John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

KC Royals: The Summer of '06, Where it All Went Wrong

I’ve fought the urge to write this piece long enough. I’m not one of the token KC Royals fans that resorts to the knee-jerk mantra of ‘fire the coach/manager’ any time the team under-performs, but I’ve finally had enough.

So, who gets the axe?  The easy answer is Ned Yost, which is probably true, but not necessarily the root of the problem. We know it won’t be the owner, David Glass, as he’s not selling the team. Quite frankly, I don’t think much blame can be thrown his way.

Glass has stepped up to the plate lately, and given the Royals the kind of financial backing that none of us thought would ever come. I think I finally know why he has loosened the financial restrictions, and it isn’t because the Royals were in ‘go for it’ mode in 2014.

Rather, it’s because Glass’ long-documented plan of how he envisioned the Royals becoming successful has a huge glitch in it.  That glitch is Dayton Moore.

It is my belief that Glass has recognized the ineptitude of the Royals draft/development process over the years, and knew his ONLY chance for any measure of success was to buy it. Hence, the $90+ million payroll.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For years, Glass insisted   that the KC Royals were going to model themselves after the Minnesota Twins, who had sustained success on a tight budget, and depended heavily on the development of their minor league players.

Great plan, right?  Sure, I mean it has worked for fellow small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics.  Well, that plan hasn’t exactly panned out for our beloved KC Royals.  Why is that?

On May 31, 2006, the Royals formally dismissed their current General Manager, Allard Baird, and named Dayton Moore as his replacement. At this time, Major League Baseball was preparing for its annual draft, which was to be held on June 6th-8th. The Kansas City Royals had possession of the 1st overall selection in the draft that year. That is where things got hairy.

As the story goes, Dayton Moore allegedly had nothing to do with the Royals draft that year. Not only did he not participate in Kansas City’s draft (allegedly), but he assisted in the drafting for his FORMER team, the Atlanta Braves.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. You mean to tell me that you’ve just been hired as a General Manager for the first time in your career, your new team has the #1 overall selection, and you’re not going to provide any input on who that selection should be? A guy that could presumably be the face of your franchise’s future? Nonsense.

If that story is actually true, there can’t possibly be a bigger red flag on Dayton Moore’s decision making ability. Really though, Moore can’t win in this situation.

If you believe the story, then Moore passed up on the golden opportunity of drafting who he believed the best player in the draft was. If you don’t believe that story, then Moore selected Luke Hochevar with the #1 overall selection. Either way, Moore wasted no time in making a monumental mistake.

Curious as to who Moore could have taken with that #1 pick in 2006?  Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, or Max Scherzer.  Ouch.

It’s not like Hochevar was unheralded. Hochevar was considered to be one of the top pitchers in the 2005 draft, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers (1st round compensatory pick, #40 overall), but never came to terms with them on a contract.  Instead, he elected to sit out a year, and re-enter the 2006 draft.

Hello! Does that scream red flag to anyone else? A kid reaches his dream, gets drafted by a MLB team, and decides to go pitch Independent League ball for a year because the money wasn’t right? If that doesn’t scream ‘RUN AWAY’ to MLB GM’s, I don’t know what does.

Not only did Moore–I mean the “Royals” (wink, wink)–not run away from the Hochevar selection, they repeated the very same mistake three years later with their selection of Aaron Crow in 2009 (12th overall).

In 2008, Crow was drafted 9th overall by the Washington Nationals, but refused to sign. He re-entered the draft in 2009, and who was there to scoop him up after he passed up his MLB dream the year before? Dayton Moore.

You can choose to believe that these two instances, the Hochevar and Crow selections, are just a wild coincidence, but I think that’s crazy. If you’re keeping score at home, I’ve called into question the character of a couple of kids who passed on their dream to play in the big leagues because the money wasn’t right, and I’ve also called into question the decision-making of a GM that would select those kids the following year.

I wish the coincidences stopped right there, but they don’t. Look at the careers of Hochevar and Crow. Is it any wonder that both flamed out as starting pitchers, and both have been relegated to bullpen duty? In essence, Dayton Moore used a #1 overall selection and a #12 overall selection on two good bullpen arms.

I’m not going to lament any further on who Kansas City could have drafted each year Moore has been in charge, as that would be too depressing. It would also be trivial, as every team in baseball can play that same game, so that notion isn’t exactly unique to the Royals.

I will, however, point out that Moore’s tenure has been a two-pronged failure.  There are the ill-advised draft selections (Hochevar, Crow, Christian Colon, Bubba Starling), but then there’s the complete lack of development of what were considered to be solid draft picks (Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas) which is the much bigger problem. These are just the 1st round selections, but it’s not like Moore has had an abundance of success developing talent in the later rounds either.

We’re in year eight of Moore’s tenure with the Royals, and his regime has developed exactly two starting pitchers–Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura.  Duffy was a 3rd round selection in 2007, and Ventura was an international signee in 2008.

Duffy looks like a hot mess, and Ventura’s arm may literally fly off his body at any moment. All those years of losing in grand fashion, resulting in prime drafting position, and this is all Moore has to show for it in terms of starting pitching.

The same starting pitching that Moore believes (and many others too) is the currency of baseball.  Even if you believe Duffy is going to be good, and that Ventura is phenom, these reults are still poor.

Equally depressing is the lack of a developed bat. Take a look at our current roster, and the recently demoted Mike Moustakas. Billy Butler, who was drafted and developed (to some extent) under a different regime, gave us some nice years, but has since fallen off a very steep cliff. Alex Gordon, also drafted by the previous regime, has turned into a fine left-fielder after failing at third base, but otherwise is a decent-at-best hitter. Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Omar Infante, and Nori Aoki were all drafted and developed by other organizations. Seems pretty far off of old man Glass’ vision, don’t you think?

That leaves us with Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez. In other words, a bust, an under-achiever (so far), and a brilliant international signee.

Other than developing an outstanding stable of bullpen arms, Moore has developed two-ish (Sorry, not a Duffy believer) starting pitchers, and two hitters. By the way, those two hitters, Perez and Hosmer, are best known for their defensive prowess, than actually being able to hit a baseball with any kind of authority.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the positives Moore brought to the table.  The Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana trades come to mind. The team friendly contracts of Escobar and Perez were a nice touch. I thought his pursuit of Carlos Beltran this past off-season was just as gutsy as his trading of Wil Myers for James Shields.

Moore has always been extremely loyal to his players, probably to a fault, but that’s a quality I find somewhat endearing. I’d much rather Moore have given up too late on a guy like Moustakas, than too early, just to see someone else’s patience rewarded by the slugger we thought Moustakas would be. Much like Moustakas, though, Moore’s brilliance has only shown in flashes, and yielded very poor overall results.

Worry not, Yost detractors, he’s gone one way or another. If the Royals continue to fail at the plate, he’ll be dismissed within a month. If he somehow survives that, and Moore gets the pink-slip, Yost goes by default as the next GM will want to hire his own guy.

These certainly are YOUR 2014 Kansas City Royals, Mr. Moore. I think it’s time they’re someone else’s 2015 Kansas City Royals.

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Tags: Dayton Moore KC Royals Luke Hochevar Ned Yost

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