Last night was an exceptional event, both for the team and for the city. There hasn't been a lot of catharsis for this fan base throughout the past three decades. Last season's winning season was tempered by asinine remarks regarding how it should make us feel. 2003 was such a shadow play that even optimistic Royals fans admit there is no reason they should have won eighty-three games.
The Wild Card game, however, could come to represent a first step on moving forward for the Kansas City Royals, both in terms of how the team is perceived on a national level, but also how we as a community measure our responses to their successes and failures. Billy Beane gets the benefit of the doubt because his teams are successful in spite of serious financial impediments. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, and Cubs can buy their way out of long stretches of repeated failure, so any seasonal shortcomings are perceived as blips rather than signifiers of a larger, systemic issue.
Which brings us around to Dayton Moore, and more broadly the franchise he works for. While we can all point to issues of varying severity about this organization's past decisions, is it now fair to say that, on the whole, it worked out? That Dayton Moore had a plan, and recognized a course of action that perhaps we didn't really notice?
I'm not sold on either of those points. I doubt he expected Mike Moustakas to be a train wreck, nor do I think he expected Eric Hosmer to be a replacement-level player in his fourth full season. But doesn't it mean something that the Royals were able to overcome those two great failings and make it to the ALDS anyway? Again, I'm not sure, but I do know that, for the first time in three or four years, I have to tip my hat to Dayton Moore for the team he put together.
There were many, many things that went wrong about this season. Bruce Chen, Moustakas, Hosmer, Infante, Perez in the second half, the front-end of the bullpen, and all of them amounted to a series of bumps in an otherwise beautiful stretch of highway.
There are also many, many questions that will need to be addressed when this season ends. The fan base has sorted and stacked a vote of no confidence regarding Moustakas for months now. James Shields will be gone. Billy Butler will, in all likelihood, be gone. Norichika Aoki, who until mid-September was seen as being a disappointment, hit .285/.349/.360 with a 103 wRC+, making him one of three regulars to be an average or better hitter. That's production that will need to be replaced. Josh Willingham is considering retirement, and his combination of power and on-base skills are a rare occurrence for the team. Is there faith in one of Aaron Crow, Louis Coleman, or Tim Collins being a serviceable reliever next year? Can you afford to pay both Greg Holland and Wade Davis?
For so long, my entire life really, I have lived in a world where the eyes of my baseball team have been locked in focus on the season ahead of me, as opposed to the season I am currently in. Even now, I find myself wondering about the off-season, who will be available, what moves might be made, what the roster might look like after the All-Star break, which prospects to keep an eye on. I can't find my focus in the present, even though that is where it belongs.
Dayton Moore has everything to do with that.