Last year I got a second hand conversation with GMDM, this year, I got to be there for the Q & A session.
First though, the morning highlight was Mitch Holthus from the KC Chiefs. He spoke for an hour answering questions on what the Chiefs have been doing and how they have been improving. Looks like the secondary is going to be our strongest point on the team. Praised Cassell. Talked about DJ starting. His main point on DJ was his respiratory issues. Mitch said that they have to be very careful on how they use DJ because if he gets to many snaps he cannot breathe effectively and becomes an ineffective player. Because of that, the Chiefs are trying to figure out the best times to use him and how often to use him so that he is at peak performance. All you DJ starters (me included) should remember this and realize that his most effective time is when he is fresh. Because of that, it seemed as though Mitch thinks we'll see him more in the second half than the first half. Prediction was 9 wins.
Okay, back to the Royals.
Chen and Lerew have done a very good job of stepping in and filling for injuries. This shows that we are starting to get some depth at our MiLB levels. Last year that did not happen. Once we had injuries, we were no longer competitive.
Someone asked about John Buck and his success in Toronto. Stated that we offered Buck a contract we thought was fair and he decided he wanted to test free agency. He got a contract in Toronto that was very similar to what we offered. We offered around $1.5 M. GMDM had nothing but good things to say about Buck especially about his work ethic. He then mentioned to us that we wished to have Olivo and Buck both back but both decided to test the market. (Didn't someone mention that Olivo wanted 2 or 3 years and $14 million?) He said, in a very polite way, that Toronto and Colorado are among the league leaders in bases allowed from their catchers. I looked this up as best I could. John Buck has 1 PB, Toronto has 3 PBs as a team, and has allowed 35 WPs for a grand total of 39 free bases from catchers. Olivo has 6 PBs, the Rockies have 8 PBs, and 34 WPs for a grand total of 48 free bases from catchers. Kendall has 3 PBs, the Royals have 3 PBs (Branyan has 0 in like 10 innings), and 27 WPs (lead by Banni) for a grand total of 33 free bases as a team. I think one of the main reasons they went with Kendall was mainly for a younger staff's confidence in pitching. That being said, I'm thinking so those guys could throw almost any pitch at any time and have confidence it wasn't going to the backstop.
- Ned Yost was brought in this year for an outsiders view. They wanted someone who was not part of the organization to evaluate what has been happening. Under Ned, the team has been playing more consistent.
- They are still looking for consistent power sources.
Someone asked about Moose being promoted to AAA. GMDM said that every player in the Royals system has a Player Developmental Plan. Once they reach what they've been asked to accomplish, they are promoted. Those plans are very complete and have a lot of things on them. Coaches meet with the Front Office and get those things figured out. It sounds like a lot of work and a very thorough process. He talked about maybe moving Moose after everything gets back to normal after the All-Star festivities.
Then he went on to explain that the MiLB guys move a step at a time. Osuna and Montgomery have elbow tightness, nothing to worry about, just precautionary DL stints. He isn't worried about it and they are both fairly young for the talent at that level. He wants every rookie we bring up to be ready to compete for Rookie of the Year. That's a mindset that I appreciate. Make sure everyone is at their best when it's their time to compete.
First mention of the Process. He reminded us that it's an 8-10 year process on rebuilding the minor leagues. He referenced the Yankees blowing everything up in '87 and going with home grown guys. Mentioned the nucleus they had success with. Posada, Jeter, Petite, Bernie Williams, Rivera as guys who were home grown. He also mentioned that everyone says we are following the Braves process, but the Braves at that time followed the Royals process. Remember, it was Schurholz (spelling?) that started the Bravest Way. Now we are just getting back to the Royals Process.
Someone asked about Free Agency. He said you have to remember that a team that is made up of FAs usually won't compete unless you have unlimited resources and even then it blows up sometimes. You have to have 10-12 home grown guys that make up a nucleus. The hardest thing is mixing and matching and finding a group of guys that work best together.
He went on to say that the Jose Guillen signing was to protect Alex and Butler more than anything. They wanted a power bat in the lineup to help take pressure off of those two guys so they wouldn't be pitched around and it would help them develop. He went on to say that the guys who were in the power bat class at that time were Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Torii Hunter, and JoGui. Of course, only one let us have a chance, the others said no way. He then talked about mixing and matching lineups and understanding the risks of bringing in players. He then mentioned Mike Jacobs as a guy who was in a similar position but didn't it didn't work out.
Someone asked about Kila. He said that his first year here Kila had just finished a .190ish batting average and more than 75% of the organization wanted to release Kila. He wanted to keep Kila so they moved him down a level, and let him get back on track. It's worked out so far. He didn't say when Kila will get his shot, but he will get a shot. He also said that corner bats are getting better in the MiLBs.
Someone asked about Alex Gordon coming up. He said that they aren't going to push it and when he gets back they think he'll be a .275 hitter with 20-25 HRs a year, but we will continue to get Ks. Didn't give a time table. I think he wants to put no pressure on Alex to be ready by a certain date and to just let him mature as a player.
