Ryan Lefebvre looking at Dayton Moore who is looking at Ryan Lefebvre looking at Dayton Moore.
The Digital Digest was probably a step in the right direction for the Royals in reaching out to the alternative media. Dayton Moore met with a group of 7 bloggers, other than me, and he did in fact answer whatever question we asked of him. However, due to time constraints and the fact that each answer he gave was approximately 3 minutes long we only got to ask around 5 questions.
That doesn't mean that nothing useful occurred. I think that we asked some good questions and got some interesting answers, however most of these were not directed to Dayton Moore. The best answers mostly came from two people: Mike Swanson and Ned Yost. Billy Butler was Billy Butler. Jeff Francoeur seemed like a likable person who knows that he may not be well liked as a player, but is liked because of who he is. He also gave us some honest answers. I also interviewed Royalman in his cape.
I'm sorry to admit to you my second biggest regret of the night: I didn't get Dayton's vote in the DMIT finals. Sorry Royals Review readers, continue on if you can still respect me.
The afternoon started with the bloggers arriving around our appointed time of 3:45. It was interesting to put a face to all the names I know only from the internet. We chatted briefly before our interviews, decided that we basically had the same questions, and wondered how the whole thing was going to proceed as it was very vague up to this point how the interviews would be conducted.
We began by talking to David Holtzman (media relations) and Mike Swanson (VP communications), who were our overseers for the afternoon. Both of them were very open with us and took several questions. Swanson was the man in charge, and he gave very honest answers and a little look into the workings of the Royals upper council. Swanson was fighting against the blogs and online community from getting any access for years, but is willing to embrace them in the future. He even mentioned that there may be a "bloggers night" at a Royals game this year, but didn't really give too many specifics. The whole thing is a work in progress, and I think he wanted to see how well we behaved today before committing to anything. I don't think we screwed it up.
To give an example of the general feeling in the organization, I jokingly asked "Do the Royals think bloggers live in their parents basement?"
Everyone laughed, and Swanson lightly responded "Why, do you?" He then added "...not the Royals, just at our meetings [I've] heard guys talk about bloggers at times, and some of the stuff that apears..."
Perhaps bloggers can just get permission slips signed by their moms and they'll be good to go.
Dayton Moore has 5 cellphones AND advanced knowledge of sabermetrics.
Around 4:15 Dayton Moore came in the room. He introduced himself personally to each of us, and sat to take questions. Before he could answer any questions, Swanson basically explained to Moore why we were there and what was going on. I think that Dayton was aware what was happening beforehand, but I can't be certain. We proceeded to ask around 5 questions before time was up, and the way he answered each of the questions was in a vague round-a-bout way.
For example, I asked why he traded DDJ at the beginning of the offseason when his stock might be higher later in the offseason. He said that the accepted offer was the best they received at any time (including before he was injured), and the Crawford market was not comparable to the market for DDJ. He didn't really discuss why he didn't wait, other than to say "the market wouldn't have changed."
There's really not too much else to discuss with his interview. I'm sure someone will post the transcript tomorrow, but he gave the typical answers he gives in interviews. Maybe I missed some minute detail while I was there or during the few times I have re-listened to the interview. The time frame was too brief for us to ask follow up questions clarifying our points or going into further detail once he gave a response. I guess this isn't a big deal as this is just the first meeting between basement dwellers and Dayton Moore, but hopefully there is some additional time when bloggers get to ask him questions next.
This is a giant baseball. It is located at fanfest. Don't get too close though because it's roped off.
Next up was Ned Yost (around 4:30). We got to talk to him for around 20 minutes, which was a little over our time limit. He was very up front with the way he answered questions. When asked if he was willing to use Soria in less convential ways, he told us that "you won't catch me doing it." It's refreshing to hear a straight answer, even if is not the one you want to hear. Also, he told us the #2 spot in the lineup is for the "situational-guy" in your lineup. I meant to bring up Tango's research of optimal lineups, but time was limited and I missed my chance. Alas.
Also, when I asked him, "Are you planning on playing Alex [Gordon] everyday?" He responded, "Yeah, you know, kinda...Lorenzo Cain is in that mix, and Blanco is in that mix and Dyson...we just have to see how things shake out." Sounds like Gordon's playing time may not be as guaranteed as we hoped/thought. Looking back, I wish I had asked about Kila. I think we all assume that both of them are going to get a good chance this year, but it's perfectly possible neither of them do. Or maybe I'm reading into a January interview a little too much.
Yost also mentioned that he doesn't know what players he will have to work with once the season starts. It's pretty fair for him to be vague with the outfield when the Royals currently have 6 outfielders (plus Francoeur). To be honest, I feel kind of bad for Yost. Between the questions that we asked Moore and Yost, it was basically confirmed that playing time was guaranteed Cabrera and Francoeur. This means that Yost is limited in his managerial options in how he tries to win games. That's not the situation I would want to be in, but hopefully Yost can make the best of it.
