|06-06-2006, 03:01 PM||#2|
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|06-06-2006, 03:55 PM||#3|
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|06-06-2006, 03:58 PM||#4|
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|06-06-2006, 04:34 PM||#7|
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I pay for it so here ya go.
Moore returns to his Kansas roots
Dayton Moore's family left his birthplace in Wichita when he was 5 years old, but that was plenty of time to develop a lifelong affinity for the Kansas City Royals. Nearly a quarter century after George Brett popped a neck vein in the Bronx, Moore still can't hear the words "pine tar bat" without feeling a sense of remorse.
You want hard-core? In October 1985, Moore and a junior college buddy drove to Kansas City for Game 7 of the World Series. They were too broke to buy tickets from a scalper, so they watched the Royals beat St. Louis from the Interstate 70 overpass.
"The only thing we couldn't see was Lonnie Smith in left field," Moore said.
Dayton Moore takes over a Royals team that has lost 100 or more games in three of the last four seasons.Since that glorious day, the Kansas City franchise has gone through 11 managers, the Herk Robinson regime, a classic Hal McRae tantrum and 20 division-title-free seasons. It has been so long since the Royals were good that Carl Everett must wonder whether competitive Kansas City teams ever walked the face of the earth.
Moore's decision to leave his job as Atlanta assistant general manager to run the Royals last week was inspiring, in a quixotic sense. He's 39 years old, and in time he might have succeeded John Schuerholz in Atlanta or followed former Braves executive Stan Kasten to Washington.
Instead, Moore has signed up for a rebuilding job so daunting he might need help from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Royals are on track to lose 100 games for the fourth time in five years. They rank last in the majors in runs scored and ERA. They're 28th in attendance, ahead of only the two Florida teams, and their fan base is tied with Pittsburgh's for the major league lead in defeatism.
There's more. The farm system is fallow, and the veterans signed as Band-Aids last winter must be wondering when the rescue choppers will arrive. After all that, we still haven't gotten around to owner David Glass' shamelessly shabby treatment of Moore's predecessor, Allard Baird.
Lots of baseball people were surprised when Moore took the KC job, even for a lucrative five-year deal. This is not a man desperate for a chance. Three years ago when Baseball America polled industry insiders, Moore was rated the game's top general manager candidate. He finished ahead of Paul DePodesta, Tim Purpura, Ned Colletti, Josh Byrnes and Jon Daniels, all of whom ascended to GM positions before he did.
Last winter, Moore was in the mix for one of the game's true glamour jobs, in Boston. He gracefully declined, and although it's natural to assume he was fearful of getting caught in the Theo Epstein-Larry Lucchino crossfire, Moore said office politics were not his main concern.
"I felt a strong emotion because of the atmosphere and the history in Boston," Moore said. "But you know what? The greatest thing to happen to that organization in my lifetime had already happened. They'd just won their first World Series in 86 years, and it's always going to be that club that won it."
Moore won't take over officially in Kansas City until Thursday, and he was nowhere near the Royals' war room Tuesday when the team kicked off the 2006 draft. But if the void he leaves in Atlanta is a sign of the impact he'll have in Kansas City, the Glass family finally did something right.
After announcing his decision to leave Atlanta, Moore received a phone message from outfielder Jeff Francoeur that was so heartfelt it sucked the breath right out of him. Moore then said goodbye to Brian McCann, Adam LaRoche, Blaine Boyer and the other kids he nurtured through the farm system.
"I still haven't talked to them in person," Moore said. "I'm a coward, I guess."
Atlanta scouting director Roy Clark and special assistant Paul Snyder were putting the final touches on the team's draft board Sunday when they received phone messages from ESPN.com in search of insights on Moore. They were in the hall returning the calls by the next rest room break.
"Here's how I relate to Dayton leaving us," Clark said. "A few years ago, my son was 14 years old, and my wife and I took him to a military boarding school. We dropped him off knowing we wouldn't see him for an extended time, and I felt this huge pit in my stomach. When Dayton took this job, I felt the same thing. He's like my son."
Snyder, who brought Tom Glavine, David Justice, Chipper Jones and numerous others into the Atlanta system through the years, is regarded as the gold standard of baseball talent evaluators. At the risk of sounding overly gushy, he sees potential greatness in Moore.
