Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Sour Time"

I didn't want to write this post.

Despite the name of this blog, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to take a four-month hiatus and come back in September and simply write: "I was wrong." As little as a week ago I had plans of writing a, "Sure things are bad, but here's a silver lining..." post. That's not happening.

I know there are still Dayton Moore defenders out there. I don't know how they manage to get their cereal poured into their bowls in the morning, let alone the milk.

The Royals are not a good baseball team. After managing to keep their heads above water during a challenging April schedule, they're now 5 games below .500 despite just completing the most lenient 13-game stretch of games they could have asked for. They won't see the plus side of .500 again until 2014. Hopefully. The Royals are a fourth place team, as I predicted in March, and they'll likely finish pitifully behind third-place Chicago, an aged team well past its prime. The Royals are not a good baseball team. There is no immediate help primed and ready on the farm. Dayton Moore is to blame.

He almost got me

If you're reading this, you're likely a Royals fan. One who understands a special form of hope. So when I read a week ago about the Royals being the frontrunners to sign possibly the best baseball talent Europe has ever produced, Marten Gasparini, I felt a twinge of that special kind of hope.

During Moore's reign as Royals GM he's done an admirable job unearthing talent. Or at least that's what I thought.

To Moore's credit, and with the support of David Glass, he beefed up the Royals scouting, spending and developing in Latin America. Perhaps the most notable signing was Cuban pitcher Noel Arguelles, who cost the Royals $7 million over five years. At the moment has a 6.07 ERA, 4.6 K/9 rate and 6.9 BB/9 rate in Double-A at age 23. He will never sniff Kansas City.

Moore has dipped his toes in Japan, notably signing Yasuhiko Yabuta to a two-year, $5.5 million deal that saw him post a 7.14 ERA in 43 appearances as a Royal. He was washed up before he stepped foot in Kansas City.

Given the Royals' futility, Moore has had the opportunity time and time again to show off his keen eye for amateur talent in the draft. In seven* drafts, Moore has drafted Luke Hochevar (2006), Mike Moustakas (2007), Eric Hosmer (2008), Aaron Crow (2009), Christian Colon (2010), Bubba Starling (2011) and Kyle Zimmer (2012) in the first round.

*I've said it once, I'll say it again: Moore was either incredibly irresponsible in not having a say in the Hochevar pick, letting someone else decide on the No. 1 pick for a franchise he'd just been hired to run, or sorely incompetent in selecting Hochevar on his own while the Royals protected him from having any responsibility for the pick.

For those of you scoring at home, that's two failed starting pitchers now serving as middle relievers. That's two corner infielders who have combined for five home runs this season and a 1.223 OPS if you add both of theirs together. Miguel Cabrera has 14 home runs and a 1.141 OPS by himself thus far. That's a second baseman (drafted as a shortstop) who, despite having the good sense to sign right away and begin his pro career, has just now become a full-time player at Triple-A at age 24 and he isn't close to beating out Chris Getz** any time soon. That's an outfielder who at this point has a better shot of starting at quarterback for Nebraska than reaching Double-A. And that's a pitcher who is all but doomed to fall prey to the Royals' shoddy pitching development.

**More on Getz later.

Meanwhile, with the advantage of hindsight, the Royals could have instead drafted Evan Longoria/Clayton Kershaw/Tim Lincecum/Max Scherzer (2006), Matt Wieters/Madison Bumgarner/Jason Heyward (2007), Buster Posey (2008), Shelby Miller/Kyle Gibson/MIKE TROUT/Nick Franklin/Tyler Skaggs (2009), Matt Harvey/Chris Sale/Christian Yelich (2010) and Archie Bradley/Francisco Lindor/Javier Baez/Jose Fernandez (2011)***. I'll reserve judgement on last year's draft for now. Of course, all of this supposes the Royals actually could have developed the players on this list similar to the teams that actually drafted them. A leap of faith if there ever was one.

