3.) JAMES SHIELDS
When Dayton Moore accepted the general manager job with the Kansas City Royals in 2006, the franchise hadn’t made the playoffs in 21 years. The KC Royals were so bad, many baseball men advised Moore not to take the job for fear that the “impossible” task of turning around a hopeless franchise would destroy a promising career.
However, Dayton Moore grew up a Kansas City Royals fan and believed he could turn his childhood team around. He set out to rebuild the KC Royals organization from the ground up, beginning with the farm system.
By 2011, Moore’s reconstruction project had begun to bear fruit. Baseball America rated nine KC Royals farmhands among the top 100 prospects in baseball, more than any team in history. Baseball America believed the Royals had built a historically great farm system and were ready to achieve great things on the field.
However, the Kansas City Royals lost 91 games in 2011, and 90 games in 2012. Moore had brought up a horde of talented young players, but the team failed to gel. He decided they needed a clubhouse leader that could teach the team how to win. Moore got that leader by trading for Tampa Bay starting pitcher James Shields in the winter before the 2013 season.
Moore surrendered four good young players to land Shields (and Wade Davis) from the Tampa Bay Rays. Baseball analysts across America blasted Moore for giving up Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard in the deal, saying he gave up too much. They also questioned obtaining a veteran pitcher with only two years remaining on his contract, because they doubted the KC Royals had enough talent to win.
They were wrong.
James Shields immediately became the clubhouse leader. He led post game celebrations after wins to keep things loose. He taught young pitcher Danny Duffy to harness his energy, and desire to win, into success on the mound.
James Shields legacy lived on in Kansas City Royals squad who broke a 30-year championship drought to win the 2015 title
But, more importantly, James Shields had headlined a Tampa rotation that had won multiple post-season series in the recent past. When he told the young Kansas City Royals that they had the talent to win, they believed him.
He also helped build a Tampa-Bay like team chemistry in the KC Royals clubhouse. It worked well enough that the team won 86 games in 2013, and then earned a wild card bid in 2014. That team had enough self-confidence to become the first playoff team to rally from a four-run. eighth inning deficit in an elimination game and win. The emotional victory over Oakland propelled the Kansas City Royals to sweep both the Angels and Orioles before falling to the Giants in the 2014 World Series.
Yes, James Shields left after the 2014 season when Dayton Moore chose not to match a $75 million offer from the Padres. But, Shields’ legacy lives on in Kansas City Royals squad who broke a 30-year championship drought to win the 2015 title.
Next: He Taught The Royals To Play Like The Big Red Machine