Home > Dayton Moore > The Rise and Fall of the Dayton Empire, Part VII

The Rise and Fall of the Dayton Empire, Part VII

When I last left off this run through recent Royals history, the team had just acquired Yuniesky Betancourt to solidify the shortstop position. At the time, the trade looked bad. Really bad. It only got worse. From his first game as a Royal through the end of the season, Betancourt batted .240/.269/.370 which would have been perfectly adequate as a defensive minded shortstop in the 1980s. The only two problems with that were that it was 2009 and Betancourt was beyond terrible defensively.

Enough about Betancourt, though…for now. Royals fans had reason to cheer as yesterday’s blog topic, Alex Gordon had returned from his hip injury on the same day that Betancourt made his Kansas City debut. A whole new left side of the infield had emerged. While the season was down the toilet at this point, at least we had some new blood (or familiar, but new in the case of Gordon). Well, as we discussed yesterday and as you know as fans of the team, neither player really provided much help.

As you might recall, Gordon’s replacement at third base was the man he replaced at third base when he came up in 2007, Mark Teahen. For some reason, we had never seen the power and ability that Teahen showed in 2006. Some believed that it might have been a result of him no longer being on third base. That fire was fueled when, in Gordon’s absence, Teahen hit .298/.349/.461. That line isn’t that of an MVP candidate like we saw in 2006, but was definitely one you can live with at third base. When Gordon returned, Teahen went back to right field mostly and hit .237/.288/.351 the rest of the way with a penchant for the 4-3 putout.

The team had a reasonably strong September and October going 15-16* to avoid losing 100 games. But that was, of course, not the story of 2009. No, the story of 2009 was Zack Greinke. He put up one of the greatest pitching seasons of the young 21st century with an ERA of 2.16, 16 wins for a very bad team, over 240 strikeouts, tons of innings, very few walks. Every night you might get the chance to see something special.

*It’s pretty sad when there’s reason to celebrate a 15-16 record. I haven’t looked anything up, but I’d imagine that over the last decade or so, the Royals have had less .500 months than any team in baseball.

His two starts on August 25 and August 30 might have been the high point of his amazing season. Against the Indians on August 25, Greinke came out in complete command throwing every pitch for strikes and just generally baffling Indians hitters. As the strikeouts began to mount, the crowd could sense they were seeing something special, truly getting behind Zack as he was blowing away Indian after Indian. Soon, with his 14th strikeout of the night, we learned that he had tied Mark Gubicza (another #23…maybe only interesting to me). With that knowledge, strikeout #15 was a big deal to hungry fans who hadn’t had much to cheer about all season. When he got it, the crowd erupted and Greinke had that wry smile on his face that we had all grown to love.

The follow-up to that game was five days later in Seattle against Ryan Rowland-Smith, a lefty who always had the Royals number. Greinke breezed through the first 1-2-3, but got in a little trouble in the second allowing a hit and a walk. No runs crossed the plate, though, and that was the last time the Mariners had a baserunner. Greinke was about as good as he had ever been, posting a game score of 89. Obviously this was a very special season for Zack, but those two games stick in my mind as the highest points of an amazing season.

Of course, very little went right the rest of the season and they limped their way to a 65-97 season. After such a promising start, the team was terrible again and it was disappointing to the fans. Perhaps most disappointing, though, was the farm system. When Dayton Moore came into his position as general manager, he preached patience because the Royals had to build from within. To his credit, he was right, and he was also right about the fact that the Royals didn’t have much in the system when he arrived. His credo was draft projectable players, many from high school and to spend big on the draft in order to get players who may have slipped due to signability issues. This was a direct departure from the days of offering $1,000 signing bonuses only to players beyond the fifth round and was very welcome around these parts.

Only there was a problem. His first two first round draft picks, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, were struggling big time in the minors. Hosmer’s power had vanished along with his ability to hit for average. Moustakas, while still hitting for power, was doing very little. He was also predictably moved off shortstop to third base, which lowered his value as well. Those two were dropping on prospect rankings like nothing else. A few bright spots were prevalent in the system, but it seemed that we had two more first round busts on our hands.

The positives such as Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery were so far away that it hardly mattered. David Lough and Jordan Parraz had nice minor league seasons, but they weren’t the type of guys who could come up and bolster a franchise. Dayton Moore’s signature strength, building a farm system, was not looking so good for him. The man once thought to be the savior of a franchise was failing in almost every aspect that he could control.

The other giant black mark on the Dayton Moore tenure was his hiring of Trey Hillman. At the time, many believed it was a brilliant hire. Hillman had  been an excellent manager both in the Yankees farm system and in Japan for the Nippon Ham Fighters (that’s Nippon Ham with a nickname of Fighters, though a Ham Fighter would be cool) and had the pedigree to become a great manager. Only he was stuck in his ways, was brash to the media and didn’t appear to be a manager players enjoyed playing for. By the end of the 2009 season, it was clear to many that Hillman’s days would, or at least should, be numbered.

In 2009, everything that could go wrong for the Royals did go wrong. Many in the front office blamed the poor performance on injuries, and while they were right, it still wasn’t an excuse for the decisions that were made. With the minor league system continuing to flounder after three drafts and the Major League team making little to no progress, it’d take a huge year on at least one of those fronts for Dayton Moore to regain some of the trust the city and fan base had placed in him.

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  1. Patrick
    October 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Really enjoying this. I hope you keep writing rather frequently.

    Confession, I did not know it was Nippon Ham. I really thought their team name was a Ham Fighter. I didn’t know what a Ham Fighter was, but thought that was the team name.

  2. October 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks! I plan to try and write every weekday and sometimes even on the weekends. Glad you’re enjoying!

  1. November 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

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