Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore guided his team to an American League Championship in 2014, the Royals' first in 29 years, and a World Series victory in 2015, the Royals' first in 30 years.
Winning a World Series is difficult. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and only one wins the World Series. The Royals' three decade long championship drought seems very long compared to other teams who have won multiple Series in recent years, such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants. But according to the wizardry known as math, a team should average only one victory every 30 years. Considering that the other 29 teams are trying to win the championship as well, and that they are staffed by very smart people, guiding a team to a championship is legitimately a career-defining feat.
For years, decades, the Royals were terrible, in the midst of the longest playoffless streak in the four major North American professional sports--MLB, NHL, NFL, and NBA. Moore broke that by winning a league championship and then a world championship in back-to-back years, using a group of players handpicked by Moore over almost a decade of running the team.
So, yeah. Moore's legacy as a front office executive secures him a position in the Royals Hall of Fame, and will be rightfully tied to him for the rest of his career.
But that doesn't tell the whole story.
Last night, the Los Angeles Angels, replete with the best player in baseball (Mike Trout) and a random collection of individuals that get paid to do things with balls rather poorly (everyone else), defeated the defending champion Royals 13-0 in a bloodbath of standard proportions. Looking at the box score gives you the same sort of gutwrench that watching a video of a sportsman breaking his leg in slow motion does, minus the shock that exists when sombeody's leg conforms to a shape found in Tetris more often than found attached to a humans torso.
It was a kind of victory that is emblematic of the Royals' struggles this year. The offense sputtered, again, one of the worst scoring forces in the American League. The starting pitching flailed, again, one of the worst groups in the league. This is the main reason, actually, why 2014 isn't happening again. In 2014, the Royals' rotation was composed of James Shields, Danny Duffy, the good Yordano Ventura, and yet-unblemished seasons by Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. That 2014 team recovered from 48-50 to win 89 games through the strength of a sneakily-good rotation, a world-class defense, a decent offense, and a bullpen created by the Baseball Gods themselves. Does that sound like 2016 to you?
The sad thing is that this team had high hopes. It returned all of the key players from last year's title run. Of the starting position players, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Kendrys Morales returned. The best two members of the bullpen, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, came back. Important role players Paulo Orlando, Jarrod Dyson, and Christian Colon were back. Starting pitchers Chris Young, Kris Medlen, Yordano Ventura, and Edinson Volquez were back. In order to supplement that core, all Moore had to do was make a few key moves to supplement that group.
Moore failed spectacularly. Impressively spectacularly. Dillon Gee and Chien-Ming Wang have ERAs north of 4.50 and have been poor in more than a couple innings at a time. Chris Young's ERA is almost 7. Ian Kennedy, the $70 million man, has given up over 2 home runs per nine innings. Alex Gordon, the $72 million man, has hit worse than he did in his first two 'disappointing' Major League seasons with declining defense. Joakim Soria has been a sad, sad shell of his former self, which was a sad, sad shell of his former former self that used to play for Kansas City.
Simply put, the 2016 Royals are a bad team despite its overt similarities to last year's 95-win, World Series squad.
We're in a new era here in Kansas City, where the Royals are expected to compete for a playoff spot. Frankly, it would be an utter shame that this young, talented core could only get to the playoffs twice in what will after next year be seven years together. Moore has emphasized and carried out strategies that exhibit sustainability. Two playoff runs surrounded by a lot of crap is not the picture of sustainability, but rather just a flash in the pan.
This team deserves better than to be a two-year flash in the pan. A brilliant, brilliant flash, mind you. But for this team? The team that comes back from the dead again and again and again and again?
As I've said, Moore's legacy is secured. But legacies aren't binary. They can be complex. A failure to extend what will probably be the Royals' best chance at another championship for another decade at least will be a part of the whole. And it should.
But ultimately, every athlete, coach, and executive loses it. The most brilliant coaches are always fired, the best executives let go because the grass is always greener elsewhere. Failure is built into their job description in a way that it rarely is not for other professions.
Yes, if the Royals don't make the playoffs again with Hosmer and Co., then that ought to be attributed to Moore's failure.
But every executive fails. Moore succeeded. Failure can still be part of a successful legacy, and as they say, flags fly forever.