The Royals once again find themselves at the end of July on pace to lose more than 90 games. Not that there isn’t already, but if the Royals do end up losing 94 games (as is their current pace) then there is going to be a serious conversation about general manager Dayton Moore’s job -- from the fans, at least.
Since Moore was hired in June 2006, the Royals have lost 90 or more games every year except for 2008 (87 losses) and the team has yet to develop a front-line starting pitcher from any of the Moore drafts – unless, of course, you consider Luke Hochevar to be a front-line starter.
But before grabbing your pitchfork and torch don’t forget where the Royals were six years ago. Because let’s be honest about something: Moore inherited an unmitigated disaster of a franchise.
Over the course of six drafts from 2000 to 2005 the Royals selected only eight players who played at least 100 games in the majors and had a WAR (Wins Above Replacement level) of at least 0.0.Player—Career WAR—Year drafted
David DeJesus — 17.8—2000
To put that in perspective, the then-Devil Rays selected five players in just the 2000 draft that fit that criteria with Rocco Baldelli and James Shields being the big names from that group. Again, that was in just one draft.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bianchi’s debut for the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this month made him just the SECOND player drafted by the Royals in 2005 to play at least one game in the Major Leagues. The other is Gordon.
The list of assets Moore had included two excellent minor league prospects (Gordon and Butler), a pitching prodigy that was threatening to quit baseball (Greinke) and a solid young outfielder who had issues staying healthy (DeJesus).
That was it.
And there was nothing to support those assets either. In 2006, Mark Teahen and Mark Grudzielanek were their two best players by WAR, and Emil Brown and Reggie Sanders roamed the outfield with DeJesus.
The starting pitching had a 5.85 ERA, the bullpen a 5.41 ERA and the only three qualifying pitchers to have an ERA under 5 were Elmer Dessens (4.50), Joel Peralta (4.40) and Todd Wellemeyer (3.63).
Angel Berroa was the shortstop. Mark Redman was the All-Star. Luis Cota was the top pitching prospects.
Moore had the mission of turning almost nothing – no farm system, no financial resources, no major league pieces to trade and four young players with question marks – into, in his words, a franchise that competes for a championship on a consistent basis.
Not surprisingly fans are still waiting. But there has been progress. Moore flipped Zack Greinke into the team’s starting shortstop, best starting pitching prospect and a potential centerfielder for the future (if he can stay healthy). He locked up one of the game’s best young catching prospects through 2019, his rising shortstop through 2017 and inked Gordon and Butler to extensions that will keep them both here at least until 2015.
He also built his much heralded farm system that includes arguably the game’s best hitting prospect Wil Myers and produced potential future stars in Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.
In six years he has turned Teahen into Moustakas, Doug Mientkiewicz into Hosmer, Berroa into Escobar and an outfield of Brown, DeJesus and Sanders into Gordon, Cain and, hopefully soon, Myers.
The bullpen is completely transformed.
Yes, there is the Melky Cabrera trade that went terribly wrong and the wretched starting rotation (that is admittedly depleted by injuries). The Jeff Francoeur and Bruce Chen contracts and the Kyle Davies experiment don’t look good on a resume either.
But then there is the Greinke trade and the savvy Joakim Soria pick-up and contract extension. The Escobar, Perez, Gordon and Butler contracts, finding Felipe Paulino off the scrap heap and the moves to bring in Tim Collins, Jose Mijares and Will Smith among others.
Fans understandably want to win and win now. But in the immortal words of former Royals manager Buddy Bell, things can always get worse.
How sure are we firing Moore will make things better?
| Ben Nielsen, firstname.lastname@example.org