Time is now for Royals to restore winning tradition
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Dayton Moore grew up a diehard Kansas City Royals fan in a time where it was chic to like the Royals.
He was born in Wichita, Kan., in 1967, and even when his family moved to Lakewood, N.Y., Moore's passion didn't wane.
"With my grandmother, the Royals were the focal point of her day," Moore remembered. "In that part of the country, back then, there was nothing bigger."
Moore is the Royals' general manager, but even his own kids come home talking about the Yankees or Red Sox or Phillies.
"The frustration is that there is an entire generation now that doesn't understand what that was like," said Moore.
From 1976-85, no team was more consistent than the Royals. They advanced to the postseason seven times. They lost the 1980 World Series to Philadelphia, and then capped the decade of dominance by beating St. Louis in the 1985 World Series.
The Royals haven't played a meaningful October game since.
"You always hear people talk about learning to enjoy the moment because you never know when you will have a chance to enjoy it again," said Royals Hall of Famer George Brett, a special assistant to Moore. "We haven't won a division since , but we had a shot until 1994. Since then ..."
The Royals have had only one winning season in the last 18 years, and last year was only the second time they even finished as high as third place since 1998.
Of the 24 inductees into the Royals Hall of Fame, only two, pitchers Jeff Montgomery and Kevin Appier, were not a part of the franchise during that 10-year stretch. "People in Kansas City are loyal," said Moore. "They are generally folks who have lived in the area for generations. The parents and grandparents have such good memories [of the Royals], but they can't get their kids to focus on the team."
That is something the Royals need to reverse.
"The most satisfaction I will feel in this game is to grow a new generation of Royals fans," said Moore.
And there is a feeling that this well could be the year that tangible signs of that revitalization emerge.
Having rebuilt the farm system, Moore decided during the offseason that it was time to jump start the bid for contention. Kansas City had a solid everyday lineup. Its bullpen was fine. The rotation, however, was a mess. So first the Royals found a bargain and acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels. Then Moore decided to roll the dice.
He put together a package of prospects, anchored by highly touted Wil Myers, and acquired Wade Davis and James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays.
But a team can talk about being "only two years away" for only so long.
"If we wait another season or two, we are putting our eggs in one basket," said Moore. "We felt the time to move was now. We felt we have reached a point where the only way to win is to try to win every year.
"Our vision from Day 1 was that we needed to sign and develop young players, and all of a sudden a window of opportunity would open and you would need to go out and sign the key players that could put you over the top."
The Atlanta Braves did that when general manager John Schuerholz took over a rebuilt farm system, saw a nice big league nucleus and following the 1990 season, he signed first baseman Sid Bream, shortstop Rafael Belliard and third baseman Terry Pendleton to stabilize the infield of an otherwise solid roster, and bring a winning attitude.
With the Royals, Moore saw the needs in the rotation, so he addressed those by adding veteran arms from teams that have postseason resumes.
The foundation of players had been developed.
Now comes the challenge of developing a winning mentality, like the Royals had in that decade of dominance.
Nobody understands that better than Brett. A second-round draft choice in 1971, the team's third year of competition, Brett has been with the Royals in some capacity every year since.
He saw the good times, and then witnessed the decline.
"I would say it started when [original owner] Ewing Kauffman died," said Brett. "The team was run by a trust for seven or eight years. The proceeds from the sale of the team were given to charity. Then Mr. [David] Glass bought the team.
"From trial and error, they figured out to have to have a farm system, and Dayton was hired to get that in order. He has built an organization of young players who are good enough to win. We needed to deal with starting pitching and he did that.
"If we are going to win, now is the time to do it."
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.