We only have to wait until 2012 to get another one of these. Maybe sooner.
Last up was Billy and Jeffy. We asked Billy some questions first because he had another appointment, and he gave the typical Billy Butler answers. A lot of "you know"s and "I mean"s sprinkled in among his cliche answers to the questions. His response to Nick's in depth question on if his reduction in power but increase in overall offense was part of a plan: "I'm just trying to put the barrel on it." I think that was Yuni's plan all along as well.
However, KCYeti accused Billy Butler of staring him down from the batter's box while the Yeti was watching from the stands. Apparently, KCYeti thought Billy was looking for people trying to read his lips. Billy had no response. It was a pretty hilarious exchange, and while KCYeti was joking (I think), Billy seemed to enjoy getting a different sort of question than he typically gets.
Jeff Francoeur was asked about his swinging out of the strike zone and lack of ability to take walks. He completely acknowledged these faults in his game, and told us he is working on it. He spent 2 hours of batting practice this morning with Kevin Seitzer, so apparently he has a seriously problem with his approach (who knew?).
When asked about his "mentoring" and "leadership" abilities, he indicated that the older guys generally treated him very well when he was a rookie and he is planning on doing the same thing. They paid for his golf, food, and sme other expenses, but they weren't afraid to let him know if he messed up. This is in stark contrast to Billy Butler as a rookie, who had people treating him not so nice. Hopefully Frenchie's plan works on better than Billy's.
Fancoeur seemed like he was well aware of the general feeling on the internet about him. He preempted several of our questions without us prompting him (Minda said "you just knocked out 6 of my questions). Hopefully, whatever the Royals are doing that is different, things click in Francoeur's mind. He WAS effective as a 21 year old, so maybe it will come together six years later. No matter what, he seems like a genuinely nice guy.
It gets crazy at fanfest. I should note that there is a full service bar for adults.
After the players left, we got another 15 minutes with Swanson and Holtzman. Again, they answered all the questions we asked, and even gave us information we didn't ask for. I really want to emphasize how communicative these guys were trying to be during our interviews. We had a good conversation with them, and I plan to post the transcript unless someone else does while I'm at work tomorrow. I think I covered several of the main points above, but the overall chat we had could be interesting to people.
Next, we had a brief tour of the season ticket holder fanfest. As far as I can tell, Fanfest looks like a fun experience for the family. There are things for the kids to do; such as running bases, hitting slow pitch baseballs, and meeting Slugerrrrrrrrrr. There are things for the adults to do; such as the bar, a small hall of fame area, the bar, and several areas for collectibles/merchandise. Of course there a lot of autograph areas if you are into that as well.
I want to note that I saw Ryan Lefebvre interview Dayton Moore for quite awhile on the main stage. Moore also took time to field questions from the crowd. I didn't keep track of the time he was up there, but I am willing to bet that it was a good deal longer than he gave the bloggers. I don't know what that means, but that's just how the cards fell. To be honest I'm not sure there is too much to be learned from Moore in a public relations setting.
Without trying to be overly sarcastic, there were quite a few gimmicky and fun things at fanfest (for example, they had Royals family feud featuring Bruce Chen and Hal McRae on separate teams. What?!). I think that appeals to a lot of fans, and there's a lot of things there to entertain you for a while. If you make it out to the Overland Park Convention Center this weekend, you will probably have a good time. I would say it's worth your effort if you want to do something baseball related in the middle of the winter snowstorms. I received a free pass for another day this weekend, and I plan to make it out there again just to check it out in the setting of a "fan."
Overall, it was a good move to invite the bloggers. Some of the other attendees commented they were trying to think of questions that people typically don't hear, and I would say that they succeeded. Not to say that bloggers are revolutionary in their questions, and that they are better than anything anyone has ever seen. They aren't, but they're questions that I don't typcially hear when I listen to sports radio in the morning.
I don't know what the Royals PR expected, but things probably went as well as they could. No one made an ass of themselves, no one was offended by any questions, and more people will probably hear about fanfest than they would have if the bloggers weren't invited, so it's a win for everyone involved. The Royals will probably be more open to hosting alternative media events in the future, which can only mean more exposure for the general fans who like to follow the Royals in either a casual or hardcore sense.
Sorry to disappoint those who wanted me to get kicked out screaming and yelling. I decided that since I really don't have a stake in this (I don't have a blog), I didn't want to ruin things for the future of bloggers on the Royalsnet.
Oh, and to end things here is a cute kid who I think may be a future starting pitcher for the Royals (another lefty for depth!):
Note: The mother told me the boy has cerebral palsy, so it seems unlikely that he will be the next Montgomery/Lamb/Duffy/Dwyer/etc/etc. But at least we have one more Royals fan for when they turn around in 2011! And I like the photo.
Here is a link to my photos for those interested: http://s1106.photobucket.com/albums/h371/mgrosdidier/