The true test of Dayton Moore’s vision is at hand this September

09/02/2014 11:42 PM

09/03/2014 3:30 PM

Dayton Moore had no vision in mind the first time he visited Kauffman (then Royals) Stadium.

Heck, he hadn’t even planned to be there that October night, which happened to coincide with game seven of the 1985 World Series.

Maybe you’ve heard the story. He told it when he was hired as the Royals general manager in 2006, and it came up with The New York Times the other day.

He just was passing through Kansas City with a buddy via Interstate 70 on the way back to Garden City Community College from Illinois.

Since he’d been a Royals fan since childhood in Wichita, fan enough to cry when they stumbled, it seemed like a fine idea to stop and scoot into some free space on the grass hill between interstate and stadium.

“You could see almost everything except left field the way the stadium was constructed,” he said Tuesday, gazing out on the same field. “It was a pretty good deal.”

No one could have known that that pinnacle also would mark the abrupt end of an era for the Royals, whose seventh postseason berth since 1976 was their last.

And no one, including Moore, would have guessed that his life would circle back to the chance to revive the franchise he had first swooned for.

“I’m like a lot of American boys: You grow up loving baseball and living and dying with your team,” he said. “So I was no different than a lot of kids I grew up with. Just happened to be my team.”

It’s his team now, of course, in an entirely different context.

When he was hired in mid-2006, after the Royals had lost 489 games the previous five full seasons, he touted a process and urged patience.

Maybe that wore thin at times, and the product on the field still tends to fray that some. But the plea also is being rewarded amid the most rousing September around here since that one in 1985.

With their nerve-racking 2-1 victory over Texas on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals retained the slippery grip they’ve had on first place since Aug. 11.

And they crept a day closer to that ever-elusive playoff spot.

Now, this doesn’t assure a thing.

“The only thing we have right now is what we’re experiencing,” Moore said. “There’s no guarantee what the future opportunities will be.

“So you try to capture the moment and realize the significance of it.”

It’s almost impossible not to realize it if you follow the Royals, even if the attached alternate side of that is a wariness from past heartbreaks.

And this team has exasperating gaps, particularly its tendency to vanish offensively.

You need only have watched the last week to know that in itself is a severe trial to fan resolve and faith.

But for all that, it’s hard not to appreciate where this is trending or even where it is now in this snapshot of a moment.

The Royals had the best record in the American League (43-27) after the All-Star Break last year, so they’re now 119-88 since that break.

That’s five more wins than they managed in the last two full seasons before Moore’s time.

So you better believe it was going to take a while to purge the past and simultaneously cultivate the present and be a guardian of the future.

But it also still was a lot to ask that it would take a while.

Restraint and perspective from the public is in short supply these days, and this has taken longer than anyone might have wanted.

As recently as 2012 (72-90) and the wretched May of 2013, it was legitimate to wonder if it would ever turn.

No doubt Moore himself felt tormented at times along the way even as he stayed steadfast in his approach.

You can decide for yourself whether the time to turn it means he inherited a more barren, backward situation than it appeared … or whether he should have done some things differently to expedite this.

But that’s really just quibbling now, isn’t it?

What matters is that the Royals are flourishing, that more than 145,000 people attended their last five games and they are on pace to record-setting TV ratings.

“It’s providing an outlet; it’s providing memories,” Moore said. “It’s given people hope and passion and excitement.”

The real challenges remain ahead.

Will the Royals pull through September? Are they here to contend for the long haul in a way that reflects the exhaustive process?

But this we know: At long last, the Royals are alive and evidently well thanks to a scheme orchestrated by Moore ... with a far broader view than he had that night 29 years ago.

To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email to vgregorian@kcstar.com.

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