Ringolsby: Up For The Challenge
The World Series championship pennants from 1985 and 2015 fly with pride at Kauffman Stadium, visual memories of those memorable moments in Royals franchise history.
Dayton Moore remembers them well. In 1985, he was a college student, who, along with a couple of buddies, pulled off on the easement on Interstate 70, which runs above the right field wall at the ballpark, and watched Game 7 as best they could from an obstructed view that left him with an indelible memory.
In 2015, he was the general manager of the team that was his team growing up, enjoying every moment of the Royals ending their 30-year championship drought with a
Three years later, the memories burn, but a major rebuild has been undertaken. While he watched a postseason that included key members of that 2015 team—Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas in Milwaukee, Ben Zobrist with the Cubs, Ryan Madson with the Dodgers and Wade Davis with the Rockies—his view is from afar.
His focus is on the revitalization of a Royals franchise that he has overseen since he was hired away from the Braves on June 8, 2006. Kansas City lost at least 100 games three years in a row from 2004 to 2006.
The Royals lost 104 times in 2018, which to Moore feels like deja vu from the day when he arrived.
"It is so crucial that we have a front office that has been together and been through the challenges,” he said. It’s no different from what we did (in Moore’s initial seasons with the Royals). We had Alex Gordon and Billy Butler in the minor leagues. They were at Double-A. They turned into quality, championship major league players.
“And we were able to draft and sign a talented group to come along behind them, and blend talents together to win more consistently.”
It’s a process Moore wants to repeat—only better. He wants to put a franchise back in order and this time have it be for an extended period, not simply back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015.
“In this era, people will look at a market like ours and say, ‘You go through windows. Five, six years of winning, and five, six years of losing.’ We want to do a better job going forward, where we can have sustained success over a long period.”
Moore knows it can be done. He cut his front office teeth with a Braves franchise that won a professional sports record 14 consecutive division titles. And he knows the Royals leadership knows how to build a championship team because they did it in 2015.That’s why he still feels a sense of pride when he sees players from that team playing in October.
“We celebrate what we have accomplished,” he said. “We celebrate the fact all those players had an opportunity to move on and receive a contract that is life-changing. But at the same time, we don’t focus on that. We don’t dwell on the idea we are in a small market so maybe we can’t make as many moves as other teams.
“We focus on what we need to do, and that’s scouting and player development, growing a new generation of talented, championship-caliber players so that we can once again win here in Kansas City. It’s part of the game. With free agency you know you are going to lose players. You don’t dwell on that. You dwell on maintaining.”
The Royals thought they were in that position after 2015. They resisted the temptation to break the team up immediately. And now, Moore knows. there was a price to pay for that.
“I felt we had a better chance to win in 2017 than we did in 2014 (when the Royals lost to the Giants in a seven-game World Series),” Moore said. “We had a group of players who were wanting to finish strong and were having good years. We were two games behind Cleveland on Aug. 1, the day after the trade deadline. We had a oneand-a-half-game lead on the first wild card.
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"We traded for Melky Cabrera. We traded for Brandon Mauer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill. We felt we improved our team. Then the next two months, we didn’t play very well. We had some guys banged up a little bit. I don’t regret it one bit. I felt it was the right thing to do.”
Things didn’t go according to Moore’s plan in 2017. The Royals lost 33 of the final 58 games and slipped to third place in the AL Central at 80-82.
The need to a rebuild became apparent. It’s a challenge Moore embraces, and he isn’t going anywhere. He is too focused on the job he has, with the Royals.
"To win in smaller markets, it has to be personal, and the success of the Royals is very personal to me,” said Moore, who even when his family moved away from Kansas in his youth would regularly come back to visit his grandparents in Wichita.
"It’s not only winning games and putting a good product on the field. It’s wanting to win in our community and make a difference in the lives of people, in all phase of their life . . .
"What you do is bigger than baseball.” Moore knows. He grew up in the environment.
He knows what the success of a team like the Royals can have, not just on a community but an entire region. Moore has experienced that success as both a fan and an executive.
Now, he is excited about retracing those steps in the not-to-distant future and bringing a winner back to Kansas City.