Moving from Darkest (K)Night to Brightest Day


"Moore and Yost watch as the Royals stack the deck. (Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE)If I didn’t think there was a chance to win a championship in Kansas City, I wouldn’t commit myself or my family to this."

That’s where it all began nearly six years ago. Dayton Moore drives to Kauffman Stadium one day, unsure of his future, and instantly decides that’s where he wants to be. Every quote from that beginning has the sound of a reluctant hero, the sort of guy that wants to go from a nobody to the somebody everyone wants. And he legitimately wants to improve baseball in Kansas City, though it remains unclear whether it’s more for the team and fans or for his career.

"Kansas City has great tradition and a great fan base. It has ownership that I believe is 100 percent committed to winning. But the most important aspect is the atmosphere it provides to raise a family. For me to grow in baseball and my family to grow and mature, it provides the perfect opportunity."

But everyone that reaches a new path in life wants to take that step. We all want to become something more than we are, to improve ourselves while working toward something greater on a larger scale. At some point, though, it becomes about more than just advancing your own career and life. It can take on a new form entirely. And in the world of baseball, all of that relates back to the fans, their loyalty, and their trust.

"Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded."

That quote’s not from Dayton Moore, however. That’s the direction this movement, or “Process,” has to take. It takes having some guts and making the tough decisions so that others don’t have to. It means taking some heat while you do what you truly believe in in order to show others why you believed in that mission in the first place.

It hasn’t been easy for Moore to do what he believes is right. He’s been under constant scrutiny from fans and media alike. It’s not like he helped himself, of course, but he was moving in a direction he understood was necessary. Moore bought time while bringing in Jose Guillen and Gil Meche and Coco Crisp, among others, adding names that he thought could provide enough for the team both on the field and in ticket/merchandise sales to sustain them through the tough times. And David Glass paid quite a bit for that time. They were in on Torii Hunter, then Rafael Furcal. The names have been there while Moore waited for the Royals’ farm system to produce its own names. Names like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Wil Myers, Chris Dwyer, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Bubba Starling.

I’m not saying that spending tens of millions on big names just to bridge the gap was an easy decision. It’s still debated within the fan base, if you define “debated” as “almost universally derided.” And I can’t say that I always agree with it, personally. But I do understand the choice. I get what he was doing. I understand why he felt it was necessary.

The point is that it got us from the dark days of the early 2000’s to seeing a bit of sunlight on the horizon. We’ve already gone from a time when the team averaged 66 wins per season (2000-06) to averaging 69 in the last five years. That doesn’t sound like much, so let me put it this way. Without 2003, that first range drops to 63 wins. Since Moore’s first full season as GM in 2007, the Royals haven’t won fewer than 65 games in a season. They’ve won 67 or more four times in five years versus twice in the previous seven years. And they just finished a season in which pitchers allowed fewer runs (762) than any full season since 1993 and batters scored more runs (730) than all but one Royals team (2006) since 2003. Just to point it out, that’s the best Royals run differential in a full season since 1993, not counting the magic of Jose Lima and 2003.

Now, those aren’t earth-shattering numbers. They’re but a warm tinge of hope compared to some monster offensive lineups and killer starting rotations around the league. But it’s also a sign that things are working the way Moore planned. Young guys are contributing. They’re making it to Kansas City and giving the team, and its fans, a boost. But Moore is still maligned as far as GMs go. He’s still ridiculed among certain fans. Even when things work, he can’t catch a break.

"You know the day that you once told me about, when Gotham would no longer need Batman? … It’s happening now. Harvey is that hero. He locked up half of the city’s criminals, and he did it without wearing a mask. Gotham needs a hero with a face."

Kansas City fans needed someone new, a fresh face that they can see to inspire hope. And they got it. Well, they got several of them. Hosmer. Moustakas. Duffy. Johnny Giavotella. Salvador Perez. Aaron Crow. Greg HollandAlcides Escobar. Louis Coleman. Tim Collins. And more are waiting in the wings. Those are the faces fans see now instead of aging, overpaid players just sticking around to stem the tide. They bring in the dawn to recover from the darkness, and Moore helped to bring that around by being a part of the drafts or trades that brought each of those guys into the organization. Give credit to scouts and unnamed folks that undoubtedly make the gears turn behind the scenes, but it’s all a part of the plan. Moore’s “Process” is showing progress, moving from a joke to a potentially reputation-altering sequence of events.

Does that mean we should all drop all criticism and blindly love every move Moore makes? Of course not. Everyone is free to their own opinion. But I do think that Moore’s direction is showing that it may be finally paying off. After all, Moore blatantly said that the plan will take about 8-10 years to reach fruition. At this point, we may even be ahead of schedule. While 2012 may be another season of the gradual upswing, it’s a spot for the players and team to grow together. There’s time for new faces to emerge and for current players to take steps forward. And 2013 is already being hailed as potentially the beginning, much like 2012 was a couple years back. Realistically, we’re looking at 2014-2016 at the “sweet spot” for playoff contention, as the prospects will hopefully become All-Stars.

So, what exactly is Moore doing wrong now? Not doing enough? The “Process” is flowing along the way he planned. Moore wanted to have the 25-man roster mostly composed of home-grown talent in 2013-14. We’re poised to potentially build at least half the roster from those players in 2012. The first wave of prospects broke on the shores of the K pretty well, overall, and there’s a strength in numbers that keeps the group solid. Everything’s sorting out the way Moore wanted. He’s not going all in two seasons before he planned to be in the running. He’s sticking to his guns, even among continuing criticism at not signing this pitcher or trading for that position player.

"[H]e’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight."

I fully expect to take some heat for basically comparing Dayton Moore to Batman. And that’s fair. Lambaste me all you want. But I see how Moore set his plan in motion. He’s out to bring the good times back to Kansas City, and he’s taking his punishment along the way. Though he doesn’t always react well to criticism, he sticks to the plan. At this point, that plan is paying off. The sun is rising on baseball in Kansas City as the team takes on a new life. Doesn’t he deserve some trust at this point? Maybe a little?

So, we’re looking forward to 2013, or 2014, or 2015. And it’s hard to see that future when we’re all mired in the past. For a guy who’s given the team a brighter future than any Royals team in the last decade, it’s hard to get why he gets little to no respect. I guess the pressure has shifted to David Glass lately, but that’s misplaced. We’ve known since Moore was signed that he has full control over baseball decisions.

"I feel very comfortable with the autonomy I’ve been given as general manager of the Kansas City Royals to not only get the answers that we need but also the flexibility to go forward and make decisions and do what needs to be done to be successful."

Dayton Moore is making the moves, and he’s made plenty of the right moves at this point. Without that development, the Royals wouldn’t be where they are now. They’ll likely never be a team that drops $25 million a season for a big name to come to town unless it was absolutely necessary. So, Moore went the cheaper road.

Well, it’s working.

Even though I know it’s a tough thing to do as sports fans, we just have to be patient. It’s all going according to plan. And you’ve got to love it when a plan comes together.

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