Championship parades and rallies are joyous occasions regardless of the team or city.
But this one was special.
To truly understand why almost half the population of the Kansas City metro area walked miles to see a glimpse of a Royals player or the championship trophy, you must first know the journey this franchise endured.
When owner David Glass hired Dayton Moore to be the team’s general manager in June 2006, the Royals were the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. Glass, a former CEO of Wal-Mart, was criticized for consistently having one of the sport’s lowest payrolls and arguably was Kansas City’s biggest villain. Many considered Glass responsible for taking what was a model MLB franchise in the 1970s and 1980s and turning it into what was essentially a minor league product.
Glass became the sole owner of the Royals in 2000. From 2000-2006, Kansas City finished with a combined record of 463-671.
Then Moore was hired.
Credit Moore with the decisions he’s made since then. Credit Glass for the hire and for finally granting his general manager the resources necessary to build a contender.
That’s not to say Moore was an instance success.
Kansas City suffered losing seasons in Moore’s first six years as general manager. The Royals lost at least 90 games in five of those seasons.
But while the major league team was busy losing games in Kansas City, Moore and his executive staff were busy adding the building blocks for a championship team through the draft and overseas scouting.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and World Series hero Christian Colon were all first-round draft picks by the Royals in 2007, 2008 and 2010, respectively. World Series MVP catcher Salvador Perez, infielder Raul Mondesi and pitchers Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera were all signed as amateur free agents.
In 2010, Moore used his biggest trade piece – Cy Young winner Zack Greinke – and dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and minor league pitcher Jake Odorizzi. Escobar and Cain have captured consecutive American League Championship Series MVPs, and Odorizzi was later used in the trade that brought closer Wade Davis to Kansas City.
With a championship nucleus in place, Moore added integral pieces heading into the 2015 season. His under-the-radar free agent acquisitions of designated hitter Kendrys Morales, starting pitchers Edinson, Volquez, Chris Young and Kris Medlen and relief pitcher Ryan Madson were all relatively inexpensive but effective. Morales led the Royals with 106 RBIs and tied for the team lead in home runs with 22. Volquez and Young combined to start three of the Royals’ four World Series victories. Medlen won six games in the regular season and performed the critical role of long reliever in the playoffs. Madson, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since suffering an injury in 2011, enjoyed a career resurgence with a 2.11 regular-season ERA.
Then Moore added the final pieces at the trade deadline.
The Royals dealt an abundance of pitching prospects in separate deals for starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and super utility player Ben Zobrist.
Despite an erratic tenure as a Royal, Cueto delivered when it counted the most. He was 2-1 in four postseason starts and contributed epic performances in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros and Game 2 of the World Series against the New York Mets. Zobrist was arguably Kansas City’s most consistent player throughout the 2015 postseason, garnering 20 hits – including eight doubles and two home runs – in 16 games.
Yes, Moore and his staff deserve praise for the team they built.
Almost amusingly, Moore has never received the Sporting News Executive of the Year Award. That distinction for 2015 went to Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Moore not only was the best executive in 2015, no one in baseball has done a better job since he took over the Royals in 2006.
He revitalized a dying franchise and made Kansas City a baseball town again.
Regardless of the lack of any accolades, the 800,000 fans packed into downtown Kansas City on Tuesday are well aware of the truth: Baseball’s best team is led by baseball’s best general manager.
Mark Schremmer has been a sports reporter since 2000 and has covered games at the professional, college and high school levels for the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Joplin Globe.
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