The Business of Breaking Even


Win? I just want to break even. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Baseball is a sport. Sports success is measured in wins and losses by fans, players, general managers, etc. I like to think team owners measure success the same way. Some do. I’m not sure David Glass does.

Mr. Glass has stated many times that his number one goal every year is to “break even.” When that’s the first thing out of your mouth, as it was during a Royals broadcast at the end of the 2012 season, it doesn’t sound like winning is a top priority.

I know…baseball is also a business, and the owners should run it like one. However, sports are a little different than the “normal” business venture. For example, when the local Target store remodeled to add a full grocery, local citizens weren’t asked to vote for a tax increase that paid for the upgrade. You know, like the citizens of Kansas City did when Glass wanted to upgrade the stadium (resulting in an increased value to his business).

Most people were happy to vote in favor of the stadium upgrades. The citizens of any town with a sports franchise want to be proud. They want a team they can be proud of and facilities to match. They also want an owner with the drive to win on the field.

To be fair, there have been some strides made with this ownership group. Hiring Dayton Moore, the hotshot general manager candidate at the time, was step one. Allowing Moore to increase scouting efforts, and funding those efforts, was step two. So far, so good. We trust “the process.” The team starts shelling out big bucks to the high draft picks, bringing in top shelf talent. Eventually, this process gains the respect of national baseball writers and gurus, and Kansas City has the number one ranked farm system in all of baseball.

Personally, I’m loving it. “This is going great!” Or so I would tell myself. Sure, the big league team was going through one losing season after another. “But just wait,” I would tell anyone who would listen, “we’ve got Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Zack Greinke.” Later it was, “We’ve got Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers!”

I followed the minors closely…waiting for the next big prospect to arrive. It made the losing at the big league level easier to swallow. I made a point of going to “The K” to witness the major league debuts of guys like Greinke, Gordon, and Hosmer. When fans of other teams would tell me my Royals sucked, I would tell them, “Just wait…it won’t be long now.”

Well, I’m still waiting. A little disenfranchised…but still hopeful. I do believe that teams in a market like Kansas City should build from within as much as possible. Identify the best talent and draft them, trade for them, etc. Then hope like hell that some of them pan out. When they do, you hope the team can identify the best of the best and lock them up to long-term deals. When they don’t…you hope the general manager and the owner will recognize they swung and missed on a guy and cut their losses.

The worst. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

It’s cutting losses that has been a problem in Kansas City. This team consistently trotted out two of the worst starting pitchers ever. EVER. These guys, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar, could not, for whatever reason, pitch their way out of the rotation. Eventually, the Davies experiment ended. We are still in the midst of the Hochevar nightmare…which is more scary than a creepy clown.

I don’t know who to blame here – David Glass or Dayton Moore? Probably both. Moore is too stubborn to give up on the guy. But Glass is the owner here…the boss. Do you think, to throw out an extreme example, George Steinbrenner would have allowed this to go on when he owned the New York Yankees? No way. And yes…Steinbrenner overstepped boundaries all the time and is the extreme example of a “hands on” owner. Say what you will about Mr. Steinbrenner, though. The guy wanted to WIN.

Look at it this way:

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. “

That quote is from Warren Buffet, widely considered the most successful investor of our time. Does that help put things in terms you can relate to, Mr. Glass?

It’s time to put an end to the Luke Hochevar era. You already came out and said you’re spending money on pitching this offseason. It’s been talked about for weeks now…that’s the priority of this team. The front office believes in the position players and bullpen, and probably rightfully so for the most part.

It’s not enough to just spend money on a patchwork rotation. Agreeing to spend money is step one. Step two: no longer accepting mediocrity. It’s okay to let go, or to sit players down. I know…Frenchy would be an expensive part time player, but sometimes you have to operate in the red a little to gain ground. We don’t need to give raises to guys like Hochevar or even Chris Getz. There are other options.

It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time to go out on the open market and buy a real pitcher – or trade for a pitcher you’re willing to pay big bucks. It’s time to stop patching leaks. Put your best 25 players on the roster, regardless of salary or service time or 40 man roster issues.

Mr. Glass, if you want to keep your fans coming back for more, you need to make a statement. It’s time to cut your losses, invest wisely, and win.