Baseball America has said it. Keith Law has said it. I’m pretty sure at this point there is no one in the known universe that doesn’t think the Royals have the best minor league system in all of baseball. But for as much attention as the Royals scouting department gets over the next 6 to 12 to 18 months, we must also temper these warm-and-fuzzies of amateur acquiring greatness with a very simple characteristic that has still eluded Dayton Moore’s regime: wins.
Now that isn’t to say that it has been easy for Moore since he took over what was widely regarded the most depleted organization in all of baseball in 2006. At the time of his hire the Royals were in the midst of completing a third straight 100-loss season, and their fourth in five years. The organization was in such shambles it decided it was a good idea to fire one GM and hire another a week before the draft, even though that new GM openly said he refused to have anything to do with it.*That draft would turn out to produce a two-time CY Young winner and a franchise centerpiece, but the Royals took Luke Hochevar. At least, though, they did just recently acquire Jeremy Jeffress who was the 16th pick. So, they got that going for them.
*I still refuse to believe Moore had nothing to do with the 2006 draft. Why on earth would an organization hire a General Manager to oversee a complete rebuild of a franchise and allow him to not have any input on the most important draft pick in club history? What sense would that make? As a business owner, if a potential employee showed such unwavering loyalty to a previous employer as to not start his job immediately, knowing full well that the No. 1 overall pick would be chosen by someone who likely would not be working in the organization during his tenure, I’d have huge reservations about hiring that individual. But then, I guess that goes a long way to explain how the Royals ended up where they were in 2006.
For every great move in scouting there’s at least one move in trades or free agency that offsets its wonders. When Moore first took over he spoke openly and defiantly that any excuse given of the Royals lack of payroll would not be tolerated. He said it often.
And while Moore knew the only true way to build a franchise was through scouting and development, he also made it clear that there would be no excuse for losing. Why else would you spend $55 million $44 million on a pitcher with an injury history? Or $36 million on Jose Guillen? Moore and the Royals, despite the lack of talent in the minor leagues upon their takeover, still felt as if winning was not out of the realm of possibilities. Sure it would take a lot more luck and some very shrewd moves, but it was still a possibility.
This brings us to 2009.
There was no real evidence that 2009 would be a competing year for the Royals. (18-8!) The roster was the same as it had been for the past five years – a group of largely average players, none with any real definable ability that could be considered above average or elite – and there was little reason to go “all-in” at that point considering what we knew of the division and what everyone knows of September success of seasons past. But that’s what Dayton and Co. did, although their going “all-in” was more like being the short-stack at a table against Johnny Chan.
Moore, to the detriment of his Process, traded away young, cheap, talented assets for old, expensive, and not-at-all-talented parts. Then he replaced those younger players with much more expensive, and worse, versions of themselves. And, in acquiring one of those older players, Moore forfeited a second round pick. A fairly valuable commodity when you consider how the Royals scouting had been lapping the field in regards to the draft.
All of this has been talked and written about ad nauseam for the past year or two, so why bring it up now?
Because within the last week there has been all kinds of Royal-love (not to be confused with this) that I fear the time has come when everyone is finally blinded by all these sure All-Stars and MVP candidates, to ignore the larger issue at hand: a lack of wins.
For all the amateur-talent acquisition abilities the Royals as an organization have shown proven, there are still huge question marks about Moore’s ability to supplement a roster from the outside to result in success on the field. So far his Major League acquisition talents have resulted in an average of 93 losses per season.
I understand the system is great and in 2012 we’ll start to see the first wave of talent and by 2014 (2013 at the very earliest) the Royals can legitimately be considered competitors. And when that time comes the Royals organization, more specifically Moore, will be revered for their patience and their vision and all the great things they’ve done in the draft and scouting.
Call me a cynic – which I absolutely know I am, so there – but does it really need to take eight years to win?