He was asked if there would ever be a competitive balance in baseball? No. The Union is to powerful. As long as teams have unlimited resources, it won't be balanced. This is why it is so important to build up your system. He talked about kids taking a sense of pride to make their program better and that's one of the things they are looking for. He mentioned that we seem to be ahead of schedule because we now have LHPs to choose from, catchers to choose from, and speed that is starting to succeed. We still have a long way to go as we need every position to have depth. They want to have not one wave of talent, but a continuous flow of talent.
Someone asked about moving ZG in the future. He said that ZG covers a lot of holes on our team when he's on the mound and to move ZG, he would have to get back guys that covered those holes as well. In the American League you have to have 1/2/3 types as starters to win, in the NL you can win with 3/4/5 guys. We have to have 1/2/3 type guys. I think ZG stays.
Someone asked about Yunieski. He explained Yuni is a guy that has always been told what to do and when to do it. That was how he was raised in the dictatorship. He said, they sat down with Yuni this offseason and gave him a schedule and dates. He was in KC on 1/11 and in ARZ on 1/24 doing everything they asked. But you have to ask him. At this point, Dayton said that this is the first EVER player to just say yes sir and be there with no complaints. Usually you get a call from the agent after the guy leaves trying to work on changing the schedule. He said this has helped Yuni play better. They still want more consistency from him, but he's getting better. He has had some big hits to win ballgames and made some great defensive plays. Then he referenced the previous night when Yuni made the error in the 9th and said we still have room to improve.
Someone later asked about if Kendall was just a patch as a free agent. He said that Jason Kendall is more than that. He is a guy that is addicted to baseball and they love that about him. He's a terrific individual. He loves his kids and takes care of them. He comes to the ball park early to work. He then said he's kind of a freak because of the position he plays and how his body handles it. GMDM mentioned our catching prospects at that point as Wil Myers, Salvador Perez, and Manual Pina.
Someone asked what Ned has done differently than Trey. Ned has put more responsibility on his coaching staff. They in turn, have given players more responsibility but also given permission to the players to pass the blame to the coaching staff if they fail. The coaches will take that for them. By Ned holding his coaches more accountable, things have improved. It seemed as though Trey might have micro managed a little.
He said that Farnsworth, Texiera, and Marte have really improved with the new system and it is allowing guys to stay in their spots in the pen. That is why the pen is performing better now.
Someone asked about trades. He said this year there have been more conversations about guys. He also thinks we are just a 6 game winning streak out of contending with the injuries that some of the other teams have had. The ChiSox are an older club and July and August could be really though on them. Twins and Tigers have had some injury issues as well. He didn't seem to worried about he Indians... And the attitude among the players and coaches right now is they know they are on the outside, but want to make something happen and make a run at getting back into it. They know that it just takes a few injuries on another team to get back into it. He made reference that we also have Kila and Alex in position to be called upon if we do have an injury..... take that for what it's worth.
Someone asked about whether or not he talked to players about Trey. He said he will never give players a chance to complain about their boss. Most good players hold themselves accountable as it is.
He's gotten some feedback from other organizations. We now have a system in place that rivals the intensity, structure, effort, and mindset of the best organizations in the game.
Someone asked if he likes to travel. GMDM said that he goes as many places to watch our guys as he can but most of the time he stays near to the ballclub's base in KC.
He said we are doing much better in Latin America and he's working on putting a structure into place for those guys. They are usually the ones who are the highest maintenance because they are so far away from home. They need the most support.
Someone asked about Colon being in KC next year. He said they don't like to put limitations on players but he feels 2012 is his arrival. Colon could potentially start in AA next year and move up but if he doesn't have a good transition and reach his goals on his development plan, he'll be in A+ again and the organization would be fine with that.
He thought Colon might have been the most skilled baseball player in the draft. He mentioned that 20 years ago most players where guys like Colon who just played hard and were players. Now, we are in the age of statistics where every HS kid knows his batting average.
He mentioned that the ASG is going to be a nightmare for the business department but a celebration for the baseball side. He wants to be able to relax and enjoy baseball during that time. He also hopes we have at least 3 players on the squad.
I asked him this: "Aside from a change in personnel, what are the things the KC Royals have done to change the culture from a perennial losing team into a team headed in the right direction?" He talked about personnel is the biggest thing you can do. But aside from that we are trying to emphasize having a positive attitude and healthy mentality. He talked about passion for the game and guys who want to win. He talked about leadership from coaches and that being passed onto players. He talked about guys taking pride in making it with Kansas City. He referenced Moose getting thrown out of a game because something happened and Moose went out of his way to protect a teammate. He said that is a mentality we need to develop, guys who will fight for their teammates and to win. He also said they want people who treat other people fairly. The entire time he answered my question he looked me in the eye. I liked that and he seemed as though he was speaking only to me. Not the group. The biggest thing I took out of the question was this quote. We need to prepare to win before we win.
It was a great experience. I'm very thankful that the Royals allowed us to come in and have an opportunity to see their stadium and meet their people. I hope you enjoyed reading this. I am a GMDM supporter, I think he has done a fantastic job so far. As a head coach, I know how hard it is to get an organization turned around. At the intensity and complexity of a MLB team, it will take some time. Dayton was very glad to have us there and thanked us all for having been patient and hopes we will continue to support the team.
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