"We have the old Schuerholz, and [the Royals] have the new Schuerholz," Snyder said. "They're just a generation apart, that's all."
Moore's strongest attributes might be an old-fashioned Midwestern work ethic and the ability to adapt. His father, the late Robert Dayton Moore, was a naval aviator who helped start Chautauqua Airlines. Young Dayton was uprooted several times as a kid but found his niche on the ballfield. He played infield at Garden City Community College in Kansas before moving on to George Mason University.
In an age of perceived front-office specialization -- ball guys vs. administrators -- Moore defies easy categorization. He's equally comfortable sitting in the scouts' section or teaching a double-play pivot. Joe Duff, the longtime Naval Academy baseball coach, once credited Moore with conducting the most impressive infield clinic he'd ever seen.
"It's not as simple as saying, 'This is what's going to happen in Year 1 and Year 2.' That's bull. If you make enough good decisions, three-year plans turn into two-year plans and five-year plans turn into three-year plans. If you make bad decisions, 10-year plans turn into no plan."
-- Dayton Moore, on his timetable for
bringing a winner to Kansas CityMoore also has a master's degree in athletic administration from George Mason. His co-workers in Atlanta describe him as a tremendous listener with a knack for hiring talented people and delegating authority. "We all fed off his energy and professionalism," Clark said.
Although it's tempting for Moore to rip it up and start from scratch in Kansas City, he arrives with no preconceived notions. He plans to take his time and observe firsthand before determining who fits, who doesn't and what changes need to be made. Maybe that doesn't jibe with the local sentiment for change, but it's the right way.
• Moore on manager Buddy Bell: "I don't know Buddy, but I'm looking forward to sitting down and listening to him and the staff. At some point, we'll talk about the future. The most important thing right now is to begin the process of developing a relationship."
• On his timetable for bringing a winner to Kansas City: "It's not as simple as saying, 'This is what's going to happen in Year 1 and Year 2.' That's bull. If you make enough good decisions, three-year plans turn into two-year plans and five-year plans turn into three-year plans. If you make bad decisions, 10-year plans turn into no plan."
• On the stats versus tools debate: "I cut my teeth in scouting, but we always used statistics to substantiate judgments and lead us to a player. I think they're more sophisticated in Atlanta than people give them credit for."
• On the latitude he has been given by owner David Glass and his son, Dan, to run the show: "It doesn't matter if you're the general manager in New York, Kansas City or Atlanta. There has to be autonomy for your baseball people to make good decisions, and the Glass family recognizes that. I have 100 percent confidence that our people will have full authority to make good baseball decisions."
In Atlanta, they have a saying: If we're as prepared as everybody else and work as hard as everybody else, that makes us just like everybody else. Now, Moore takes that competitive mind-set to Missouri. Outside the office, he's a bit of a political junkie, and he finally broke down this past fall and bought a set of golf clubs. But during the baseball season, he works so hard he's often in a world of his own.
Atlanta farm director J.J. Picollo, a devout Philadelphia Eagles fan, learned that during a casual conversation with Moore last fall.
"I was agonizing over the whole Terrell Owens thing, and Dayton said, 'Who's Terrell Owens?'" Picollo said, laughing. "He was so locked in on baseball and the Atlanta Braves, he didn't have time for outside things. I started quizzing him on whether he knew who Donovan McNabb was, and little by little, he came around."
Realistically, there are no instant changes Moore can make to salvage the Royals' season. Maybe he deals Tony Graffanino, Mark Grudzielanek or a bullpen arm at the trade deadline, or summons elite prospect Alex Gordon from the minors.
Long term, Moore can check the Atlanta media guide for inspiration. In the six seasons before the Braves began their run of 14 straight division titles, they were a sorry 389-577. Schuerholz and Bobby Cox sure changed the culture in a hurry.
Who knows what will produce the first spark of hope in Kansas City? If Moore can coexist with the Glasses, stoke the talent pipeline and work within the obligatory financial restraints, he has a chance to make the Royals a success story. If not, this might go down as the most misguided career move since Halle Berry fell in love with the script for "Catwoman."
No one who knows Moore personally would bet against him. Yes, the Royals are hideously bad. But they're not constitutionally mandated to be bad for eternity.
This week, Dayton Moore packs up his wife and three kids and rediscovers his roots, where he'll raise a family and try to resurrect a baseball team. It looks like a pretty nice fit.
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale