Gondor, for much of the Lord of the Rings story, especially the films, was mythic. By Gondor's power, the evil lord Sauron was slain. It was the birthplace of Boromir, one of the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn, another member of the Fellowship, was the heir to the throne of Gondor. His return would mean the return of the glory of old, when the race of men stood strong against evil, a shining beacon, a white tree on a hill. But until, if ever, the king would return, Lord Denethor reigned. Denethor was a Steward of Gondor, the unquestioned ruler--but only a steward, the overall situation resembling one of Jesus' parables in the New Testament.
Don't worry - this is related to baseball. I promise.
Anyway, back to Gondor.
Gondor's mythic status, and its reality, were a large part of The Return of the King. For two long films, Gondor was the last bastion of hope, the source of power for the good guys. And its glory was evident--but so was its decay. Denethor, played excellently by the talented John Noble, was clearly a reason why Gondor was still strong.
But Denethor's line of stewards was also responsible for much of Gondor's decay, Denethor himself a big part of it. Nuance is necessary for leadership, and even the most straightforward leaders rarely have a legacy without complexity.
When Dayton Moore decided to just sort of sit around at the trade deadline, I thought of two things. The first thing I thought was, "This is boring." All the trade rumors and potential energy gets us all hot and bothered, and with no outlet for that energy the whole thing leaves fans unsatisfied and oddly limp.
The second thing, I thought, was that Moore is doing a fantastic Denethor impression here.
Now, let's be clear; this is not a one-to-one comparison. The Lord of the Rings features orcs and dragon-riding mace-wielding undead who can be conquered by a linguistic loophole. If you think that's similar to baseball, then I would like to ask you a few basic questions about things such as 'nouns' and 'life.' And yet--Moore's current predicament is quite like Denethor's.
Back to Gondor.
The stewards' position as keepers of the throne until a true king claimed the throne affected their ruling. The stewards were concerned with the past, as they were keepers of the past rather than the ones to pave the road to the future.
Denethor's pride blinded him to what was really happening in the films. None of this was more evident than his reaction to his son, Faramir. Denethor sent Faramir to his death and, when Faramir's horse returned him alive, Denethor could not cope. Denethor was in denial about the forces attempting to dethrone him and take his crown.
Instead of swallowing his pride and realizing that a new way was needed, Denethor continued down his path, ultimately attempting to burn his son and him as a tribute to the pyres of the kings of old. The problem with his plan being that, ah, Denethor and Faramir were alive.
Dayton Moore is not Denethor,* and has not burned anybody alive. That much is obvious.
But let's take a look: a proud and good leader cleaved too closely to the things which made the past great, the leader unable to forge a new path for themselves and their constituents, doing so despite all the evidence telling them that something was different and wrong. Am I describing Denethor or Moore?
Last night, the Royals lost (again) by a large amount (again), unable to score (again) while their starter labored (again) while giving up lots of home runs (again). The Royals' run differential, a good indicator on how good a team is beyond their win-loss record, is deeply negative. The Royals are almost 10 games back from the last Wild Card spot, and they have to leapfrog five teams to grab the one-game playoff.
Meanwhile, Moore holds onto his pieces as all the evidence tells him that things are going south. His first path has been completed. He elevated the Royals to, well royalty.
But all good things must come to an end. In baseball, that means pivoting from winning to a rebuild. This is something that Moore is not at all interested in doing.
"Wins are very important, and that’s how we’ve always tried to conduct our business," Moore said. "We’ve never tried to build for the future in a way that would lessen our major-league team and put us in a position where we're losing or have no chance to win games.
"So we just felt that we trust our players; they've done an outstanding job getting to us to a point [where] we've won, and we want to give them a chance to dig back out of this mess that we're in."
Next year, the Royals will likely have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Their core will be closer to 30 than 20, and their core will be more expensive than ever. Key players will leave, and there aren't many options to fill their spots.
No one wants to admit it, but the glory days are behind this team. Moving on might be the best option.