It was a big day in Kansas City for the Royals and sports fans. In the morning, owner John Sherman announced a sudden afternoon press conference at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and immediately into the forum, Sherman let the media know what the purpose of the meeting was:
The entire press conference can be found on YouTube KMBC 9’s channel (and I will embed it below).
The Dayton Moore era began back in 2006, and until his firing today, he was the third-longest tenured top baseball executive, behind only Oakland’s Billy Beane and the Yankees’ Brian Cashman.
On one end, Moore brought the Royals to incredible heights, as he was the architect of two AL Pennant-winning teams in 2014 and 2015, as well as a World Series-winning one in 2015. In fact, the World Series win in 2015 was the second World Series championship in franchise history (the other being in 1985), and the first in the post-Ewing Kauffman era.
There’s no question that Royals fans and Kansas City as a whole are grateful for what Moore brought to the community, especially in 2014 and 2015 (and the wildly underrated 2013 season as well). After the death of Ewing Kauffman, it seemed like it would be ages before the Royals would make the playoffs, let alone win another World Series. Moore thankfully ended that 29-year playoff drought, as well as the 30-year World Series one.
However, it was obvious that it was time to make a change, especially after six straight losing seasons, which includes a 59-89 mark in 2022, as of Wednesday. Sherman made that abundantly clear in his afternoon press conference.
In a corresponding move, Sherman also announced the promotion of JJ Picollo to head of baseball operations in Kansas City. It doesn’t necessarily seem like Picollo is changing his title at all. Rather, it seems like Picollo will be the lone executive calling the shots for the Royals, and not sharing the role with another executive like he did this season with Moore.
The move is certainly a big one and raises all kinds of questions and polarizing feelings among hardcore Royals fans. For some, the move may not be enough, as some Royals fans may feel that Picollo may just be “Dayton 2.0”, especially since Picollo has been in the Royals organization since Moore took over in 2006.
On the other hand, Picollo was an architect of the big change in hitting development after the 2019 season, which has suddenly become a strength of this Royals organization. After the Moore announcement, Alex Duvall of Royals Farm Report credited Picollo for creating a culture in hitting development that has turned around MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, and Drew Waters, just to name a few.
Thus, what can Royals fans expect moving forward with Picollo now the one officially “in charge” of the front office in Kansas City? And also, how will Royals fans look back on Moore’s tenure as GM/President of the Royals from 2006-2022 once the dust clears?
Don’t Expect the Royals to Be Done Making Moves
One of the big questions that came up during the press conference was this: Are there other changes on the horizon?
Sherman didn’t explicitly say “yes”, but he certainly made a hint that more moves were in place, though it sounds like Picollo is going to be the one who ultimately makes those changes.
If one watched the press conference, via live or on replay (the video is embedded in this post for chrissakes), Sherman harped on the disappointment of the veterans and the pitching development as primary factors that inspired him to make a change. That kind of dissatisfaction probably means that change could be in store at both the Major and Minor League levels.
In terms of the pitching development, those pieces are already in place, as I wrote about it not too long in the wake of Jason Simontacchi being let go as Minor League pitching coordinator. Now, it will be interesting to see where Picollo goes to make those changes in pitching development after this year. Will Director of Pitching Paul Gibson still be around? Will Picollo go outside the organization to help boost pitching development, especially at the Minor League level?
In fact, it was interesting to hear Boddy actually be “complimentary” of Picollo, after years of being critical of him and Moore on the app.
Has Picollo maybe contacted Boddy about a similar role in Kansas City to the one he held in Cincinnati previously? Is Picollo looking to perhaps think “outside the box” with pitching development after Moore failed so spectacularly in this area during his tenure?
It may be a pipe dream and I wonder if there’s too much bad blood between Boddy and the Royals to make this happen. However, the hiring of the “Driveline Guru” would be a major sign that Picollo is certainly not “Dayton 2.0”.
Now, let’s go to Sherman’s former point, which is about the underperforming veterans, and the club not living up to expectations in 2022.
Does it mean that Mike Matheny will be gone as Royals manager at the conclusion of the 2022 season?
Nothing has been made official yet, and in this afternoon’s press conference with Matheny, he seemed to not be worried.
To be frank, Matheny does have a pretty good poker face in moments like this, so I don’t think Royals fans should have expected anything dramatic, especially with Matheny having a couple of hours to prep. That said, it was interesting that he mentioned baseball being a “results-oriented” business, which makes one think that he knows being fired is a realistic possibility.
