Dayton Moore has been running the Royals for over ten years now, culminating in perhaps the most exciting two seasons in franchise history, when he won back-to-back pennants, with a championship in 2015. The road to success was never easy for Dayton however, as he details in his book, "More than a Season", published by Triumph Books. The book, written with sports journalist and writer Matt Fulks after the World Series appearance in 2014, covers Dayton's path to success, from his days as a player for George Mason University, to his rise through the Braves system as a scout, then an executive, to his days rebuilding a Royals organization left for dead.
What interested me the most was Dayton's philosophies in taking over a laughingstock franchise and turning them around. Moore is quite candid about his reservations in taking the job, writing that he had to be goaded by former Braves and Royals General Manager John Scheurholz into even meeting with the Glass family, and that he initially rejected the Royals before reconsidering. The job got off to a rough start, with a botched press conference, and the shocking realization of just how far behind the Royals organization was in terms of resources for player development.
To anyone curious about how a baseball organization operates, or about the history of the Kansas City Royals, Moore offers some good tidbits of what took place behind-the-scenes. He writes about the delicate handling of Zack Greinke, giving a lot of credit to Grienke himself, and pitching coach Bob McClure for his comeback that led to the 2009 Cy Young Award. Royals fans get a sneak peek at the thinking behind some transactions, such as how they targeted Torii Hunter over Jose Guillen, why they never traded Joakim Soria, and how the James Shields trade happened.
I went to the white board and wrote down, by position, the names of every prospect we had in the system. The board was full of names. We had built a solid system. I took the four names - Myers, Odorizzi, Leonard, and Montgomery - off the board.
"Is this still a good system? I asked. Everyone agreed that it was still a good system without those four players. We ended the meeting for the night.
The book is also a pretty good peek at the thought process of Dayton Moore and what matters to him. You get the sense that the emphasis on family, organization, togetherness, is no act. With baseball being a business, where wins are the bottom line, this kind of emphasis can seem misplaced at times. But it is interesting how everyone in the organization seems to be on the same page in terms of long-term philosophy, and anyone that has been part of a large organization can appreciate how difficult that can be. This is not to say Dayton is surrounded by "yes men", as he stresses that "conflict, when it's not personal and the end goal is for the right decision, is a good thing." The actual management of the franchise is perhaps Dayton's biggest strength as a General Manager.
He is very quick to spread credit around, spending sections praising all of those who have either helped his career along the way, or those who helped him build the Royals to a championship team. He stresses the importance of hiring good people and delegating, relying on strong leadership throughout the organization. The book is not quite a hagiography either, with Dayton admitting a few mistakes, such as a blowup at an employee, when he was too tough on a team he was coaching, or his frustration with criticism in the early years with the Royals.
To be honest, my expectations for the book were rather low, especially after the lousy experience reading the autobiography of former Royals General Manager John Schuerholz. I expected baseball and management clichés intertwined with self-congratulations. And why shouldn't expectations be low? You wouldn't expect Ernest Hemingway to know how to run a baseball team, so why should Dayton Moore be expected to write a good book?
Instead what I found was a interesting book - part biography, part organizational management guide, part spiritual guide. Usually, the latter two would not be of any interest to me, but Dayton had a pretty good way of using his story to spin some practical advice without using trendy business jargon or beating you over the head with church homilies.
For example, one of his favorite Bible verses is Philippians 2:3-4, which can be read as "don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." This seems to be Dayton's mantra in life - be a nice guy, help others out, and good things will happen in your life. It got him to the top of his profession, so perhaps there is something to that.
Dayton Moore's book isn't ground-breaking material, but it is an interesting story that Royals junkies will enjoy. It is an easy read with some good homespun advice. There are of course, some clichés about heart and never giving up, but ultimately it is a good book about leading by example, working together, and believing in each other.