***2011 was an insanely stacked draft. In retrospect, the Royals didn't need to take a project like Starling with so many seemingly can't-miss prospects.

Ned's dead, baby

At this point, I bet Ned Yost doesn't even know why he's still a Major League manager. Now that I think about it, any organization that thinks it's a good idea to hire a guy who was fired amid a pennant race as their manager might be lacking some essential decision-making abilities.

I don't want to spend too much time on Ned because it's blatantly clear to anyone whose ever touched the laces of a baseball that he's clueless even when it comes to the very few things a manager can do to impact a baseball game. But his latest blunder is his blind, irrational belief that Chris Getz belongs anywhere near the top of a batting order.

Look, I don't think batting order makes much difference on overall run production over the course of a season. Especially on a team that doesn't hit home runs. The Royals are going to have to manufacture runs one way or another, so the order in which their hitters string together singles and doubles (because lord knows they don't draw walks) doesn't really matter. A leadoff hitter is really only guaranteed to lead off an inning once a game.

But I do believe a manager should use a batting order to get his best hitters the most at bats possible. In less than a month, Yost has gone from having his best hitter lead off to having his absolute worst hitter atop the lineup.

Yes, in theory it's a wonderful idea to hope a starting pitcher experiences temporary Parkinson's disease for eight pitches and walks Getz and Alcides Escobar to set the table for Gordon. In reality, Getz's .265 OBP and Escobar's .283 OBP means basically in three out of their four trips to the plate in a given game, they won't be reaching base ahead of Gordon. It means, at best, Gordon will get as many plate appearances at Getz and Escobar, but never more, unless you pinch hit for your one- or two-hole hitters, of course.

It means, once opposing pitchers reach the bottom of the Royals' lineup, they have the advantage of knowing it gets easier when they get to the top of the order, so Gordon will likely have to ignite a two-out rally or lead off an inning with nobody on, just an inning later. It means, Yost is banking on Getz and Escobar synchronizing their one hit for the day to give Gordon RBI opportunities. It means Yost lacks even a basic understanding of rudimentary statistics, let alone advanced statistics.

I know Yost can only do so much with the players he's given to work with at second base, right field and in the bullpen, but he doesn't have to make a mockery of the Royals lineup. And from what I've heard, Yost and Moore are like this (imagine me interlocking my middle and index fingers tightly).

You are the company you keep and Moore's relationship with Yost is yet another red flag on his resumé. But I'm not too concerned about Moore firing Yost because I have no faith he'll find a better manager to replace him. No faith whatsoever.

No self-awareness

The Royals received their fair share of criticism last year for their "Our Time" campaign. But seeing how the All-Star Game was in Kansas City, I can see how it made sense. A better phrase probably could have been conjured, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a small misstep. Far less offensive than this portion of Royals broadcasting history, to be sure:

But when Moore shipped of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard for James Shields, Wade Davis and a bag of balls in the form of Elliot Johnson, that was Moore's way of signifying this is "Our Time" from the Royals' perspective.

I am a devoted listener to all of Baseball Prospectus' podcasts and I highly respect Jason Parks' opinions, so it was with great pain I heard him defend the Shields trade on last week's episode. And I see where he's coming from. Myers isn't lighting the world on fire. Odorizzi will never be a top of the rotation arm. Montgomery and Leonard will probably never have their cups of coffee.

However, Davis is likely just an older, more expensive version of Odorizzi and Johnson's cup of coffee is just about empty. So that just leaves Shields, who will be leaving after the 2014 season. He's pitched great through 10 starts, far exceeding my expectations based on his career splits. But the season is already lost. What difference is Shields going to make that he hasn't already? He's just a big fish in a small pond now.

Maybe Myers will never reach his potential. Maybe Shields will be part of a winning club in 2014. Or maybe Moore or whoever replaces him will be able to deal Shields for a young right fielder/second baseman. But I'm not holding my breath.

There's only one post I want to write at this point. Tic, tic, tic...

Fire Dayton Moore

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