Last year I took really extensive notes. This year I didn't, but I wasn't a total slacker. Here are few choice quotes and some observations from this year's Fan Fest. Also, I'm kind of groggy right now, so I'm just bullet pointing this. The only reason I'm even awake right now is because our cat woke me up to feed her, even though she had food in her bowl. What's that about?
First, I think attendance was really REALLY down this year. Friday in particular was kind of dead. I don't know if it was the cold, the snow (or threat of snow really, as the streets were pretty well cleared), the lack of several fan favorites (especially Greinke and DeJesus) or what, but it made for some awkward panels where we all sat around looking hoping someone else would think of a question while Tim Scott asked the guys to elaborate on their favorite flavor of ice cream (or in Luke Hochevar's case, pie).
Also, there was a season ticket holder only event on Thursday night that I didn't go to, but the Digital Digest participants were there (and probably took better notes than me anyway).
Dayton Moore had a main stage Q&A on both Friday and Saturday.
- He explicitly said both days that Wil Myers will be moved to the outfield this year. "Will likes catching; he doesn't love catching" and you have to love it to be a ML catcher, so they're going to go ahead and make that position change.
- Someone asked if getting Escobar means we won't see Colon or if he's moving off SS. DM responded that Colon is likely 2-3 years away from ML and they have a year/year-and-a-half to decide if he moves off of shortstop. They expect him to compete at both SS and 2B depending on his development and the team's needs. He threw out some names of who some comparable ML players are for the type of player they think Colon will be, but I didn't write them down and now the only one I remember is Polanco at 2B.
- He talked several times about Collins, Hardy and Coleman specifically competing for ML bullpen spots and that this is where we're most likely to see someone from the farm making the team out of ST.
- He also mentioned some other pitchers competing for the starting rotation, specifically Duffy, Teaford and Crow.
- When asked about Crow, he said Crow had a better year than the stats might show, partially because of the lower level of defense/field conditions in the minors and that his biggest issue was controlling his sinker.
- When talking about this year's off-season moves, he discussed that they didn't want to sign guys who would take away from the young guys' playing time, even though they had the payroll flexibility for it. Specifically mentioned Adam Dunn living 75 miles south of KC, but they talked about it and decided going after him wasn't right for the club's long-term goals.
- Lorenzo Cain "very possibly" starts in AAA where he's only gotten about 100 ABs.
- On trades: "I'd rather trade a performer a year too early than a year too late."
- On the draft: He said a bunch of stuff in response to a question on slotting, but I was eating a cookie and missed it all (chocolate chip!). Pointed out that the Royals have had only 12 picks in the top 100 in the past few drafts (sorry, didn't write the time frame down) and that makes the farm rebuild even more impressive because it's a sign of finding the right guys later in the draft but also of being able to develop those players we do get. Also talked about having flexibility with the payroll means they can go after more talent in the draft and internationally, but that even with that, you don't want to overspend on any one player at the prospect stage because the odds against them even making it the ML level are so small. If you're going to overspend on a player, he'd rather do it for a major league player, because at least then you know you have a major league player out of the deal.
- On Greinke and the trade: repeated several times that they traded Greinke because they knew they couldn't sign a "2nd generation" contract with him, meaning they couldn't lock him up for when the winning starts (although he quickly added here "I expect us to compete this year") so they knew they needed to trade him to fill some holes. On Saturday's session, Joel Goldberg (who sat in to help field questions) jumped in to say that Greinke didn't want to be here anymore and for him, if it was him who had control, he would have traded him too because you only want guys who want to be here and believe in the team and what it's trying to do. This got a pretty good round of applause from the audience. And I think it was DM who said (although might have been Yost - I didn't write it down) that even during his amazing 2009 year, Zack only gave us a chance to win once out of every 5th day, and in his place we got two guys who could help us win every day, plus two pitchers.
- I wish I could have gotten a picture of DM's face when Tim Scott was relaying that Doug Sisson (new 1st Bast coach and according to Ned, the guy who is going to give our team a base running/base stealing identity) thinks Billy Butler should be able to steal 10-15 bases a year. The combination of bewilderment and amusement was pretty cute. Also about the first real reaction not just talking-points reaction I've ever seen out of him in one of these things. I know he has to be careful with what he says and how he carries himself because it affects so many people's jobs and negotiations and what not, but I'd love to see more of this come through from him. Having said that, I will just reiterate what a lot of the Digest guys said about him really connecting with them. Even in the big session, he talked to the whole group, but also specifically addressed the person who had originally asked the question, calling them by name (and not just right away like, "Debbie, I'm glad you asked" but several minutes into the answer would turn to them and say, "and so Debbie I think it's important..."). What I'm saying is, he's a much better schmoozer and meet-and-greeter than I will ever ever be.
- A little girl asked him why he traded DeJesus, and he had a genuine smile at that too, saying that he has a wife and two daughters, so he definitely hears about it. (His answer was again the 2nd generation contract thing, David wanted to test the free agent waters, filling some holes, you know the rest.)
I wish I had taken better notes at Ned Yost's sessions. He's kinda fun.
- Part of the reasons I don't have notes is because when people asked him "who will be our starting pitchers" and "who is gonna be in the outfield" and "where will Aviles bat" he said he didn't know. It's too early and he's got a lot of guys competing and he's looking forward to Spring Training to see them all and he just doesn't know. (Well, actually with Aviles he said probably lower in the order, not #2 because even though Aviles is good offensively, he's not good situationally and he really wants a good situational hitter in the #2 spot. Since he gave that spot to Kendall most of the year, I assume by "good situation hitter" he means someone who can hit a weak grounder to short. But he didn't say that.)
- Speaking Kendall, he's "ahead of schedule!" Try to contain your surprise. If he continues on his current pace, he should be able to start his training program in February so we'll probably see him back in the line-up in the first half of the season.
