Back in the final months of 2006, current Royals General Manager withdrew his name from consideration for the Red Sox GM spot — which had recently been vacated when Theo Epstein had left Fenway Park in a gorilla costume — after the first interview. Today, Red Sox and Royals fans have one of the great baseball “What If” questions of the 21st century.
From the time he took the Royals job during the 2006 season, Moore always proclaimed that it would take at least 6 to 8 years to build and develop a farm system well enough to produce a World Series winner. While that idea is correct, many fairly questioned whether Moore was saying it primarily for job security.
Two great Grantland Pieces (RIP Grantland) about the Royals from 2013 are here and here. The first one was written by Jonah Keri heading into the 2013 season on the heels of the Wil Myers (among other pieces) for James Shields and Wade Davis trade. The Royals had changed course from the previous several seasons by trading a highly touted prospect for a then 31 year old starter with only 2 years of team control left. Dayton Moore had decided to cash in some of his chips in a trade about which Rany Jazayerli, also from Grantland, stated, “deeply flawed in both its theory and execution, and while it might make the Royals marginally more likely to make the playoffs in 2013, it does irreparable damage to their chances of building a perennial winner.” For Royals fans in 2013, though? Right after that trade was an exciting time because it meant that the team was finally going for it. For the Royals, 2013 was supposed to be the beginning of at least a half decade of success for the Royals.
The Royals had other plans for 2013. In the second Grantland link, Keri and Jazayerli discuss the team’s horrendous start to the 2013 season. This column will be one of my favorite Grantland pieces to look back on. Keri and Jazayerli run through a list of the Royals’ prospects who hadn’t turned their careers into anything yet, putting the Royals’ assumed ascension to October baseball in doubt. Dayton Moore’s rebuilding plan could have been all for naught, and Keri and Jazayerli’s concern is the reminder we will need now that it’s hard to remember a time when the Royals were struggling.
As it turned out, the Royals had simply decided to push back that period of contending by a year. They barely got into the playoffs via the Wild Card Game in 2014, but they rode on to Game 7 of the World Series. If they hadn’t been Madison Bumgarnered, they would have won it all. Now, they’re back to back American League Champs and World Series Champs.
The next few years looks pretty bright with Escobar, Hosmer, Moustakis, Perez all 29 or under. Escobar, the oldest of the 4, and Perez, the youngest, will turn 30 and 26 just after the season starts, respectively. Baseball primes are usually in the 25-29 range, meaning that the peak years of the Royals core will not last a half decade. Their amazing bullpen arms are all in their early thirties, and so is Kansas City favorite Alex Gordon. Johnny Cueto, if they can re-sign him, will be 30 in February.
What does all of this mean? Well, the Royals have about 2-3 more years with their core playing at least close to the same level, and they won 95 games this season. That’s a world of difference from a team who might take a step back if they won 85. The Royals stand as a huge threat to the American League for the next couple years.
And that proves Dayton Moore right. Moore’s win is a win for anyone who believes that the way to win a World Series is through tons of homegrown talent, which, by the way, is the right way. Taking a patient, measured, and analytical approach to building a winner will give any team the best chance at competing over the long haul. Dayton Moore took that mentality as his own, and he was rightfully rewarded with a World Series ring.