COLUMN: Royals’ improvement should be credited to front office


    It’s been 24 years since the Kansas City Royals have seen the post-season.
    The glory days for a once-powerful franchise – highlighted by the famous “I-70 Series” in 1985 – are becoming distant memories for the diminished fan base. For my generation, they’re nothing more than stories.
    However, for those that are still brave enough to call themselves fans, more than two decades of disappointment seem to finally be coming to an end.
    When former General Manager Allard Baird arrived in Kansas City in 2000, youth became the theme of the franchise. Countless veterans were traded away for prospects – a dreaded word for Royals faithful – and the chaos began.
    Baird had the right idea, but didn’t have the funds to carry it out. The early stages of his “youth movement” seemed to work as players like Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran developed into top-notch talent. But new owner David Glass, historically a penny-pincher by Major League Baseball standards, wouldn’t increase the team’s payroll enough to afford skilled players. The homegrown talent was traded away for minor leaguers and mediocre veterans.
    For nearly seven seasons the franchise was like a broken record. During that span, the Royals averaged nearly 96 losses per season and, with the exception of the surprising 83-79 finish in 2003, ended every year dead last in the AL Central. Exit Baird and enter Dayton Moore.
    Moore, formerly a scouting director in the Atlanta Braves organization, assumed the duties of GM midway through the 2006 season. Like Baird, Moore came to Kauffman stadium with the idea that a successful team should be built around a core of young talent, but he did it right.
    The Wichita native brilliantly signed young free agents like Gil Meche, who became the ace of the pitching staff, traded unproductive veterans for younger (and more talented) players like Brian Bannister (one of the league’s top rookies in 2007), and utilized the draft to perfection — see Joakim Soria, one of the best closers in the league. Also, don’t forget the talent that the team has produced within its own organization, players like slugger Alex Gordon and pitcher Zack Greinke.
    Most importantly, Moore has convinced Glass to spend the money to keep the talent in Kansas City. For instance, Soria was given a contract extension through 2014 and Greinke, arguably the Royals’ most talented pitcher, was recently locked up through 2012. Unlike his predecessor, Moore understood that the franchise was doomed to the Major League cellar unless he could get the owner to fork over the dough.
    Less than two seasons after joining the club, Moore has already laid the foundation and improvement is becoming evident. The team he inherited in 2006 went 62-100. The 2008 squad won 13 more games and was better in nearly every statistical category. And for the record, last year’s team had an average age of 28 years, which is 1.7 years younger than in 2006.
    The numbers don’t lie. The team is getting better each year. Don’t order your World Series tickets just yet, but get ready, Royals fans. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and it’s been a long time coming.

Justin Nutter is a junior in print journalism. Please send comments to