- He thinks there are 10 legitimate guys competing for starting rotation jobs.
- "Being a team leader is important, but it's a little overrated." He said really they want to see 25 leaders on the team, and the most important person to lead is yourself. Said it was more important that the team had 25 guys with the same goal and who contributed to that goal. The "team leader" as in leader-of-men is good at pulling someone back in-line if they start getting selfish, but really you'd rather have 25 guys for whom that won't really be a problem.
- I think someone asked how much teaching he does with his players during the year and he answered that his philosophy is to only have one voice whispering in the player's ear, and that's their coach. He will never coach a player in season about their baserunning (that'll be Sisson) or their infield play (that'll be Rodriguez) or whatever. He'll talk to the coach and have the coach work with the player. What he'll do is disciplinary issues ("if a guy is dogging it") and daily in-game stuff, but he wants his coaches to coach and doesn't want to confuse his players' focus with having a million different instructions coming at them. Can I just say as an employee that I like this? Nothing worse than being stuck between two managers and their differing styles and expectations.
- And he's switching to #3 this year (oh wait, is that why they threw in Yuni?) because it's the number of one of his best friends, Dale Earnhardt, who was a great competitor and it inspires him. Actually, I did think it was interesting when he told a story about Earnhardt being such a fierce competitor and wanting to always be part of champions and always win, to the point of not driving for his own team because they weren't ready to win yet and advising Yost to always go with winners. Ned said that kind of clarified for him that no, he actually likes being part of the building, likes the challenge and rewards of going to a losing situation like they had in Atlanta in the late 80s, like in Milwaukee when he got there, like here, and working with the kids and building a winner.
- He also reiterated several times that even when these awesome prospects come up, there will be an adjustment and we won't just start winning right away. They are hoping it only takes a year-and-a-half but it could take three years for these guys to really adjust to the majors. He then made a big up-and-down wave with his arm saying this is how it's been for the Royals. We're up one month and down the next. And while he couldn't promise when we'd win, he did promise that from now on it was going to be a mostly upward wave of progress, a consistent wave of progress. There will be steps backward at times and there will definitely be plateaus where it won't feel like we're getting better for a while, but overall the level of play will get better and better and we'll win more and more games and win a World Championship.
- Every once in a while he'd remember to say "We're gonna compete this year." But mostly he was saying, it's not going to be pretty for a while but it's going to be interesting and long-term we're doing it right for sustained winning (totally me paraphrasing there).
I don't have very many notes from the player panels at all.
The Pitcher's Panel consisted of Soria, Hochevar, Lucas May, Francis, Davies and Chen. Tim Scott really did ask what their favorite flavor of ice cream was. It started out as an ice breaker, but then when there were no questions from the audience, they kept coming back to it. For the record, Hochevar doesn't like ice cream but does like pecan pie. Ew. There was a lot of time spent on Chen being silly and he has the guys so well trained that they can at the drop of a hat be his straight men and line-feeders for his jokes. And, I really don't remember much else. It was a pretty awkward 40 minutes. I know some of you were there - got anything to add?
I also don't have notes on the outfielder's panel. The participants were Cain, Maier, Gordon and Francoeur (did I spell that right?). Francoeur really does seem ridiculously likable, despite the crazy eyes and the bad OBP. Cain is incredibly sweet and has the best smile ever. I mean EVER. Maier looked kind of lonely because no one was asking him anything, but then didn't seem at all embarrassed, when a lady wearing his jersey asked him what he did to keep his body in such great shape. And then they all talked about his body for a while. And Gordon was sporting a Cletus beard, he says to keep his chin warm. I know he's got a reputation for not liking these kinds of things, but he seems more and more comfortable with it each year and seemed to be having fun.
The infielder's panel was Saturday morning and featured Kila, Billy and Chris Getz. Two girls asked Chris to prom (with the help of someone dressed as a big heart - I think it was from the Royals' Partners in the Community booth) and he said "sure, why not, I haven't been asked to prom in a long time." Towards the end of the panel a guy got up and said "Billy, my friend just e-mailed me that you signed a four year extension. Is that true?" While Billy was saying "no comment" because it wasn't finalized yet, everyone in the audience grabbed their phones to check the Royals website where it was posted. Oops. (Even later that afternoon Dayton said it wasn't finalized yet and it was "unfortunate" the way it had leaked out early. I found that confusing since it was on the Royals own website, but whatevs.) And Kila says he plays a lot of golf in the off-season because he's got the weather for it. Bastard!
They did the awards show during Fan Fest this year, instead of at a separate dinner. That was nice to see, but nothing earth shattering. Mike Sweeney talked about how Buddy Baumann was a "soldier for Christ" which I found awkward, but I'd rather have that any day of the week over the toddlers-dressed-as-strippers-while-grinding-and-making-oh-yeah-faces between-panel "entertainment" holycrap! And actually I thought Baumann's speech was nice, talking about how "this life is just a vapor" and he wants to put his energy into not just doing what he loves but also doing something that will last after him. (Maybe I should point out that the Mike Sweeney award is for a player who exemplifies Mike's values on and off the field so community involvement is a big part of it, so it wasn't totally out of place. My husband and I did wonder if they consider non-Christians who also are involved in the community for this award, but I guess only time will tell.) And when Soria accepted his award, they had just shown a video where everyone was talking about how he doesn't get rattled or nervous on the mound, and his first line was "This makes me nervous!" He did seem kind of nervous up there, but I thought he did great and his English is at least a quadzillion billion times better than my Spanish, although of course I get nervous talking in English before a crowd, too.
Wow. That was long. Can you imagine if I'd taken better notes? Well, peace out crew, I'm going back to bed!