Lets get something out of the way before we begin the elegy: The Royals are getting played by not getting Moore to oversee this year's Draft. For all intents and purposes, the Royals are getting a new GM one year later than what the calendar says. Frankly, I don't see how the Braves can, in good faith, allow Moore to preside over their draft, doesn't he have a fairly gigantic conflict of interest? Ohh well, once a Royal, always a Royal. Once a Glass-blasted organization, always one.
Still, our long national nightmare is finally over, as Bob Dutton reports today that the Royals have fired Allard Baird and will shortly hire Dayton Moore as the new GM. Not one to usually editorialize (and I mean that in the most positive way), Dutton included this nugget in his story,
The Royals were 381-576 in Baird's tenure, which began June 17, 2000, when he replaced Herk Robinson. He spent 12 previous seasons in the organization in various roles.Ouch.
The organization's primary failure under Baird was in its inability to draft and develop high-quality players in recent years. The current 25-man roster has only two players -- outfielders David DeJesus and Shane Costa -- who were drafted in Baird's six seasons.
Further, several recent lineups mocked the very idea that the club is engaged in a rebuilding plan. The Royals started five players Tuesday against Oakland who were 30 years or older.
Earlier this week, Royals Review asked, "Who is Dayton Moore?" and didn't find many solid answers. Perhaps only time will tell. At this point, there's great value in simply moving on.
Baird's legacy will likely be impossible to define, or truly evaluate. He's a surprisingly likeable guy, and many in the media readily admit how much they like him personally. Just this week, Posnanski floated the shadowy rumor that Glass has been meddling for years, vetoing certain moves, etc etc. This earnest affability played a role in Allard's strange imagined career arch: Baird was howled at for two-three years as one of the worst executives in the game, then, thanks to the fluky 2003, some revisionist readings of the Berroa trade, and a growing appreciation for his ability to find scrap-heap guys like Raul Ibanez, he was praised as improving, even above-average. Moreover, along with some subtle revisions in St. Louis (hiring a stat guy, for example), Baird was mentioned as part of the New Wave of 21st century GMs in the Beaneian mold. In truth, Baird did do his damnedest to reverse a decades long organizational preference for free swinging/ hitting for contact types of plate approaches. Baird said positive things about getting walks, taking pitches, working the count, evaluating talent, etc. For nearly all, the retrospective turning point was the 2004 Beltran Trade, lauded by some at the time, barely mocked. Now, even by mild mannered scribes like Dutton, its been a disaster.
For what its worth, Baird only had a half-season of Beltran to deal, which tends to get overlooked in the label, "the Beltran trade". He got John Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood out of the deal. Buck and Teahen at least had an imaginable upside, and Buck and Wood have been more or less useful from day one... I don't think you can expect much more than that. Sure, he didn't "win" the trade, per se, but he didn't get stolen from either.
For me, as a Royals fan, the Bell hiring was the point of no return. Just a unimaginative, uninspired, joyless hiring. And I write that with a firm convention that the Manager role in MLB is about 15% as important as its normally thought of. Still, Buddy freakin' Bell? It was wimpy cop-out, although one likely motivated by cost (Glass). The Royals never seemed to consistently realize that a team in their position needs to take risks, try new approaches, think outside the box. The Yankees can afford to employ a half-interested by-the-book robot without doing much damage, for the Royals, losing a chance at an innovator is crushing.
Basically, two teams got worse under his supposed watch, and no matter how many baseball cliches he can spout per minute, even in a highly endogamous community like baseball, that gets noticed. Bell's passable, and his only baggage is that he hasn't shown that he is particularly good at his new job. Fair enough, hasn't stopped anyone before; let everyone dangle a few quotes about his work building a young team in Cleveland (a team that doesn't appear quite as good as its been expected to be by the way) and we'll have a easy 60 minute presser and take a few pictures.
Still, even the silly explanations and justifications are lame AND hollow. The Bell-as-teacher motif is vaguely passable, but Bell's claim that he's been wronged in the past is insane.
"The problem in Detroit is we just weren't patient enough with it," Bell said. "I'm very impatient with impatience ... and this is going to take some time."
Bell was fired by the Tigers during the 1998 season as the team sat with a 52-85 record. In theory, the Tigers were going places in 1997, when they had won 79 games in a bad division. Bell's claim that the Tigers were a young team that never got a chance is simply incorrect, the 1999 was very similar to the '98 version, and was also bad, going 69-92. [...]
One of the nicest developments of the last half-decade has been Baird's real improvement as a GM, but this is not a resume building moment. Either Allard isn't allowed to do much more than scrounge for scraps, or he's simply lost the plot. I'm not sure which is worse.
It's likely we'll never know how to evaluate Allard Baird. But from the Bell hire on, the good, young, vibrant Allard that wanted to give Calvin Pickering a chance and made good minor moves (such as the one that netted Huber) was replaced by a strange robot that seemed to actually believe in the insanity around him. Allard certainly never returned his paycheck, despite all the supposed meddling, never resigned, never said anything specific. Perhaps it was a fatal mix of loyalty and propriety that did him in. Still, when you hire Buddy Bell, when you trade for Terrence Long, when you bring in the assorted garbage that you did this winter (Joe Mays?!?!? Paul Bako!?!?!, Dougie ?!?!?) I won't shed many tears for you.
I am reportedly the new Royals GM. I look happy, don't I? Sources think I have "IT", what do you think?
As for Dayton Moore, who knows? We've seen supposed "Moneyball" guys turn old school when handed the keys, and we've seen old dogs learn new tricks. Moore's tasks are many, step number one needs to be cleaning house, trading our penny-valued players for pesos if the need be, and preparing the franchise for 2008, when Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Huber, Lubanski, lead the lineup and a non-insane Greinke anchors a good pitching staff.
And we shouldn't want Buddy Bell anywhere near that team.