Give this man 10 years and he will build a winner. - G. Newman Lowrance
The whole plan was for the Royals to compete in 2014. Hey, it's 2013! We're actually moving quickly! I'm dizzy!
On Tuesday, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore spoke with WHB's Soren Petro from Surprise. It's an annual rite of spring: The local sports radio guys make their pilgrimage to Arizona and are granted an audience with the architect of The Process.
Most of the interview is the usual boilerplate kind of stuff: We like our team, we feel good about our chances, the washed up retreads we signed aren't really washed up, and so on. However, every once in a while, GMDM drops a tidbit that is worth parsing. You can listen to a podcast of the interview here. Here are a few nuggets of importance:
"This year feels like the first year we have a chance to compete from the first day to the last day... The starting rotation certainly gives us hope and a lot more consistency."
Oh, really? This is the first year you've felt you have a chance to compete? What about 2009?
"We've had a 13 game improvement over the last two years. We expect not only to improve, but to compete within our division. You say the same thing every year, but this year I think it has much more of a meaning when we say that."
Just a minute in and we're not off to a good start. Maybe that quote from 2009 didn't have as much meaning as his similar quote from Tuesday.
"I felt that we have to start trying to win now. Not that we haven't in the past. Truthfully, you're patching things up with a little free agent deal here, a small acquisition there. Knowing full well that the core group of players aren't talented enough to win over 162. Again, last year I felt like the talent level was such that it was going to give us an opportunity to certainly get better... The fact that our rotation has veteran talent, players and pitchers that have been a part of championship teams certainly, potentially gives us that consistency to play consistent baseball."
If you are going to read this like Dayton spoke, you have to read the first sentence in a normal tone and then quickly follow with the second. He realized immediately how bad that "start trying to win now" sounds. Good. Because it's insulting. Anyone who has spent any amount of money at The K since June of 2006 should be pissed. Anyway, he didn't really believe that. Go back and reread that quote from The Sporting News. He liked his 2009 team enough he was talking contention.
This whole idea of the core group not being talented enough, why has this continued for over six seasons? Wouldn't you identify this as a... problem? Then set about addressing it? With haste? Read on...
"Actually, our people have done a tremendous job and I'm amazed that it's happened this quickly... Everybody that I sought council with coming here to Kansas City, just the state of the organization, people that were very, very familiar with what the Royals looked like when we came here in 2006, they all said it's eight to ten years. And when you go there you better make sure that you get the time to build an organization because it's going to take eight to ten years to put this team in a position and this organization in a position to start winning consistently..."
What? Eight to ten years? Dayton, why do you insist on insulting my intelligence as a fan? This has been quick? Seriously? Let's look at a couple of other rebuilding situations: Dave Dombrowski took over the Tigers in 2002, lost 119 games in 2003 and in 2006 was in the World Series. Four years. Andrew Friedman took over the Rays prior to the 2006 season. They were in the World Series in 2008. Two years. Walt Jocketty took over a Reds team that hadn't been in the post season in 13 years. They were in the playoffs in 2010. Two years.
Granted, all situations are unique. Jocketty inherited Joey Votto and Jay Bruce but acquired Scott Rolen, Laynce Nix and Ramon Hernandez. Meanwhile, Dombrowski tore his franchise to the bare bones. The bottom line is, this is a results based business. These new guys were hired to build winners. They built winners.
I just don't understand this eight to ten years of bull. Of course, this became the party line when the Royals canned Trey Hillman in 2010. That was the first time Dayton clued us in to how The Process would bear fruit in 2013 or 2014. Instead of Detroit, Tampa and Cincinnati, he brings up Minnesota and New York. The Yankees example is misdirection. They committed to their farm system in the early '90s and were in the playoffs in '95. The Twins example is valid. That was a crazy young team that was almost entirely home grown.
Dayton has one example that works. I gave you three alternate examples. And debunked one of his.
At least he's sticking to his story that this Process runs eight to ten years.
But we all know his story is bunk.
"The pitching, we've had ups and downs with that, but I think we've done a really good job of developing pitching. When you look at what the bullpen looks like, it's hard to develop good pitchers. You can talk to people that were around Carpenter and Halladay early on in their careers and people viewed them as, you know what, they're going to underachieve. They're not going to be the pitchers that we expected them to be at one time. We all know how that script later has been written. Because it takes time for guys. You know I'm amazed at the great work that all of our people have done... I think the window of opportunity for this team to start winning actually has come a little quicker than I anticipated. And again, from the opinions of people that I sought council with about the Kansas City Royals in 2006."
Much to parse here. Let's start at the top: Moore's claim the Royals have done a good job of developing pitching is, on the surface, a headscratcher. This dovetails nicely with a post at Yahoo by Jeff Passan who looked at how teams have done developing their own starting pitching the last five seasons. By his count - and sorting by WAR - the Royals have developed pitchers a little better than the average club. Not bad. However, the majority of their 13.1 WAR comes from the bullpen. Greg Holland, Kelvim Herrera, Aaron Crow and Tim Collins account for a large chunk of that total. If you move the focus away from the bullpen, their total of 59 games started by pitchers they have developed is tied for the second lowest in the majors. While the Royals have had success with relievers, they've missed badly on starters. But we knew that.
The Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay comparisons feel like bizarre misdirections about patience. Which is a typical Moore gambit. As John Sickels points out, Halladay didn't just flip the switch from failed prospect to stud major leaguer. The Blue Jays worked with him to completely rebuild his mechanics after he struggled in the majors. Like Halladay, there was concern the Jays rushed Carpenter, but this time injuries played a factor. He was mediocre until he got the change of scenery and moved to St. Louis for the 2004 season. Just weird comps.
Finally, we can note that while all things take time, Moore is pleased as punch his timeline has fast forwarded to 2013. Because he was gunning for 2014 all along.
We are so lucky.