Let’s begin with a question: how big of a playoff drought are you willing to endure?
The Kansas City Royals last made the playoffs in 2015. They made the playoffs in 2014 as well. But before that, the last time they made the playoffs was 29 years earlier, in 1985. Royals fans, rightfully, did not enjoy that, which is to put it rather mildly. No fandom should have to endure almost three decades of such complete incompetence.
So how big of a playoff drought are you willing to endure? Kansas City isn’t making the playoffs this year. Not with the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, and the New York Yankees as young, excellent teams with considerable depth, not with the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels making interesting pushes themselves.
Besides; Kansas City is cutting payroll and rebuilding. Let’s say they don’t make the playoffs next year. That’s reasonable. Then, 2020 will represent a five-year playoff drought.
Except the Royals’ farm system is totally bare. Baseball America did not rank a single Royals prospect among their Top 100 for next year. And they didn’t have anybody ranked among Baseball America’s Top 100 last year, either. And last year’s midseason update yielded, you guessed it, no Royals in the Top 100.
So it will probably take a few more years, considering that Kansas City needs to build their farm system from nothing. Maybe 2021? 2022? How does a six, seven-year playoff drought sound to you? What if there’s a hitch, somebody gets injured, or the Royals succumb to some unlucky timing? 2023? 2024? 2025? Eight, nine, ten years before another playoff experience?
This is just speculation, granted, but baseball is at least somewhat predictable: it takes years for a team to properly rebuild. Drafted players percolate in the minors before they are ready; this isn’t like the NBA where you can draft Ben Simmons and therefore instantly acquire one of the best point guards in the league that very season.
At minimum, we’re looking at a six-year playoff drought. Theo Epstein, one of baseball’s greatest general managers, took control of the Chicago Cubs in October of 2011, and they participated in the playoffs four years later to the month. Jeff Luhnow stepped in as Houston Astros General Manager in December 2011, and the Astros made the playoffs in 2015.
But Moore didn’t take four years to get to the playoffs. Rather, it took him eight. Moore was installed as GM in 2006, and the Royals made the playoffs in 2014. If it takes Moore another eight years to rebuild the team, we’re looking at 2025 as the next Royals playoff appearance.
The whole ‘World Champions’ thing is still relatively new, but it’s important to remember that most coaches and general managers in professional sports are eventually fired; winning a championship does not make you immune. Two of the GMs of World Series teams in the 00s were eventually fired—Larry Beinfest of the Florida/Miami Marlins and Walt Jocketty of the St. Louis Cardinals. Another, Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Philadelphia Phillies, served as Assistant General Manager for their 2008 championship run and was fired less than a decade into his term as full GM.
Royals fans have lived through a generational drought. They will refuse to suffer another one. When your middle school-aged kid graduates from college and moves away to grad school and there still isn’t October baseball at Kauffman Stadium, what happened in 2015 will feel worlds away.
Moore is not even guaranteed to bring the Royals back to the promised land again. It’s lost a bit in the playoff success had by the Royals, but it really should not take eight years to build a playoff team. Four, five, six, maybe. Eight? Few processes in sports are given eight years to pan out, even fewer are successes.
Besides; professional sports are always on the cutting edge; what worked ten years ago in each of the NBA, MLB, and NFL do not work today. Moore’s construction of an elite-fielding team with a lockdown bullpen is no longer creative, but standard. The loophole allowing the Royals to offer huge signing bonuses to players in the draft has been closed. Moore’s last half dozen top draft picks couldn’t have possibly been less successful had that been their intent.
And what about Moore’s achilles heel that came up time and time again during the rebuild? The propensity to offer money and playing time to marginal non-prospects or veterans like Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Jacobs, Jason Kendall, Willie Bloomquist, Chris Getz, Jose Guillen, or Scott Podsednik?
Alcides Escobar's deal with the Royals is for $2.5 million.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 26, 2018
Dayton on Esky's role: "He'll play Shortstop. Mondy, although he had a breakout year in AAA, there's still some questions with durability. We need to see that but he'll get an opportunity to compete at second base again. If he doesn't win a job, he'll be back at AAA to develop."— 610 Sports Radio- KC (@610SportsKC) January 26, 2018
Look: Moore built the Last Great Royals Team. He did a fantastic job, and flags fly forever. Moore deserves all the credit in the world for it. May we celebrate Hosmer’s Mad Dash forever. Amen.
Moore certainly might build the Next Great Royals Team. I don’t think anybody would be particularly surprised. But that is no guarantee.
Just imagine this: the year is 2022. Alex Gordon has retired. Danny Duffy plays for the New York Yankees. Concussions forced Salvador Perez off catcher like they did for Joe Mauer. Whit Merrifield plays for the St. Louis Cardinals. Alcides Escobar took all of Raul Mondesi’s playing time at shortstop in 2018 and 2019, and Kansas City traded him away for a sack of potatoes and a player to be named later.
It has been seven years since the Royals made the playoffs. Kansas City limps through September and ends with 91 losses after hopes of winning the division.
That might not happen. But that is far, far more likely to happen than you or I are probably comfortable with.
How big of a playoff drought are you willing to endure?