Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Building a Solid Home

Put yourself in this situation for a moment. You're needing a new home. The one you're currently living in no longer fits your needs, and it's a bit run down. You want to build something brand new, and you've been saving money to invest in something that will serve as the home of your dreams. It's the house you'll retire in, and one that you'll welcome family and friends to for years to come.

After putting your current home on the market, it's come to the point where you need to find a qualified contractor to construct your dream home. After a thorough search, you've limited the choices to a pair of candidates.

Contractor A has a solid reputation as someone whose company will get the job done quickly. He promises that you'll be able to move into your new home in about six weeks, and it's exciting for you to think about the possibility that you'll be enjoying your new home in such a short time.

Contractor B also has a sound reputation as someone whose company does a great job and comes highly-recommended. However, unlike the other choice, this guy states that it'll be about 4-5 months before construction is complete.

Before you jump at Contractor A's offer to have you into your new place in a little more than a month, you do some more research and ask friends and family whether they know anything about either of the contractors, and here's the gist of what you find.

Contractor A spends more money up front for things like high-end kitchen appliances and fancy light fixtures, but his focus is so much on getting the house built quickly that his work lacks the overall quality of Contractor B, who doesn't cut corners to save time.

You're not needing to sell your current home before you start work on the new place, so time isn't too much of an issue. So, do you still go with Contractor A? Or do you think it's worth it to be patient and allow Contractor B the time it takes to build a home for you that won't start falling apart a few years down the road?

Where am I going with this? Well, let's apply this analogy to baseball. Think of Contractor A as a Major League Baseball general manager who will come in, spend money on some pricey free agents, and have your team competing for a division title within a year. The downside, though, is that after those free agents have moved on for more money, his fix-it-quickly method has left the organization without a sustainable plan for long-term success.

Contractor B is Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore. He gets criticized all the time by impatient fans for having taken too much time to field a winner at the MLB level. But his plan to start by rebuilding the farm system is starting to pay off, and he's likely at the point where he'll add a "high-end kitchen appliance" in the form of a starting pitcher or two this offseason.

Moore's "process" has taken longer, but I'd choose Contractor B over Contractor A nine times out of 10. The "house" Moore's building in Kansas City has a much greater chance of sustaining success for the long-term than one built by a GM who was focused on a quick fix.

Moore, of course, is using the same approach to rebuilding the Royals organization as the one that was utilized in Atlanta. He joined the Braves organization in 1994, and worked his way up the administrative ladder until he left to become Kansas City's GM on June 8, 2006. During his time in Atlanta, the Braves won 90 or more games in 11 of 13 seasons, and the two times they failed to reach that level were during his first year -- the strike-shortened 1994 season (68-46) -- and during the 2006 season when Moore departed (79-83).

The key to Atlanta's success has always been its highly-regarded and talent-rich farm system, and the architect of that system is former Royals GM John Schuerholz. Schuerholz served as General Manager in Atlanta from 1990 to 2007, and Moore spent valuable time learning the craft from Schuerholz.

Now entering his sixth offseason in KC, Moore is attempting to build an organization in Kansas City that will be able to field a winning team for years to come -- you know, just like that solidly constructed dream home in the opening analogy.

But, just as contractors run into issues that push back the reveal of a new home, Moore's task was made more difficult by the sorry state of the Royals organization when he took the reigns from Allard Baird.

Six times in the nine seasons prior to 2006, Kansas City won fewer than 70 games. In fact, the Royals had lost 100 or more games in three of four seasons prior to Moore's hiring. Kansas City also lost 100 games during that 2006 campaign, but hasn't done so since.

Don't get me wrong. The Royals have been far from good, with their 75-87 record in 2008 being the best season under Moore's watch. But, just as Contractor B takes his time to build a quality home that will last for decades, Moore has taken his time to build a strong foundation -- the farm system that will hopefully result in the type of long-term success enjoyed in Atlanta.

Sure, Moore could have focused more of his initial energy on making the Royals a winner by 2008 or 2009. It's why people are questioning whether he's going to be able to see this restoration project through to the point where Kansas City reaches the playoffs. But I've always trusted that he was doing things the right way by taking his time to turn the Royals' farm system into one of the best in baseball.

That farm system, which Baseball America gave its highest-ever grade to prior to the 2011 season, will allow the Royals to be able to sustain a level of success for years to come. Now Moore is about to go shopping, in an attempt to find a guy like Edwin Jackson, who could bolster the Royals' 2012 rotation. The lineup and the bullpen are solid, the defense is as good as its been in decades, and Moore is putting the finishing touches on that dream home.

Trust me, or rather, trust Dayton Moore -- Contractor B. It'll be worth the wait when his work is done.

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