Royals

With two-year extension, Royals stop short of going all-in with Dayton Moore

Updated: 2013-11-30T05:55:22Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

As far as surprises go, Dayton Moore’s contract extension as the Royals general manager is roughly on par with idiots losing their minds and fighting each other in big box stores on Black Friday.

Moore would’ve entered 2014 on the last year on his contract, and everyone involved knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Late last season, owner David Glass made it clear to Moore and others in the organization that an extension would be worked out. Privately, Glass was clear he wanted Moore here long-term and the GM reciprocated. At a news conference announcing manager Ned Yost’s contract extension last month, some were surprised at how little Moore seemed bothered by his own situation.

They shouldn’t have been. If anything, the surprise is that it took this long.

Moore will be the Royals’ general manager through 2016 — or paid to be the GM that long, at least — and the move was both necessary and justified. General managers without job security can lean too hard on win-now, sacrificing some long-term strength.

Even if Glass was convinced that wouldn’t be an issue with Moore, there is the simple fact that letting a GM go lame-duck a year after the franchise’s most successful season in a generation is the kind of nonsense the Royals used to do. It’s the kind of thing that always made baseball men in other organizations hesitant to work for the Royals.

With a two-year extension, Glass is going something less than all-in with Moore’s front office. This is a relatively short-term commitment in the world of professional sports.

In practice, this means it’ll take a slightly bigger on-field failure next year for serious questions about Moore’s future — and after that we’re in the same position again.

But besides being unsurprising and necessary, the takeaway from Moore’s extension is a bit of symbolism.

It wasn’t too long ago that Moore’s job was in serious doubt. Back in July, the Royals fell to as many as six games below .500 in a season without excuses. The stench of May hung in the air, and a Process going on seven full seasons was running out of time to show — at the very least — Progress.

Moore knew the criticism was growing, and even if he remained satisfied in both his front office’s decisions and reasons for decisions, he knew he could’ve been looking for work this winter if the team didn’t improve.

The mounting pressure affected Moore only in small ways. Occasional irritability, a heightened sensitivity.

But even in private conversations, Moore’s confidence and optimism about the Royals persisted. He believed in the organization he helped create, from the Wil Myers-James Shields trade all the way down to Alex Gordon moving to left field and Luke Hochevar’s role in the bullpen.

Moore was out of viable options, so confidence and optimism was really his only play. But what happened next is why we’re talking about an extension today and not a new general manager — the Royals were the American League’s second-best team over the last one-third of the season and won the franchise’s most games since 1989.

Moore’s best option was faith, and the group he brought together paid it back.

Glass’ best option is faith, and he’s willing to wait at least another year or two to see if the general manager he hired and changed his miserly ways for can pay it back.

It’s not the ideal situation, obviously, but it’s what the Royals have. A young and talented nucleus holds too much promise to condemn, even as a rebuilding process that just finished its seventh full season has yet to make the playoffs.

What Moore’s Royals have done so far is leave their days as Baseball’s Easiest Punchline behind (Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has a tight grip on that title) and generally follow the same model and timeline that took the Twins from an inept franchise on the verge of contraction to three straight division championships in the early 2000s.

A two-year extension for Moore is a conservative show of confidence and sign of gratitude from Glass.

But it’s not so long that he can’t change his mind after another year or two.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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