A Pregame Interview With: Dayton Moore
Q. I know you've covered this a little bit, for those that haven't heard the answers, just for you personally after the journey you've been on this entire time with the Kansas City Royals, how gratifying is this for you?
DAYTON MOORE: Well, it's very rewarding for our fans and just really proud of all of our people who have worked very hard. It's a long process when you try to build something from within, with scouting and development. A lot of things have to go well for you to win at the Major League level, obviously, and for us, our efforts have been directed on building from within, and been fortunate to be in this position.
Q. In talking to James Shields yesterday, he said last year when he got here, he saw this team needed to learn to win, and then learned to win in September. What is your read on this team as they're heading into this wild card game and just where they are mentally at the one and done mentality?
DAYTON MOORE: Last year I felt like we gained some quality experience with how we performed in the second half. We were in a playoff race. We were eliminated, I think, on the 155th day or something like that. But we played well, and I think our players for the first time realized that they can compete. We came into Spring Training this year with the expectations to compete from the first day to the last day, and it's simply been centered on quality starting pitching, a bullpen that's matched up well, and we've played very good defense. And offensively, especially the second half, we came through with some big hits.
The runs that we've been able to obtain this year, the streaks rather, has been predicated on Billy and Alex and some guys getting hot, so hopefully one of them will get a big hit tonight.
Q. You talk about building from within, but a lot of people, Ned included, point to the James Shields trade as the one that got you over the hump. At what point did you realize that you were going to have to make a move like that to do that, to get yourself over the hump?
DAYTON MOORE: Well, we have to use our farm system, obviously, in a variety of ways, not only to transition championship players to the Major Leagues, but we have to use it to acquire talent. We have to use our farm system as a resource. We were just fortunate when that deal was presented to us that we had enough talent in our farm system to execute that deal and to win the negotiations for it because there was several teams obviously in the hunt for a starting pitcher like James Shields, and then obviously that goes back to the great work that our scouting and development people have done to put us in that position.
There's no doubt, the only way you tilt the field in your favor, especially in these markets, is to have quality starting pitching out there every single night, and as I said before, the game has changed in the sense that you have to match up late; the last three innings are crucial. We've got some guys down there that have performed well.
Q. With the lack of playoff experience this team has, how much do you think the grinder that was September helps them for a game like tonight?
DAYTON MOORE: I think it certainly can be a benefit. We'll never know. We don't know until the script unfolds tonight. All of our games are tight. We've played ‑‑ our wins last year were close games, and when you play close games, there's limited margin for error, and you've got to be able to ‑‑ if one phase of your game falters, you lose, and that's what's happened with our team. We do well when we play all phases the game, not perfectly because we're not a perfect baseball team, but we perform, the starting pitching obviously throws strikes, puts the game in rhythm, and allows our defense to make plays, and hopefully, as I said, we get on base. Rusty has done a great job preparing all of our base stealers and base runners to execute in those situations, and we've been able to get guys into scoring position with a stolen base.
Hopefully we'll get some opportunities tonight.
Q. Back to James, did today need to happen for you to consider the trade to be a success?
DAYTON MOORE: No. We felt that, as I said all along, we pointed towards 2012, 2013 for us to have a group of home‑grown players on the field, and then we would do everything that we could in our power to support their efforts to win a championship, given that opportunity, and those opportunities to acquire a top rotation starter and an impact pitcher like Wade Davis, they're not presented year in and year out, and we were fortunate that the timing of it was such that it was staring us in the face and put us in a position to compete in 2014, and this is obviously where we are. The plan all along was to graduate a group of players to the Major Leagues, help them, and then do everything we can as a front office and as a leadership team to make sure we supported their efforts in winning.
Q. Can you just reflect on your state of mind at the trade deadline? You've been working very hard to try to get some things done, and others seem to be able to, and just where you thought you were and how things would play out?
DAYTON MOORE: Well, you know, we've always believed in this group of players. As I said before, it's not a perfect group. The one part of it that shows up every single day is their energy and their expectations and they play for one another and they play for our fans, but we tried at the trade deadline to improve in any way that we could, it's just there wasn't an opportunity for us that we felt that would improve us in a way that made a huge difference.
We had made some deals earlier in the year, some acquisitions, with Scott Downs we felt like would give us a presence there. We traded for Jason Frasor right during the All‑Star Break I believe it was, and at a time when our bullpen was a little worn out, and we felt in the second half we were going to need somebody to throw strikes, compete, been there before, and just kind of settle the waters a little bit, and of course we felt Raul Ibañez was an important acquisition for us because of his reputation and who he was as a man and as a presence in our clubhouse and a personality and just could instill a belief and an attitude in this group of players, and Josh Willingham fit that bill, as well, somebody that had presence not only in the lineup but in the clubhouse, as well, and I think it's all blended in nicely at this point.
Q. Earlier this season Ned talked about how the Oakland A's have a philosophy where they target guys with high on‑base percentage. He said your organization has targeted athletes and that's evident with your baserunning and defense. Why was athleticism a main target for you guys?
DAYTON MOORE: Well, we target both. Look, the ballpark and the outfield certainly demands that you have guys that can go catch a ball, so we've always put a premium on trying to find guys that could run and athletes that could go get the ball in the outfield. We feel like Rusty Kuntz's strength is teaching outfield play, and throughout the organization we feel like we do a good job there, so we've put a lot of emphasis in that area. We've worked hard ‑‑ when you look at our core group statistically in the Minor Leagues, they got on base. They got on base at a quality rate. That's something that's very important.
But certainly Oakland has done a tremendous job, especially they're really the model for our markets. But how have they done it? They've done it with pitching; they've done it with tough, gritty baseball players that want to win and fight, and that's kind of what we're about, too, and that's what we tried to target in the draft and internationally, and like I said, I can't say enough about the great work that we've done, and we put a lot of emphasis on winning in the Minor Leagues because this is an organization and a franchise that hasn't won in the past. It's been a premium with our efforts, and we've been able to do that, as well.
Again, it's not perfect, but I think there's some similarities with what we try to do.
Q. If you guys go deep into the postseason, does it help your chances of keeping a guy like Shields?
DAYTON MOORE: Well, I hope so. You never know. Obviously the better you do, you more ‑‑ hopefully the more attractive place it is. Players want to be in part of organizations that are winning. They're the greatest competitors in the world and they want to win, so winning certainly is an attraction when you're trying to sign talent. But we also know and understand and realize who we are. We try to evaluate ourselves very honestly. We've got to grow it from within. We've got to make deals like we did with James Shields and Wade Davis. We're not going to be big players on the free agent market. We just aren't. We'll take our shot now and then like we have in the past, but it's got to fit in and blend in with the current group of talent, and it's obviously got to fit with what our payroll structure is.
Q. I had a question specifically about the international scouting you guys have done. Can you put into perspective where that department was when you came in in '06 and the work Rene and his staff have done?
DAYTON MOORE: Let me say this: The Glasses were very adamant about building a strong program internationally, and we've always felt that it's very difficult to be a model franchise and to win consistently at the Major League level unless you have one of the better international programs in baseball. Rene has done a terrific job in structuring the program. Orlando Estevez has done a terrific job with signing players and competing in the homes for acquiring players internationally, and of course you've got to be able to assimilate them into the culture and develop them along in a way where they're comfortable and they feel that you care about them. We've been fortunate in the sense that Salvador Perez moved very quickly through our system at a premium position. It doesn't often happen. Credit goes to Salvie for making adjustments and wanting to play, and certainly Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera have been great signs for us and part of our Major League teams. We have to be able to compete and compete well in all avenues that acquire talent, but especially in the draft and internationally. It's been important.
Q. Do you take more pride in the fact that those guys were million dollar finds, they were scouting finds for lack of a better term?
DAYTON MOORE: They were, and one of the dilemmas of our game is the money often robs the incentive of the player, and that happens sometimes, not only internationally but in the States, as well. Truthfully a lot of our more successful signs all that I've been a part of were guys that didn't get a lot of money. Anyway, those guys have done a great job.
Q. Obviously you've been building for this day for a long time. Now that it's here and you got your shot in the playoffs, how does it feel for you compared to what you thought and what are some of your emotions?
DAYTON MOORE: I'm nervous. You know, I'm just ‑‑ there's not a whole lot we can do at this point in time. Try to enjoy it, but I've got the butterflies going, have all day, and I want to see our guys do well. I want to see them win. That's why we do this.
It's a tremendous opportunity and privilege to represent baseball on this stage, and it's something that our people have worked very hard for. I want them to enjoy it. I want our fans to enjoy it, and I want to continue. It's very important.
Often you don't get an opportunity to compete and win a world championship, and regardless of what the odds are or what is going to unfold, we've got an opportunity, and you want to take advantage of it.
Q. What do you think made this team at least marginally better than last year's team?
DAYTON MOORE: You know, I think I would say our balance throughout the lineup has helped at times when we had guys going into ‑‑ weren't producing the way we anticipated when we put this team together, when we left Spring Training. I think there's a toughness and a resilience that's a part of who we are. That credit goes to Ned and the coaching staff. They're great preparers, and they're really tough‑minded people, our coaching staff, and I'm very proud of them. Ned brings that consistency. The experience part of it I think is important, as well. Getting that quality experience last year the second half I felt was crucial to where we are right now, but truthfully Ned and the coaching staff have done an unbelievable job just being consistent and tough‑minded and brought an expectation level, and of course the players obviously get the credit. They have to go out and play.
But it's a great team effort, and one thing we've understood from day one is all of our success is tied together here in everything that we do, and I'm proud of this group.