The Kansas City Royals have parted ways with Dayton Moore after 17 seasons with the team. The change signals a much-needed changing of the guard for the Royals.
Lost in the final weeks of the 2021 MLB season was a very important move that would go on to alter the trajectory of the Royals’ franchise. Just over a year ago, on September 14, 2021, long-time General Manager Dayton Moore was promoted to President of Baseball Operations. His assistant, J.J. Piccolo would take over as acting General Manager. Many fans in Kansas City held hope — although most were cynical — that the change would bring new life to a Kansas City front office that seemed to have lost direction.
The cynics were right this time. The Royals stumbled their way to a horrendous 59-89 record entering Wednesday’s contest. The season has been marred by notoriety after entering the year with expectations of a step forward. Even if most didn’t expect this Royals team to contend, they were seen by many as a team on the brink of contention. Instead, the clubhouse has looked divided. The vibes and atmosphere have been poor at times.
The negativity seemed to come to a head on Monday after Dayton Moore’s comments on the Bally’s Sports Broadcast. These comments, fueled at least in part by an article in The Athletic written by Rustin Dodd, Andy McCullough, and Alec Lewis, showed yet another instance of Moore’s disconnect from the state of the Royals, including their fanbase.
“Anytime somebody does something anonymously, first of all I think it’s disrespectful, lacks integrity, and I think most of those comments come from somebody criticizing simply with a critical spirit, and they want to kick people when they’re down, so to speak, and again, I think we’re in a really good position going forward. So, I just kind of let it go in one ear and out the other and try to stay positive with our people.”Dayton Moore
His latest comments once again seemed to insult a fanbase starving yet again for winning baseball. On Wednesday, Royals owner John Sherman held a press conference to announce Moore has been dismissed as President of Baseball Operations. Moore was present and even spoke to the media. It was yet another example of Moore’s persisting great character, a character that couldn’t quite do enough to lead his organization back to the win column.
Moore’s Legacy With The Royals Should Not Be Sold Short
The legacy of Dayton Moore should not be discounted, despite the untimely ending that it suffered. After all, for much of my life, Moore has been nothing short of a hero to me. My earliest memories of the Kansas City Royals include some vague glimpses of Johnny Damon, Jeremy Affeldt, and Carlos Beltran. I remember the promise of Angel Berroa and the letdown of prospects like Jimmy Gobble. 2003 was an electric blur in my childhood — a brief glimpse into what winning felt like that was quickly taken away.
The Royals went on to lose 310 games between 2004 and 2006. I moved from Missouri to the west coast and remember some of the friends I made laughing at my Royals fandom. The team was nothing short of an embarrassment. However, the introduction of Dayton Moore as General Manager in 2006 marked a new era for baseball in Kansas City. Not only did he bring hope — he made true that hope.
Moore, of course, built the vaunted 2011 Royals farm system that is seen by many as the best farm system of all time. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, and the rest all came up through the system together. They won in the minors together. Then they took the league by storm in the 2014 playoffs after a miraculous Wild Card Game performance. Of course, they followed that up by winning it all in 2015. For the very first time in my life, after two decades of embarrassment, I was proud to be a Royals fan.
Dayton Moore made true on my many years of loyalty. He made them worth it. Not just for me, but for the entire city of Kansas City, he was a true hero. Since that time, and for many years before it as well, not a single small-market team in baseball has won it all. That can’t be taken away from Moore — nor should it. I’m thankful for the years that Moore gave my city and for the greatness he built. However, in the words of Harvey Dent, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Unfortunately for Moore, he became the villain in Kansas City.
A Way Forward For The Royals After Dayton Moore’s Departure
The first season of J.J Picollo’s tenure as General Manager was decidedly disappointing. There often seemed to be a disconnect between Picollo and his long-time boss in Moore. Picollo promised a more aggressive approach at the trade deadline, which seemed to match Moore’s admitted need to be more transactional. However, the Royals were hardly more aggressive at this year’s deadline.
In true Dayton Moore fashion, despite an extremely eventful trade deadline, the Royals’ entire deadline was characterized more by the lack of moves than anything else. Of course, they made a fantastic trade for a trio of Braves prospects. They traded away Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi as well. But when many fans felt the Royals could capitalize on value for players such as Scott Barlow and Michael A Taylor, the team instead stood pat with their same Moore onus: “We want to keep good players here in Kansas City.”
With Moore now on his way out of town and Picollo stepping into the role of President of Baseball Operations, the new era of Royals baseball can truly step into the light. Picollo will get a large say in what happens next for the Royals after a season that he perhaps didn’t nearly as much say as he should have. Picollo is now clearly the man in charge and will have the largest hand in shaping the next era of Royals baseball.
Next on the docket for Sherman and Picollo is likely re-making the team’s coaching staff. That change should start at the top with Mike Matheny. Matheny has rarely been mentioned as a great leader of men. He often prioritizes declining veterans over young talent. We saw this from Matheny in St. Louis and then again over the last two seasons in Kansas City.
Matheny, unfortunately, has likely earned his own walking papers as well with this season’s horrendous showing. Along with him should be pitching coach Cal Eldred. Terry Bradshaw was the first of these changes when he was fired earlier this season in May. Alec Zumwalt took over as the team’s hitting coach and the change has been more than noticeable so far.
Zumwalt, alongside Hitting Coordinator Drew Saylor, has accomplished a fantastic turnaround for the team’s development in the minor leagues. He’s now translated that improvement to the major leagues. Dane Johnson has his own case to make as the Royals’ next pitching coach, after some of his promising work with the team’s pitching prospects at Triple-A Omaha. What’s more likely is the team taking an entirely new approach to pitching much like they did when they turned to Saylor and Zumwalt in 2019.
The team already parted ways with pitching coordinator Jason Simontacchi earlier this month. John Sherman is no stranger to pitching development after his time in Cleveland and it’s most likely that the team looks at bringing in a new face with an entirely different focus altogether. At Manager, should the team look internally they have a great option in Scott Thorman. Thorman led his minor league squads to three straight championships, starting with Lexington in 2018. He followed that up with a fantastic showing at Wilmington in 2019 before his Naturals won the Double-A Central championship in 2021.
Proven leaders such as Joe Maddon and Joe Girardi are also out there on the open market as well. Whoever the new manager proves to be, the Royals will certainly prioritize someone who fits more in line with the franchise’s new focuses following Moore’s departure. With Moore now out of Kansas City, the J.J Picollo era for the Royals can start, this time, for real. Regardless of how these changes shake out, one thing is for certain: the upcoming offseason for these Royals is going to be the most impactful offseason we’ve seen since Moore arrived in 2006.