Dayton Moore’s Legacy with the Royals Continues to Get Complicated

Being a Kansas City Royals fan is a complicated endeavor.

This is a franchise that does have four pennants and two World Series titles in the club’s 54-year history. While that isn’t the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals, or San Francisco Giants, it is nothing to shrug at. The Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers, just to name a few, are still waiting for their first World Series title. The Seattle Mariners are still waiting for their first pennant and World Series appearance.

It could certainly be a lot worse when it comes to baseball in Kansas City.

And yet, it’s hard to focus on the good in the overall picture when this franchise has gone through so much losing, especially in the post-MLB strike and Ewing Kauffman-era (i.e. 1995 and beyond).

Since 1995, the Royals have had only four winning seasons. They went 30 years between playoff appearances (1985 and 2014), and though those two playoff seasons provided some incredible highs at Kauffman Stadium, the era of 1995-2012 and 2018-today have provided some remarkable lows.

And the era of Dayton Moore has certainly provided much of the same.

Since taking over as general manager in 2006, Moore has helped the Royals capture two AL Pennants and a World Series title. Heck, the Royals were a base hit away from maybe having two World Series titles, as they certainly had their chances to win Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium in 2014.

From 2013 to 2017, the Royals played competitive baseball, winning at least 80 or more games over that timespan. For some baseball fans, Cardinals and Yankees fans probably, that kind of run seems meager, if not insignificant. But for Kansas City baseball fans, who saw nothing but losing with the Kansas City A’s from 1955 to 1967, and from 1995 to 2012, that era was something to cherish.

It wasn’t quite the George Brett/Ewing Kauffman era of Royals baseball that spanned from 1971 to 1993. However, that five-year span gave hope and something to pay attention to between Kansas Jayhawks basketball and Kansas City Chiefs football. It made Kansas City a “baseball town” again, even if it was only for a short period of time.

And honestly, Moore deserves some credit for that. He deserves credit for getting owner David Glass to invest in ways that he wouldn’t with previous GM Allard Baird (who was a talented executive in his own right).

Since 2017 though, it is been a frustrating time for Royals fans, and much like the good times, Moore has to take responsibility for four losing seasons from 2018 to 2021 as well as a likely fifth one in 2022.

Which makes Moore’s legacy a complicated one, especially after his comments and mini-presser today.

“Questions like that need to be asked…”

Royals’ Twitter pretty much blew up this afternoon, as KSHB 41’s Aaron Ladd tweeted this today as Moore held a press conference during a baseball camp run by “C You in the Major Leagues”, a charitable organization that Moore and the Royals run.

The comment (and other ones that followed) hit hard with Royals fans for all the wrong reasons.

First off, the Royals pitching staff, both the rotation and bullpen, have continued to struggle in all kinds of ways this season, Eldred’s fifth year as pitching coach. Going into Monday’s game against the Angels, the Royals rotation and bullpen rank 27th in ERA, respectively, and the rotation ranks 27th in WHIP, while the bullpen ranks last in WHIP. While it can be expected that Moore is not going to publicly blast a player or coach to the media, it seemed odd that Moore would not just defend Eldred, but actually praise him, even though the pitching continues to be a sore spot for this Royals squad.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened either. Moore fervently defended Eldred back in May, shortly after hitting coach Terry Bradshaw’s firing.

Eldred wasn’t the lone topic of Moore’s 20-minute presser.

Moore didn’t shy away from recognizing that this has been a frustrating season and that things hadn’t gone the way they planned. Moore even recognized the fans and their right to criticize, which was a surprising show of humility from an executive and organization that has toyed with Royals fans this season (especially when it came to Vinnie Pasquantino and why he has not been called up).

In many ways, one could credit that Moore’s comments, and presser in general, reflect the inconsistent legacy of his tenure as general manager. Moore had good intentions when it came to communicating with the press this afternoon. Not a lot of GMs would entertain the questions Moore received, let alone answer them.

And yet, at the end of the 20 minutes, Royals fans were left with more questions than answers and more confused, if not frustrated than they were before Moore’s comments were shared on social media and on the air.

The Royals should be a better team, honestly. It feels like the pieces are in place, and just a few changes here and there could make them a competitive one as soon as next season.

A change in a certain coach on staff. A promotion of a top prospect or two. A trade of a player for a decent prospect haul. All those things could help tap into a Royals resurgence.

That’s what it feels like at the surface level anyways.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t reflect that now. This squad is 23-42 after all.

And that’s what makes Moore’s future and legacy just so complicated in general, even for the most optimistic and positive Royals fan.

“We’re Not Asking You to Accept Anything…”

As expected, Moore in the presser avoided pointing the finger at any one person or group when it came to the Royals’ problems this year, which has been a pretty typical response from most in this organization, whether it’s Moore, general manager JJ Picollo, or manager Mike Matheny.

Rather, Moore, while still recognizing the problems with this squad, emphasized a need to find “solutions” as an organization.

In many ways, Moore and the Royals are relics of a baseball organization that was more prevalent in the 90s, especially during the era of Braves dominance which was fueled by scouting and player development. Moore was a product of that Braves system as a scout and executive and seemed intent on building the Royals in the “Braves Way” when he arrived in 2006.

Unfortunately, the results have been mixed when it comes to the structure he aimed to replicate in Kansas City.

