Kansas City, Mo Owner David Glass unveiled a simple plan Thursday to rebuild the woeful Kansas City Royals -- get to .500 and then start spending serious money.
Speaking to about 2,500 fans at the team's annual luncheon, Glass said not to worry that the payroll had been slashed by more than $10 million after losing a franchise-record 100 games last season. Glass has been criticized for not pouring more resources into the Royals, who have not appeared in a postseason game since 1985 and have not been competitive since 1994.
"If we can put together a young team that can mature and improve to the point they play .500 baseball, then you can go out and acquire a free agent or you can make a few moves that make you more competitive where you can compete for a division title," Glass said.
In assessing any team's chances, Glass said, too much emphasis is often put on payroll.
"Last year I stood at this meeting and talked about our prospects and thought we had a chance to perhaps play .500 baseball," he said.
"In that regard, we decided we would step up and spend more payroll than we had ever in the history of the Royals. We had a payroll last year that was higher than the Minnesota Twins, who won our division.
"So I think that sort of dispels the theory that you base it on payroll alone. Otherwise, how could we explain last year?"
The Royals have invested most of their player development money and almost all of their high draft picks the past five years on pitching. The hope is that some of these unproven arms, such as starters Jeremy Affeldt and Kyle Snyder and reliever Mike MacDougal, are poised for a breakthrough.
"We have a great deal of emphasis on our young pitching staff," Glass said. "And hopefully they have matured to the point where they will be able to win at the major-league level."
The Royals have at least two outstanding non-pitchers in outfielder Carlos Beltran and first baseman Mike Sweeney, who accepted the Royals' player of the year award.
"If you start with a core group of young pitchers and then you take our position players -- and we have some of the best position players in our league -- and you put that all together, then you've got something to build on," Glass said.
"But you've got to build it with that nucleus of young players and get to a certain point. At my estimation, that point is .500 baseball."
Manager Tony Pena will be running his first spring training camp as the Royals' skipper when Kansas City opens its new facility next week at Surprise, Ariz.
"Tony has gotten to know our players now, and he brings an enthusiasm that is unparalleled in baseball. I can't imagine a more enthusiastic or more positive person than Tony Pena. I think he'll be a great influence with the young players," Glass said.
Repeating a familiar refrain, he urged fans to stand loyal as their team struggles to improve.
"All of us in Kansas City need to support the Royals. And I will tell you at the same time, I recognize the Royals need to earn the support of the fans," Glass said.