I’ve noticed something disturbing happening over the last year. I am afraid Dayton Moore is slowly becoming Wayne Krivsky.
As I am sure most of you know Wayne Krivsky was the GM of the Cincinnati Reds from February 2006 until he was fired in April 2008. Being a longtime Reds fan I was initially very excited by Krivsky. He worked as an assistant in the Twins organization and had over two decades of mostly positive experience scouting and developing young players. Krivsky opened his tenure with the Reds with a bang by clearly getting the better part of a trade with the Red Sox, Willy Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo. Krivsky looked even more brilliant after two of his scrap heap acquisitions, David Ross and Brandon Phillips, both performed amazingly well once they arrived in Cincinnati. Then everything went bad.
Krivsky loves “scrappy” players. He looks for the “classy old veteran.” It soon became clear he had absolutely no idea that the best way for a lower revenue team to build a competitive roster was to help young talented players realize their potential before they hit their money years rather than paying over market rate for aging free agents. Krivsky, a guy who never actually played the game but who was so sure of his own brilliance that he refused to allow anyone around him other than “yes” men in suits, surrendered himself to childish romantic imagery. He attempted to build a roster of clichés rather than actual players. He ridiculously overpaid for the aging light-hitting but slick fielding Latin shortstop. His bullpen overflowed with “crafty old lefties.” He assured the fans the Reds would win by "doing the little things better," something they would learn by bathing in the clubhouse chatter flowing from luminaries like Royce Clayton and Juan Castro. He cut Ryan Franklin and Luke Hudson because he did not like their attitudes, and then paid millions to bring in Tony Womack, Rheal Cormier and Mike Stanton.
For two years Krivsky consistently made blatantly stupid personnel decisions and provided the press with gibberish quotes containing phrases like “good clubhouse guy,” “he knows how to win,” or, my favorite, “he knows how to play the game the right way.” After TRADING two prospects for a 41-year old Jeff Conine in December of 2006 Krivsky assured Reds fans that this was a great acquisition because “He is very talented, he can do a lot of things with the bat.” (Watch out ladies!) Conine would go on to earn $2M that year for a .729 OPS as a semi-mobile first baseman. Krivsky so loved scrappy ol’ vets that he left Brendan Harris and Cody Ross off the 40-man roster so he could carry Chad Moeller and Bubba Crosby as insurance bench players with major league contracts. After all, Moeller and Crosby had already “paid their dues” by hanging around the game for years - nevermind that it would be hard to find two better examples of replacement level players.
Lately I am seeing too many similarities between Krivsky and Moore to ignore. Moore opened his KC tenure with a flurry of generally helpful trades in June/July of 2006, dumping Gotay, MacDougal, Dessens, Graffanino, Affeldt, Bautista and Stairs for younger cheaper players who seemed to have a reserve of unrealized potential. He followed this burst of activity by bringing in what at the time was a shocking free agent catch, Gil Meche. His cup of good will overflowed on March 23, 2007 when he acquired TPJ and DFAed Angel Berroa. Unfortunately, after those initial 10 month, Moore seems to have embraced the same form of jackassery that rots Krivsky’s mind.
Increasingly we see evidence of Dayton Moore’s inexplicable attraction to old scrappy players who don’t mind getting their uniform dirty, hanging around for extra infield practice; guys who like to sit around the clubhouse creating that gameday chatter which is magically supposed to enable marginal players to elevate their game and prove “hard earned wisdom” and “110% effort” can overcome AAA talent and declining bodies. This nonsense might work as plot material for feel-good movies and young adult novels but anyone old enough to manage a professional baseball team should have long outgrown it. It just doesn’t matter how old and wise he gets and how hard he tries, Willie Bloomquist is not going to be as good as Alberto Callaspo. And every game in which Hillman writes Bloomquist’s name on the starting roster and entertains fuzzy thoughts about how Willie’s "game smarts" and heart are helping the team more than would starting guys who are still “learning to play the right way” will be one more game in which the Royals’ chances of breaking 85 wins in the foreseeable future will be further squandered.
Overall I still have a positive view of Hillman and Moore, but this recent spell of counter productive roster moves has me worried they are giving in too much to their sentimental prejudices. Money has been poorly spent this off season, but perhaps more importantly, roster spots have been allocated poorly. Farnsworth, Ramirez, Waechter, Bloomquist, Gload and Jacobs are all pretty well assured of making the 25 man roster and I just do not see any of them helping this club actually become better than respectable.