On May 31st, 2006, the Kansas City Royals fired General Manager Allard Baird, and hired hot shot Dayton Moore to take his place. A week later, the Royals drafted Luke Hochevar with the number one overall pick, a decision that may or may not have been Moore’s decision.
Deric Laidner was the Director of Scouting, and supposedly made the pick. He certainly was the spokesman for the pick.
Moore took over a terrible team. There is no other way to look at it. They were just awful. In 2005, they won just 56 games, and in 2006, just 62. In his first off-season, he signed Gil Meche to a nice contract, but wasn’t able to make any more big splashes. Who wanted to play for the Royals at that time?
On Opening Day, 2007, Moore’s first with the Kansas City Royals, this was the starting lineup:
- David DeJesus – CF – solid but unspectacular in every way
- Mark Grudzielanek – 2B – epitome of gritty but in twilight of his career
- Mark Teahen – RF – batting third???
- Mike Sweeney – DH – Mr. Royal of his era but his last season with the Royals
- Alex Gordon – 3B – MLB debut – too soon
- Ryan Shealy – 1B – yuck!
- Ross Gload – LF – I’m not kidding – I just threw up a little
- John Buck – C – streaky power, no average
- Tony Pena – SS – makes Alcides Escobar look like Ernie Banks with the bat
- Gil Meche – SP – really a number two or three starter but a gamer
This starting line-up bashed Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox that day, 7-1, on the strength of two (yes, 2) Tony Pena triples, and a John Buck home run. The Royals only won 68 more games the rest of the year. Is that surprising?
It shouldn’t be. Meche, who produced an ERA of 3.67, led a patchwork rotation that included Brian Bannister (3.87), Odalis Perez (5.57), Jorge De La Rosa (5.82), and Kyle Davies (6.66). Zack Greinke made 14 starts (3.69 ERA in 52 total appearances).
Bannister and Perez combined for 53 starts, 302.1 innings, and 141 strikeouts – 4.2 per 9 innings.
On offense, Teahen had 608 Plate Appearances, DeJesus had 703, and Gordon, as a rookie, had 601. On the downside, Tony Pena had 536 (and 10 walks – total!), Buck had 399 (with a .221 average), Emil Brown had 366, Esteban German has 405, and Ross Gload had 346.
Let’s return to the present. Please.
Unless something goes terribly wrong in the next 2+ weeks, the following will be the Opening Day line-up for the Kansas City Royals. Take a moment and compare:
- Norichika Aoki – RF – real fielder who can get on base without striking out a lot
- Omar Infante – 2B – not as gritty as Grud but numbers won’t be dissimilar
- Eric Hosmer – 1B – slight advantage over Shealy
- Billy Butler – DH – similar to Sweeney in his heyday, but 2007 wasn’t Sweeney’s heyday
- Alex Gordon – LF – will take Gordo over Gload and Brown, combined, and 2007 Alex, for that matter
- Salvador Perez – C – no comparison, no qualms, Salvy every day
- Mike Moustakas – 3B – Moose, at the least, can match Gordon’s production in 2007
- Lorenzo Cain – CF – I love DeJesus but in 2007, he hit .260 with 7 home runs – Cain might have more talent, but not as dependable
- Alcides Escobar – SS – As bad as Escobar was last year, he is still better, bat and glove, than Pena
Other than David DeJesus over Lorenzo Cain, there isn’t one player from 2007 that I would take over the 2014 counterpart. And Cain may actually be more talented overall – he just can’t stay healthy, and probably will never approach even a .290 batting average.
Luckily, only Butler and Gordon remain from that mess in 2007. Clearly, these were the most talented of that motley group, and were considered the Royals’ future at the time. Well, they were, as it turned out.
Now the rotation:
- James Shields – Meche was a bulldog too, but Shields IS a true number one
- Jason Vargas – not a true number two either, but I would take my chances with him over Banny
- Jeremy Guthrie – not flashy but will take his mentality all day long
- Bruce Chen – not sure how he does what he does – and he is better than De La Rosa in 2007
- Yordano Ventura – both have great stuff but the slight nod goes to Davies, no Ventura – too close to call (sarcasm)
I am not even going to delve much into the bullpen, where the 2014 collection of arms, most of which are home-grown, are significantly better than the 2007 collection of over the hill players and never-will-be types, Joakim Soria not withstanding.
Soria, Joel Peralta, David Riske, and Jimmy Gobble all made 62 or more appearances, and Greinke had 36 out of the pen, but no one else had more than 26 – John Bale and Ryan Braun. Octavio Dotel had 24. Compare those guys with the army of power arms that march out of left field these days.
I am not a Dayton Moore apologist, but there is no doubt at all that he has slowly built up a much better team and organization from within from the one he took over in June of 2006.
He IS bound by financial restraints, and while I scratch my head over moves and decisions all the time, Dayton Moore has turned the Kansas City Royals from an embarrassment in 2007 (Emil Brown led KC in RBI, and Ross Gload started Opening Day in left field for crying out loud) to a team that should at least compete for a wild card spot in the postseason.
I’m not convinced, under the same constraints, anyone else could have done better, or done it quicker. Just remember back to the Kansas City Royals of 2005, 2006, and 2007 before crucifying Dayton Moore.
A special note of thanks to my friend, Jack Tyler, who (and this is hard to admit) knows about as much about baseball as anyone I know. He serves as a good sounding board, and is someone to vent to when the Royals, or the Chiefs, or the Jayhawks, do something stupid.
He is right more than I like to admit (but not as often as he thinks). Still, he is a great sports fan, even if he does see the negatives first. Those negatives usually become the most important things in the long run.