In 2010, I was offered the chance to write about the Kansas City Royals. I wanted to cover the game from a ballplayer’s point of view and The Star started this blog.
The Royals were not very good in 2010; their record was 67-95. Even so, I was determined to point out the good as well as the bad; I’d gotten to know some ballplayers and ballplayers get tired of reporters who only want to talk to them when they do something wrong.
As former major-league shortstop Tim Bogar once said to me, “If I don’t know you and the first time you want to talk to me is after I make two errors, we’re not going to get along.”
To get players to talk openly you have to report both sides: they have to believe you’ll be fair. I’ve written that Jeff Francoeur missed the cutoff man on a regular basis and Scott Podsednik would pull up once he hit the warning track, but I’ve also pointed out that Mitch Maier’s hustle broke up a double play or Eric Hosmer was making his teammates better by handling bad throws.
But back when I started covering the Royals, many fans were upset and didn’t want to hear anything positive about the team. The Royals stunk and Dayton Moore didn’t know what he was doing; deviating from that point of view was not allowed.
But as early as 2011 — if you were paying attention — you could see things start to change.
The first thing I noticed was improved defense: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez debuted that year. Alcides Escobar came to the Royals in a trade. So did Lorenzo Cain. Although he didn’t play much that season, so Royals fans were still unaware of the impact he was going to have. Alex Gordon became the regular left fielder in 2011 and the core of a very good team was in place.
The Shields-Myers trade
After Dayton Moore made the trade that brought James Shields to the Royals and sent Wil Myers to Tampa Bay, Moore told me he could have made similar trades earlier, but the rest of the team wasn’t ready; why trade for pitching when your position players were still learning what it takes to succeed in the big leagues?
Nevertheless, the Shields-Myers trade was criticized; some people thought the Royals had given up too much. The same people that were critical of Moore because the team wasn’t winning now criticized him for trading away the future.
Shields eventually helped lead the Royals to a World Series. Tampa Bay decided they could live without Myers and he’s currently playing for the San Diego Padres. This season he wound up hitting .253 in 60 games.
Wade Davis was also part of that trade and I think it’s safe to say he’s also turned out to be a pretty good acquisition.
Whatever happens next, it’s still been a good year
Some people are saying that if the Royals don’t win the World Series this year it will be a letdown.
Some people are crazy.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen next, but if the Royals get swept in the first round of the playoffs, it’s still been a good year. The Royals have turned that 2011 record on its head; this season their record is 95-67. They’ve played exciting, interesting baseball. They’ve created a new model for constructing a winning team: last season they were last in home runs and walks, this season they’re second-to-last in home runs, last in walks and first in the American League Central.
The Royals are winning with speed, defense, a pitching staff constructed from back-to-front and an offense that gets the ball in play and then makes the most of it.
Even though this formula worked in 2014, lots of experts decided last season was a fluke; the Royals were not a trendy pick to win their division this year. But 2015 has shown that 2014 wasn’t an aberration; Royals fans now have a very good ball club to root for.
So if you were one of those people who dumped on Dayton Moore and said he didn’t know what he was doing, now might be a good time to apologize.
Go ahead and use the comment section below this article. I’m told most of the people in the Royals front office read this blog, so Dayton will probably get to see — or at least hear about your comment.