Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Guest Post: On Synergy and Team

Kevin Agee

A week ago, I was part of the second "Blog Your Way to the K" at Kauffman Stadium. As I wrote on my own blog, the Royals showed themselves to be a first-class organization when they hosted me and six other members of the Royals blogosphere/Twittersphere.

Anyway, the money quote of the night came from Dayton Moore, who said the Royals could never "out-talent" other teams and would have to rely on synergy and other team-building concepts to help them win games. The next day, I posted the expanded quote on my blog, thinking it was an interesting comment because of the part about team-building and synergy.

Then the quote spread like wildfire to a number of Royals websites and was even talked about on Kansas City sports radio. That part was pretty cool, because people were talking about some information I had gathered and posted online.

What wasn't quite so cool, in my opinion, was the negative way the quote was interpreted. Part of that misinterpretation was my fault. At the time I posted, I thought I had provided enough context for people to understand what Moore was saying, which is that the Royals can't afford a gigantic payroll and the kind of players who make gigantic payrolls a necessity.

However, that wasn't the case. Looking back on it, I should have provided more context by extending the quote another paragraph. Moore said he'd love to get Alex Rodriguez or a Curtis Granderson, but couldn't because it takes money to acquire players like that, or talent to trade for talent, neither of which he has at his disposal.

The snarky responses to Moore's comment ran rampant. 610's Nick Wright said it raised a red flag about David Glass's commitment to winning baseball games. The comment section on Royals Review ... well, I'll just let you see those for yourself. All of that may have been prevented had I thought it out a little more and further explained what "out-talent" really meant.

Make no mistake, though. After the call-ups of Perez and Giavotella, the Royals lineup has plenty of talent from 1-9. Those players are all young, however, and buttkickings -- such as the one the team just received at the hands of a clearly better Tampa Bay club -- will happen every now and then while the kids are finding their way together in Major League Baseball.

But the most important part of this story lies there, in that Perez, Giavotella, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have all come up through the minor leagues together. Consider this: At "Blog Your Way," Moustakas said he cried when he heard Hosmer had beaten him to the big leagues. Not because he was devastated and feeling sorry for himself. No, those were tears of joy because his best friend had achieved his dream. When Moore talked about the importance of synergy and his players wanting to win for each other as much as they do the Royals, that's exactly what he was referring to.

Royals fans are a smart group. For many years, we have been left behind the "statistical revolution" baseball has seen over the last 15-20 years, so we've been left to learn those principles on our own and naturally scoff at any team-building strategy that isn't as simple as out-talenting other teams on the field.

But I would urge all of us to be careful in how quickly we dismiss an idea like the one Dayton Moore has. To this day, statistical analysis in baseball faces some resistance, mostly from ignorant mainstream media baseball columnists who aren't willing to look at the big picture and consider new ideas. Things have gotten better, especially in Kansas City, where we have been privileged to have newspaper columnists who are open-minded.

To that end, it's time for Royals fans to be open-minded about what Moore is accomplishing for this organization. We cannot quantify synergy, but we can see it in Perez taking off his mask mid-inning and cheering on a struggling Felipe Paulino. We can see it in his bursts of emotion after picking a guy off a base. We can hear it in the voices of Hosmer and Moustakas when they talk about winning a championship. And we can most definitely sense it watching this group's intensity during games.

It's hard to say whether this concept will lead directly to wins. In all likelihood, it probably won't have any effect whatsoever; the quality of the players' production will. Synergy isn't a market inefficiency, but it's part of the Royals' plan to someday win a title for this city.

People have written books that detailed how the Rays and Athletics rose out of nothing to prominence. The Kansas City Royals may be next.


  1. Not sure I get the fuss over the payroll. Didn't they absolutley suck with a payroll in the 70 million range last year? And wasn't the problem who the money was spent on? It seems to me that spending it wisely and locking up young players whove earned it is more important than throwing money around just to throw it around.

  2. I don't understand it either, but some people equate a big payroll to winning baseball games. Dayton has said the money will be there when the time comes to sign the Hosmers and Moustakases.

  3. Yeah people really overreacted, which actually surprised me. With all the bad contracts we've been witness to you'd think fans would be loving the final restraint Moore is showing.

    As long as he locks up Gordon & Co. when the time comes I'll be happy.