The Royals have certainly amassed a ton of talent over his tenure, including high honors this season and in 2011 by Baseball America. And yet, the “talent capital” has not quite translated to lasting success over Moore’s tenure as GM/President. The talent always is highly regarded in the Minors, but more often than not, they fizzle when they arrive in Kansas City.

There are success stories like Eric Hosmer Salvador, Mike Moustakas, Yordano Ventura, and Danny Duffy. Unfortunately, there are also busts like Bubba Starling, Johnny Giovetella, Mike Montgomery, and Aaron Crow.

A big reason can be credited to Moore not catching up quickly enough when it comes to player development and analytics.

The Royals have typically earned a reputation as being “behind the curve” when it comes to applying and embracing analytics, especially from their managers, whether it’s been, Matheny or Ned Yost. The Royals did win a title under Yost, but they also lost 100-plus games in his last two years.

Yost’s reluctance to embrace advanced strategy and analytics certainly contributed to his rough last two seasons as Royals skipper.

It’s a blemish on Moore and his legacy as Royals general manager. He knows how to build a good scouting pipeline, but he has always seemed late to the game when it comes to the next “big ” development.

For example, they are seeing monumental gains in their hitting development in the last few seasons. However, this movement should have been done 10 years ago, in order to maintain the momentum of those 2013-2017 squads.

Moore and the Royals’ front office embrace change slowly. They seem stuck in one era far too often. For a while, they were stuck in that “Braves Way” era. Even now, they seem stuck in that 2013-2017 era, thinking they can just find that “magic run” again with the same formula and even style of players.

Adaptation comes slowly with Moore and the Royals.

And that is becoming harder to accept with each and every loss.

“This is a Necessary Phase We Have to Go Through…”

Being a small-market team in Major League Baseball isn’t easy, especially with more and more small-market owners less likely to spend big money on a year-to-year basis. When a small-market team is in a competitive window, they will spend the necessary free-agent cash.

The Reds did it back in 2019 and 2020. The Pirates did it when they were making the postseason from 2013 to 2015 (the same era as Kansas City, but shorter). Even the Royals spent the most money on their payroll in club history during those 2013 to 2017 seasons (even spilling into 2018), as evidenced from payroll information via Cot’s Contracts.

it is hard for a small-market club to consistently spend, especially when they are not winning. And thus, small-market teams go through these rough patches of low payroll and few wins before that window opens up again.

The Reds and Pirates are currently going through it, and though Moore may be pointing out more to the growing pains of their young talent, his mentioning of this stretch being a “necessary phase” points out that maybe the Royals organization expected this struggle in Spring Training due to the structure of Major League Baseball.

Of course, that feels like a cop-out, as well as a poor excuse. The Milwaukee Brewers are in a similarly small market, and yet they still remain competitive on an annual basis. And they do so in a division that may be better than the AL Central as well.

In many ways, the Moore era has been high on platitudes and low on results over the past 16 years.

There’s no question that Moore is a good man that wants to build a winning club in the right way.

He values his people and truly loves the game. I wrote in an IBWAA “Here’s the Pitch” newsletter that Moore was the “anti-Moneyball” executive in that he values “baseball” people over “business” ones. If one looks through the Royals’ media guide and looks at nearly everyone in the organization, they all seemed to play the game competitively in college or beyond at one point. Heck, even my season ticket broker is a former Emporia State baseball player.

That says something about the culture Moore has established in this Royals organization. If you love the game, the Royals have a place for you. It’s refreshing to see, especially in a league that seems to have more in common with “Wall Street” than “Field of Dreams” (look at the backgrounds of most general managers in Major League Baseball).

But the game is changing.

As much as Kansas City, with all its small-market charm, can love a good-natured guy like Moore who is an ambassador for the game, at the end of the day, wins and losses matter. An organization needs to find the right formula to build a consistent winner, or else it can be easy to fall into oblivion, especially in a multi-sports town like Kansas City.

The Houston Astros bottomed out for a while too, but they did so to build a long-term winner and haven’t looked back.

Nobody is saying that Moore needs to build the Astros 2.0. Or Rays 2.0. Or A’s 2.0. Those situations are unique to their respective organizations and cities. As much as we would love to think of us being run by a Rays “disciple”, Kansas City fans would also hate the cold demeanor of how the organization treats fans and players.

However, Moore needs to be on his way to building something unique but still aligned with the modern game. One pitching coach change is not enough. It goes deeper than just Eldred, and it’s hard to see if Moore and this front office recognize that.

Replacing Eldred with another “Eldred-esque” hire does this organization no good, both in the short and long-term (and Dave Eiland is not that guy, sorry Royals nostalgia buffs).

I want to root for Moore, but I am growing more pessimistic by the day. Honestly, moving on wouldn’t be the worst thing, especially with how charged up this fanbase and city is with the state of the Royals.

Moore says the right things, and there’s a reason why he has more supporters than Royals Twitter folk may think. He can make Royals fans believe like Ted Lasso made AFC Richmond believe. It’s not surprising that owner John Sherman brought him back and promoted him this offseason. Moore can really make fans believe in the Royals’ “magic”.

But I am not sure how much “magic” Moore has left in Kansas City…

Let alone what kind of plan he has in store to turn this thing around in 2023.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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