It’s amazing what winning can do to beliefs of a fan base, look no farther than the attitude of fans toward the Royals general manager Dayton Moore. On June 8, 2006 Dayton Moore accepted the position as General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. Since that time Moore has gone from savior to hatred to savior again.
At the time he got hired, he was the highest profile signing the Royals had made in years. After all, before he signed with the Royals Dayton had turned down an offer to be the GM of the Boston Red Sox. With free agent GMs, Dayton was on the top of most teams list and the Royals got him. Add to that the fact that Dayton was born in Wichita, KS and the Royals were his favorite team growing up, it was as if the prodigal son had returned to lead the Royals from the darkness. What fans and Dayton couldn’t have known at the time, was just how far down in the darkness the Royals were.
His honeymoon ended during his opening press conference when he first used his now infamous term of “the process”. Dayton always preached a process that he stated would take five to seven years before the Royals could be consistent contenders. Fans never want to hear that they won’t win for years, especially after they’ve been losing for so long. So when Dayton said it was a process that would take five to seven years, the fans started to turn on him.
Luckily Dayton didn’t let this bother him. While he tried his best to put a winner on the field in Kansas City, Dayton knew his most important job was to start winning in the minors. While many of Dayton’s early Major League moves like Gil Meche and Jose Guillen failed, he was turning the Royals into a minor league powerhouse. He turned the Royals from one of the weakest teams in Latin America and the draft into one of the strongest. Where fans were screaming at Dayton to stop being so cheap in the Majors, he was spending more money than anyone in the minors to build a farm system that could keep sustained success in the Majors.
Years went by and Dayton continued to swing and miss on moves he made for the big league club. Acquisitions like Mike Jacobs, Ryan Shealy and Coco Crisp continued to fail while minor league sluggers like Kila Ka’aihue flamed out in the bigs. Most fans were in agreement during this time that Dayton was the worst GM in baseball and that the Royals were no more than a four-A ball club for the rest of the league. But while fans were asking for his head for the poor job he was doing with the big league club, people on the inside were signing his praises for what he was doing in the minors.
Dayton had built the Royals reputation in Latin America from one of the worst to one of the best. The Royals began signing great young talent like Salvador Perez thanks to this increased attention to that market. Dayton also turned into the most fearless GM in baseball when it came to the draft. Dayton wasn’t scared to deal with big money clients of Scott Boras like Eric Hosmer. He would get top five talents in the twenties because he was willing to pay that money for young talent.
Before the 2011 season, Dayton traded Zack Grienke to the Brewers for Lorenzo Cain, Alcedes Escobar and Jake Odorizzi. Fans in Kansas City hated the move because Grienke was the only super star on the team and they viewed this as the Royals being too cheap to sign Grienke to a long term deal. What fans didn’t know at the time, and maybe Dayton didn’t even know, was that this was when Dayton’s touch turned magical.
2011 was also the year that Dayton’s buildup started seeing results in the big leagues. 2011 saw the debuts of rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. All three made instant impacts and had fans buzzing about the future of the franchise being great. Throw in the young talents of Escobar and Cain from the Grienke trade; hopes were high after that season despite finishing with 91 loses.
Before the 2012 season Dayton’s build got recognized by the public after his minor league system got voted number one by Baseball America. Not only was it voted number one though, it was deemed the best group in over a decade. With players like Will Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Lorenzo Cain had the fan base drooling over the possibilities. But 2012 was not the year many expected as the Royals once again lost over 90 games. A lot of the young talent had a sophomore slump or never made it to the big leagues leaving many fans angry and feeling lied to about this being “Our Time” as the failed slogan said.
At the end of the 2012 season many fans were calling for Dayton to be fired. Fans got tired of the process and tired of being told to wait until next year as the 90 loss seasons continued to pile up. Then Dayton made the biggest splash in franchise history. He traded the top young talent in the Royals minor league system for James Shields. Will Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery were all part of the package sent to the Tampa Bay Rays for their franchises best pitcher. This was a giant shift in philosophy for Dayton. Myers was the Minor League Player of the Year in 2012 beating out names like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Odorizzi was the top pitching prospect in the Royals organization and while Montgomery had struggled in 2012, he still had high upside. To trade all that for a pitcher the likes of Shields told the league and the fans that the Royals were done building, it was time to win.
A lot of fans weren’t optimistic though. We’d been burned too many times with players that the team said would turn the franchise around. The Royals finished 2013 with a winning record for the first time since 2003, giving Royals fans high expectations leading in to 2014. People saw 2014 as the year Dayton had promised us since he was hired in 2006 and his approval rating going into the year was high. The season started off great, but then the team hit a wall. After getting swept by the Red Sox in a four game series after the All Star break a lot of fans lost it. They were eight games back of the Tigers in the division and trending down. There was talk of firing Dayton and Yost and trading Shields. People thought their dreams were just being crushed again and couldn’t take it anymore.
But then the touch of Dayton began turning anything he touched into gold. The Royals only moves at the deadline were to get Josh Willingham and Raul Ibanez. Moves most Royals fans laughed at as pointless moves that would never help the team. But it was Ibanez who led a late season player’s only meeting which got the team thinking they were good enough to win. Then it was Willingham coming to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning in the AL Wild Card game down by one run. His single started the rally which would lead to a Royals win. Pre-season moves like Nori Aoki and Jason Vargas were keys to the teams’ run to the World Series.
Since those moves Dayton can do no wrong. He chose not to pay big money for James Shields, instead signing Edison Volquez who has been the leader of the Royals rotation in 2015. He signed Kendrys Morales to a multi-year deal replacing Billy Butler, and all he’s done is lead the team in RBIs. Even when his moves haven’t worked out, like signing Alex Rios, he found a diamond in the rough in the minors in Paulo Orlando who has been Mr. Clutch this season to pick up the slack. Then he goes out and trades for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline to show the world that the Royals are all in to win this season.
It’s been a crazy ride in KC for Dayton. Just thirteen months ago fans would have been happy to see him fired. Now he is the most loved executive in Royals history behind only the late owner Ewing Kauffman. It’s amazing to look back and see how Dayton’s dream of running his favorite team could go from the darkest nightmare to the brightest happy place in such a short time. For a guy who just a short time ago could do no right, he has reached a point where he can now do no wrong.