J.J Cooper wrote a great piece for Baseball America about the KC Royals 2003 draft, which goes a long way toward explaining the impossible task that owner David Glass set for management that season.
Ever wonder why the Royals spent an entire generation as a joke? The 2003 season provides a great capsule summary.
That year, owner David Glass cut the budget for the entire draft to $4.5 million. Not only was Glass trying to be cheap with the major-league roster with an opening day payroll of $40 million, he also expected general manager Allard Baird to perform with a limited amateur draft budget.
Allard Baird and his personnel staff performed better than his chintzy owner had any right to expect. The Kansas City Royals come close to winning the 2003 American League Central title by leading the division by seven games at the All-Star break. Baird’s scouting staff actually managed to dig up four major-league talents with a budget that did not even cover five rounds of the draft at current market rates.
2003 was the first season with Tony Pena as manager. He whipped up his team with the slogan “Nosotros Creamos”—Spanish for “We Believe”—and inspired his team to start the season on a 9-0 run. The KC Royals rode that hot start to an improbable 83-win season, which was the team’s first winning record since 1994.
The Kansas City Royals collapsed in the 2nd half of 2003 to finish seven games behind the Minnesota Twins in the A.L. Central, but it was amazing that the Royals were able to manage a winning record at all. The KC Royals had a -34 run differential, and a team ERA of 5.07 (which ranked 26th in MLB).
More from KC Royals News
- KC Royals: No seismic moves announced by tender deadline
- KC Royals Free Agent Hunt: Any help in San Diego?
- KC Royals: Let the Ryan O’Hearn Watch begin…again
- KC Royals Roster Moves: 3 players added, 1 re-signed
- KC Royals News: Awards, a new coach, and more
The team was carried by a strong offense, which scored 836 runs (7th best in MLB). Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran led the offense, and absorbed $17 million of the team’s $40 million payroll. Angel Berroa was Rookie of the Year at shortstop, with his one good season in MLB while posting a batting line of .287/.338/.451. The KC Royals also had reclamation project Raul Ibanez, who hit .294/.345/.454 with 18 home runs in his final KC season before hitting free-agency.
The lineup was good enough to carry a disaster area of a pitching staff. To tell you how bad it was, recall that Chris George, and his 7.11 ERA, was in the 5-man rotation.
The $4.5 million budget for the June draft was so tight, the KC Royals could pay a mere $1,000 signing bonus to players selected after the 5th round. Despite the first five picks becoming major-league non-entities, the Royals were still able to land four guys with big league futures in Mike Aviles, Ryan Braun (the pitcher, not the Milwaukee future MVP), Dusty Hughes, and Irving Falu. All of them signed for a mere $1,000 bonus, except for Hughes who got a whopping $3,500.
Looking at where the KC Royals are today, current general manager Dayton Moore’s true feat is how he convinced David Glass to invest real money in player development.