Dayton Moore is ahead of schedule, according to, well, Dayton Moore.
“I’m amazed that it’s happened this quickly,” he said in an interview with 810 WHB’s Soren Petro on Tuesday. Moore reiterated that every source he spoke to before taking the Royals general manager job in 2006 told him that it would take “eight to ten years” to put this team “in a position to start winning consistently”.
True, he was taking on a team that had finished 2005 with a 56-106 record and had, on his first day as GM (5/31/2006), a record of 11-37. He inherited an organization that started 2005 with two prospects in the top 100 of Baseball America’s overall rankings (Billy Butler was 75th, Mark Teahen 85th). The Royals had opened 2006 with one more prospect in the top 100 than the year before. He didn’t inherit an easy job.
Now, after six-plus seasons as GM, he’s yet to steer the organization towards a win total higher than 75.
I get it. It’s not an easy job. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t want to do it. But the “woe is me” kind of stuff just can’t fly anymore. Dayton Moore has done a great job at bringing in new talent to the organization. There’s a level of depth up and down the system that wasn’t there before he’d arrived. If things fall the right way, there could be some very good players on this current group. There’s definitely talent there and Moore should be commended for rebuilding a productive farm out of fallow ground.
Now it’s time for results. No more looking at the minor leagues. Moore said so in the interview. That was part of the inspiration to trade Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis (and now Elliot Johnson).
“We made that deal to make our team a lot better and to put us on a new course and to do everything we could to continue and support this group of players to win and to start winning now. The window of opportunity closes very quickly.” – Moore, on 810 WHB 2/19/2013
There are immense challenges for the Royals. They’re in one of the smallest markets in the league and years of mismanagement have left them a shell of the franchise they used to be. Yes, it takes time, but it shouldn’t take as much time as Moore’s advisors suggest.
Numerous franchises have been at the bottom of the barrel and turned things around in less time than Moore’s had. If it were just one or two teams making quick turnarounds, you could chalk that up to a bit of luck. Anomalies. But frequently in recent history, teams have made rather quick turnarounds, often with new general managers taking over weak organizations.
Rany Jazayerli pointed out one such example.
When Dave Dombrowski was hired in 2002, DET was in worse shape than the Royals were when Dayton was hired. They won the AL pennant in 2006.
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) February 19, 2013
Granted, Dombrowski ended up having resources to go after free agents, which Moore hasn’t had. But he also had taken over a team in 2002 that had three top 100 prospects – Nate Cornejo, Omar Infante and Kenny Baugh. In 2003, they only had two, Jeremy Bonderman and Franklin German. And yet, in 2006, there were the Tigers in the World Series.
Cleveland went 68-94 in 2003. In 2005, they were 93-69. Florida (now Miami) tore apart their 1997 World Series team, finished 1998 at 54-108 and made it back to 91-71 in 2003. Oakland has dismantled their team nearly as frequently as the Marlins, yet Billy Beane‘s leanest year (2011) was just one win worse (74) than Dayton Moore’s best (75). Oakland also won 94 games last year.
Washington was 58-104 in 2008. They were the best team in baseball last year with 96 wins. That’s three seasons.
Tampa Bay brought in Andrew Friedman after the 2005 season and finished 61-101 in 2006. In 2008, they made it to the World Series and have been a contender every year since.
Texas finished 75-87 in 2007 and had generally been a team that hung around the lower 70s in wins. In 2010 they won 90 games and are considered among the best organizations in baseball, if not the top dog. Cincinnati went from 74-88 in 2008 to 91-71 in 2010.
Since Dayton Moore’s hiring, there have been 15 teams who’ve made changes at their GM spot. If you let me include Friedman and Jon Daniels in Texas, who were hired after the 2005 season, that’d be 17. Of those 17 new hires, 10 have led their teams to the playoffs in less time than Moore’s been in Kansas City. Two of those new hires were with new teams in 2012 (Jed Hoyer in Chicago and Jeff Luhnow in Houston), so two-thirds of the general managers hired since Dayton Moore joined Kansas City have made the playoffs.
Of those who didn’t make the playoffs are Alex Anthopoulos, who’s positioned his team to be a favorite in the AL East to some and Jed Hoyer who took over in San Diego in 2009 after their 75-87 record and saw them win 90 in his first year there. Ed Wade was in Houston from September of 2007 and fired at the end of 2011 when the Astros went into a full-on scorched earth rebuild. Jack Zduriencik in Seattle has been held in high regard. Neal Huntington with the Pirates somehow still has his job. Most of the non-playoff GMs saw some success though.
So no, it doesn’t seem like eight to ten years is such an obvious number to right the ship. Craig Brown pointed out that Moore had a different take on the timeframe back in 2009.
The Royals have had some bad luck. Every team has some bad luck. Before 2011, the Royals had nine players on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. Five of those were in the top 20. But John Lamb tore his UCL. Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer forgot how to throw strikes. Christian Colon was slow to develop. Heading into 2013, only two of those nine will start the year with the Royals – Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and both struggled last season. That’s rotten luck.
That doesn’t excuse giving Yuniesky Betancourt everyday work at second base in the first half of 2012. It doesn’t excuse the Mike Jacobs trade or the Willie Bloomquist signing or sticking with Kyle Davies when it was clear he wasn’t any good. Bad luck and bad moves don’t turn into good results.
Moore went on to mention that he felt the team had done a good job of developing pitching, then discussed the bullpen. And I’ll grant that the bullpen’s very good. Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera may be two of the nastiest late relievers in baseball in 2013. It’s such a loaded bullpen that a perfectly fine reliever like Louis Coleman is probably going to be in Omaha when the year starts.
But it’s starting pitching that needs to develop. And among the pitchers Moore has drafted, only three have made a start in the big leagues and that’s only if you let me count Luke Hochevar and Everett Teaford who were both taken in the 2006 draft that Moore says he didn’t take part in (after prepping with Atlanta before joining the Royals). Counting Hochevar and Teaford’s starts with Danny Duffy‘s adds up to 161 starts in 972 games since the start of the 2007 season. Omitting Hochevar and Teaford brings that down to 26 starts, all by Duffy.
That’s the primary issue with the Royals stalled development. They’re doing great in developing relievers, and starting pitching prospects are great in the lower minors, but making the jump to the upper levels is difficult, and most haven’t been able to scale that hill. Either that’s a scouting problem (and the player simply isn’t as good as they’d hoped) or a development problem.
I think there’s help on the way. Kyle Zimmer could be very good, and the Royals gush over Yordano Ventura. John Lamb should be fully recovered this year and Duffy, Felipe Paulino, Wade Davis, Jeremy Guthrie and Shields (in 2014) give them some added depth that can be pretty good in the future.
But they aren’t there yet, even though they really ought to be.
Regardless, Dayton Moore is going to get his extra time. He’s under contract through 2014 and barring a complete collapse at every level, he’s likely to be in place this time next year. He may even get an extension if the team’s working towards .500.
That’s the right direction, and I hope Moore’s the man to lead the franchise that way. He may have a blindspot for gritty veterans but he can recognize amateur talent and he’s been creative at bringing it into the system. He deserves that credit.
But he can’t keep trotting out that “eight to ten year” plan line. Even if he backs it up by saying he thinks the Royals are ahead of that schedule.