increase the number of prospects we have in our system. We are investing in Latin America, opening an Academy in the Dominican Republic this year. Just a couple of years ago, the Royals were very last in spending in Latin America. We are changing that.
Q: How is Mike Sweeney?
A: He's doing well. He's changed his workout routine to focus on flexibility. He's working with a back specialist. He's a good example of players perhaps doing too much with regard to working out in their younger years. As they get older, they begin to experience these injuries, especially in their backs. He plans to have a strong, healthy season this year.
Q: What is the first thing you changed when you arrived?
A: Level of expectations. Too many people in Kansas City had just come to expect to lose. We've brought in people who have experienced winning in the past, and who expect nothing less than success. Teams who win the World Series overachieve. The talent level is pretty comparable between teams, but the teams that win overachieve, and that is caused by great chemistry and character. The players we've let go didn't fit that mold, the players we've brought in do.
Q: What will happen with Mark Teahen?
A: Teahen will ultimately play the outfield. He could play third or DH to spell other players, but ultimately, he will be an outfielder.
Q: What about the logjam of outfielders?
A: We do have a lot of outfielders right now, and that is a good problem. Buddy Bell will have a lot of flexibility to rotate players around. We also have some room for trades.
Q: What did you see in Gil Meche?
A: We often see pitchers who can "throw" but haven't developed the ability to "pitch" yet. Gil is reaching the point in his career where his ability to throw, his power, is meeting up with his knowledge and ability to pitch. It's when these two things meet that a number 1 or number 2 pitcher is created. But look, signing him may end up being a mistake. But if it is, we would still do it the same way. We needed a pitcher and we felt Gil was the best available and we were going to win that negotiation. What the critics aren't telling you is that the Blue Jays and the Cubs were willing to pay what we paid. The Cubs had 4 years, $40 million on the table. The Blue Jays had 4 years, $48 million on the table. They were willing to go to 5 years, but Gil picked us. He wants to be an ace, and we need an ace. You'll just have to trust me on this one. We feel it's a great match.
Q: Who do you think will have big years this year?
A: Ross Gload. Ryan Shealy. And certainly having Jason LaRue here will spark the competiveness in John Buck, such that I think Buck will have a great year.
Q: What's up with Zack Greinke?
A: He's doing well. I've heard that this offseason, he's worked harder than any other offseason. He's more excited about getting to Spring Training than any other year. Zack is a good example of the damage that can occur when a player is rushed to the majors too fast. He just didn't know how to react to being in the big leagues.
We're finding that a lot of our players come from broken homes, and who have never really learned wrong from right. They are immature and don't know how to handle being on their own. We've created a new Character and Leadership Program in the minors to help teach players these things. We discuss things like "how did Jackie Robinson react, and how would you react?" We hope to give these kids some direction and develop them into strong young men with character.
Q: How soon until we see some success?
A: It obviously won't happen overnight. If we win the World Series in the next 1-3 years, we will be ecstatic. We will be better this year, but we're probably looking at 3-5 years to be a World Series caliber team.
All in all, I was very impressed with Moore. He spoke with authority and he definitely has a plan of attack for making the Kansas City Royals the model organization in baseball. He took on criticism head on, and was realistic about the current state of things and where the sees it going. I'm looking forward to this season, but more importantly, the next 3 seasons.