The 2015 World Series victory was a momentous occasion in the history of the Kansas City Royals. In the team’s 46-year span, it was only the second World Series win. And in the context of Kansas City sports, it loomed even larger, as it represented only the third ever championship for the city from any team in the Big Four sports leagues.
So it is with no surprise that the gravity of that season and the legendary status that those involved in the 2014 and 2015 playoff runs achieved has reverberated to this day. When you close your eyes and picture Billy Butler, you probably don’t think of his 2010 campaign when he put up a .388 OBP and only struck out 11.5% of the time. No; you probably picture him in the 2014 ALDS stealing second base, popping up, and revving his hands in the Jarrod Dyson celebration with a gigantic grin on his face.
Such was also the case for the coaches, front office executives, and even ownership. Manager Ned Yost was testy with reporters and made enough poor decisions that a national newspaper gleefully called him a dunce. Six full seasons after general manager Dayton Moore took over, the Royals had made so little on-field progress that they only managed three more wins than they did in his first full season at the job. And owner David Glass, well, let’s just say that he was such a cheapskate that he torpedoed a team friendly extension for Hall of Fame candidate Carlos Beltran because he wanted to save an additional $1 million.
But those pennants? They changed everything. Yost’s number will almost assuredly be retired. Moore became the architect of a championship run. Glass’ legacy is that of an owner who brought the World Series trophy to Kansas City. And ultimately, as long as Moore and the front office remained in charge, the specter of those achievements lingered behind every Royals season, behind every transaction, behind every decision.
As time went on and the Royals kept losing, a schism opened up between two camps, a tear that developed at different widths and at different times. On one side were those who wanted to give Moore and company the benefit of the doubt, those who pointed out that winning a World Series in a small market was a gigantic achievement that still mattered. On the other side were those who argued that Moore’s decision making and the organization’s philosophies were not going to work a second time even though they resulted in playoff teams in the past.
One thing that was true about both sides? The context of the World Series runs was inescapable. It was either a “yes, and” or a “yes, but,” and you couldn’t extricate any discussion of the Royals without it looming in the background.
In any case, the schism grew and grew and grew until it figuratively ripped the organization apart. Moore’s comments on September 18 were the perfect microcosm of the disagreement. With the team 31 games under .500 and barreling towards 100 losses for the third time in five seasons, Moore lashed out at reporters who dared to provide insight as to why the Royals were so bad and declared, “We’re not disappointed one bit. We are really excited about where we are.” And though fewer and fewer people remained on his side, Moore’s supporters were still out there.
Whether those comments were or weren’t a factor in new owner John Sherman’s decision, it doesn’t really matter: a few days later, Sherman fired Moore. Sherman’s press conference was a tour de force in leadership where Sherman laid out a cohesive vision for the club, what results he wanted, and how he expected to get there. As for the reasons why he fired Moore, they boiled down to not enough progress and not enough winning.
But the most important part of the press conference was in the framing of Moore’s past achievements. The key word: past achievements. Sherman’s evaluation of the club and of the club’s situation had to do with the here and now and the future. It was a shrewd and true assessment that baseball is a process driven and results driven game, and it was a declaration that the team wasn’t where it needed to be.
To put it another way, by firing Moore, Sherman ushered a new era to Kansas City, one that has yet to see a World Series victory in its back pocket. For the first time in forever, everyone’s on the same page, the page where the Royals are a bad team with a bunch of broken pieces to fix.
The 2014 and 2015 seasons had some of the wildest moments in Royals franchise history. Those playoff runs were everything that fans dreamed of, the type of story that could be told on the silver screen. But it is an objectively good thing to stop looking backwards. In the seven seasons since the Royals won the final game of the season, the Royals have struggled mightily while looking longingly back at those good memories.
Baseball, however, is different in 2022 than it was in 2012. The next great Royals team cannot consist of the same players as the last great Royals team, and therefore the Royals organization must look forward. No one will forget the mid-2010s Royals anytime soon. The difference? The weight of those teams no longer hangs around the organization’s shoulders as they try to recapture old glory—for there is new glory to find on the horizon.