He does have experience with it as manager of the Cardinals after all (and his record was a whole lot better in St. Louis to boot).
The decision on Matheny will be an interesting one, and it could set the tone of how the “Picollo-era” will start this offseason. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that Cal Eldred will be back, especially when one considers the pitching struggles of the Royals this season, which Sherman also mentioned frequently in his press conference. After five years, and plenty of struggles to see the rotation or bullpen develop at the Major League level, it seems like the sun will finally set on Eldred’s tenure as Royals pitching coach, much to the satisfaction of disgruntled Royals fans.
The only question is if Matheny, a former teammate and good friend of Matheny, will follow him out of the Royals organization as well this winter.
There will be changes in both the coaching staff and pitching development staff in the Royals organization after the season concludes in early October.
However, the number and kind of changes this offseason could determine how Royals fans will feel about Picollo’s outlook as Royals GM going into 2023 and beyond.
Despite Issues, Moore Will Be a Royals Hall of Famer
It’s easy to focus on the bad of Moore’s tenure in Kansas City, and rightfully so.
During his 16-year tenure as GM/President for the Royals, he only produced three winning seasons (2013, 2014, and 2015). The Royals lost 100+ games twice in his tenure, with both of those putrid seasons coming AFTER he won the World Series in 2015 (they happened in 2018 and 2019).
And unfortunately, his antics off the field didn’t seem to endear himself at times to hardcore Royals fans: an over-focus on “fighting pornography”; his predilection toward “overly Christian” players and prospects; a blind loyalty to certain players, coaches, or scouts in the organization (despite a lack of results); or his reluctance to fully dive into analytics at both the Major and Minor League level. While good-natured in spirit, many felt that Moore’s flaws certainly held back the organization from winning more games.
That being said, there was also a lot Moore did in the community that made it easy to root for him, despite the lack of on-field results during his tenure as GM/President.
The Urban Youth Academy has truly done a lot of good in the Kansas City community, especially elementary-to-high school-aged kids in the inner city on both the Kansas and Missouri side. The C You in the Major Leagues charity also does an incredible job of mentoring youth in the KC Metro area. And during the pandemic, when most clubs were cutting costs to save money, Moore pushed Sherman to pay Minor League players and lower-level employees, even if it came at a pay cut to his own salary.
Let’s just say that not a lot of general managers would be bold enough to make such a move.
Yes, Moore’s own biases seemed to cloud his judgment as a GM. He always was unable to lure that premium free agent or make that necessary trade to accelerate a rebuild, with a few exceptions (the Greinke and Shield trades, primarily). He trusted coaches and players far too long, and that loyalty not only cost the Royals wins but ultimately, Moore’s job as well.
Despite all those blemishes though, there’s no question that Moore deserves enshrinement in the Royals Hall of Fame (which has been up for debate on Twitter already).
After all, the Royals GM job was one of the worst jobs in sports at the time prior to 2006, mostly thanks to Kansas City’s small market status in the post-lockout era, and an owner in David Glass who seemed to “promote” all those “small market-owner” stereotypes (i.e. super cheap). In the midst of those challenges, Moore and his front office team created a blueprint that in the end, did produce two AL pennants and a World Series title.
Moore convinced David Glass to invest in scouting, especially in Latin America, where the Royals had little presence prior to 2006. He helped make huge changes in Minor League player development, which was bare before Moore arrived. And through the draft and that increased “investment” in international scouting, he stockpiled one of the best farm systems in the history of baseball, back in 2011.
The World Series in 2015 doesn’t happen if Moore doesn’t convince Glass to spend on scouting and player development. Maybe Moore never adjusted his approach (or adjusted fast enough) after 2015. But from 2006-2013, Moore was indeed a model GM when it came to building a “small market” World Series winner from the ground up.
Not a lot of GMs in the Royals’ history can say that. Not many were dealt the hand that Moore was dealt. Ewing Kauffman was at least willing to spend as much, if not more, than his owner peers. The same couldn’t be said of Glass until he started working with Moore of course.
And that doesn’t just deserve enshrinement in the Royals Hall of Fame, but a statue in the Kauffman Stadium Outfield Experience area with Frank White, George Brett, Dick Howser, and the Kauffmans.
It doesn’t need to happen now. The scars are still too fresh on both sides.
But in 10-15 years? When both sides have clearly moved on?
When the Royals are competitive once again? And maybe at a new downtown stadium? (I know that’s opening a fresh wound there with Royals fans.)
It would be nice to welcome Moore back to Kansas City for the unveiling of his statue and Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports