I’ve been a Kansas City resident my entire life. I’ve always been a Royals fan. My grandmother, a long time Lee’s Summit resident, would have it no other way, with a house full of memorabilia and consistent season ticket ownership. I grew up going to Royals games. Every year on Opening Day, you’ll find a few Lockharts or Pollards in the crowd.
That has never changed. What has, however, is the experience. I grew up loving a struggling team. After their founding by Kansas City philanthropist Ewing Kauffman in 1969, the Royals quickly found success. The 1985 World Series against the Cardinals was the pinnacle. I grew up watching documentaries and tributes to it. I learned about the blown call in Game six, George Brett’s pine tar incident in ’83 and Bret Saberhagen’s cringe-worthy rapping Ford commercial. It was tough reconciling that successful team with the one I was witnessing at the time. As I was decked out in Royals gear, regularly attending games at a half-empty Kauffman Stadium, hearing the mockery of my favorite team on radio and TV was debilitating.
In comes Dayton Moore. He became the general manager of the Royals in 2006, a time when the team was arguably at rock bottom. Moore’s idea for the team was one of development. It was a tough sell for a fan base drained of patience. Years of losing had Royals fans hungry for success, and that hunger wasn’t satisfied when six more losing seasons followed. Moore’s public opinion was almost universally negative. One of his first actions was installing the motto “True. Blue. Tradition.” I remember finding it to be such an odd statement for a team whose tradition of small market success seemed so distant. It did come with a revival of the team’s now iconic powder blue uniforms, but the new look didn’t make up for the bizarre moves taken by Moore that, at the time, seemed off base.
Fan favorite Alex Gordon, for example, was brought on as a promising player fresh off of college success. His first few seasons were ones of struggle and lack of direction—Gordon, a now legendary left fielder, started off as a mediocre third baseman—but Moore persisted. Exceptional talent like Zack Greinke seemed to come and go as less exciting players like Mike Moustakas joined, but Moore stayed patient with them. The city wasn’t patient with him, however, as several in the media called for Moore to be fired. He insisted that his critics put their trust in “The Process.” Again, it was a tough sell. Even up to 2013, arguably the beginning of the Royals’s current success, the roster of now well-known players like Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Wade Davis didn’t seem like much. Little did anyone know that “The Process” was about to begin in a new era of Royals baseball.
As many are well aware, the Royals are no longer the losing team that I described above. Moore’s fully-developed band of misfits went on to make the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. They defied odds and beat the Oakland Athletics in one of the craziest wild card games in recent memory. The run continued all the way to the World Series with an unbelievable eight game win streak. Victory seemed inevitable, but it slipped from their grasp as they fell to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. For me personally, it was a bitter loss. As soon as my beloved Royals were dominating, they fell.
The following postseason was therefore a crucial time. The Royals went all the way to the last game. After all, there wasn’t much to change, but the right changes had to be made. One of those changes was replacing designated hitter Billy Butler with Kendrys Morales, a decision that was panned by many. Moore’s way of managing wasn’t going to change after 2014’s success, and neither did the public’s response to it. Though Kansas City fans were more optimistic, national media outlets thought the following season would make the previous seem like a fluke. Few of ESPN’s “experts” thought the Royals would win their own division [http://espn.go.com/mlb/preview15/story/_/id/12588378/expert-team-predictions-2015-mlb-season], let alone the World Series.
Again, trust and patience had to be put in Dayton Moore and his unconventional management. Morales turned into one productive hitter. Alcides Escobar’s “bad habit” of swinging at the first pitch somehow worked at the right times. Lack of superstars in the starting rotation didn’t seem to matter. Though Moore did everything wrong, at least in the eyes of many, the Royals still won games. They won games they weren’t even supposed to win [http://www.fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2015-10-12&team=Astros&dh=0&season=2015], with probabilities as low as one percent before a devastating Royals comeback. After years of watching slow baseball games that ended in too many losses, here was an unconventional team that swung at everything, ran the bases like mad and made plays in the field that seemed to defy physics.
All of this was capped with a World Series win after eight painful years. The spirit of Kansas City seemed to be reignited as the following victory parade saw huge turnout. This enthusiasm, optimism and trust in development seems to have spread everywhere in the city. If not, it’s more fuel for the burning passion that residents of Kansas City seem to be on fire with lately. Royals shirts, hats and logos are everywhere. The days of low attendance are gone. Kansas City fans have something to brag about to St. Louis fans that’s actually recent. This is all thanks to Dayton Moore.
The Kansas City Royals are a team of cooperation. I could write about each individual player if I had the time, but the truth is, Moore saw something special in each of them and brought them all together. He’s been the grand architect of a real “True. Blue. Tradition.”
Dayton Moore made me love baseball again and he did it with the hometown team I grew up devoted to. To that, I say thanks and go Royals.