Hours before the Royals on Tuesday began the final home stand of this era of franchise history, general manager Dayton Moore sat in the modest fourth-level suite overlooking Kauffman Stadium.
As the architect of an overhaul that now will require a renovation, Moore could gaze over the field with deep appreciation of from where this organization rose to reach the pinnacle in 2015.
Even as Moore half-seriously joked he was trying to dance around the looming flux ahead, he was acutely conscious of the substantial changes that await because of the economics of the game.
While it’s unclear who will or won’t be back among the key free agents, including four who were at the very core of a revival, it’s understood that the Royals won’t be able (or willing) to sign them all, and uncertain how any one deal might affect others.
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Yet this was no sad scene for Moore.
For one thing, he has an abiding passion to recreate the thrill all over again — to the point where some in the organization believe he’s more energized than ever.
And this time around he will start with the credibility and template and foundation beneath him that will make that pursuit far more feasible than the one he began virtually from scratch in 2006 — with barren resources and inadequate players and negative gravitational pull.
“You get excited for the next wave of players, the next generation,” he said. “And you try to do it better, and you want to learn from your mistakes and raise the next generation of Royals.
“And so that’s where our minds and our energies will soon (be directed), and it will be invigorating.”
But frustrations of the last two seasons notwithstanding, Moore also is upbeat because he sees nothing to lament now … only things to cherish that will have enduring resonance.
“Many of these players were labeled as ‘can’t-miss’ major-league players,” he said. “And we saw how they almost missed at times. And we wondered, even in the minor leagues, if they were going to reach their potential.
“And then they make it to the major leagues, and they have some success. And then there’s some regression. Or they don’t have success right away. Their stories are all different, but that’s what makes baseball special.
“So it’s very rewarding to see what everybody’s accomplished. We’ll always celebrate that. We’ll forever remember.”
At least in the near-term, it will be easier to remember ones who stay planted. But there will be many variables with each free agent, (Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jason Vargas), not to mention the cumulative complications.
For instance, there is a school of thought that Hosmer is the priority, perhaps the singular one.
But can the Royals both pay him what he’d want and compel him to stay with a rebuilding franchise when he could be playing for a winner?
Toward getting an initial sense of the landscape, Moore has already begun sitting down with players. He’ll soon meet with some of their agents — as well as Royals owner David Glass and president Dan Glass, to discuss “economically where the payroll’s going to be and where we project our revenues” and “what we can perhaps do as we go forward.”
Which likely will be less than it’s been lately.
“Let’s face it, the last two years, we haven’t made the playoffs, and we’ve had the highest payroll in the history of the Kansas City Royals … and it hasn’t worked,” Moore said. “So it’s ultimately my responsibility to examine why and make better decisions going forward.
“But also there is an economic side of this, and I certainly don’t want to be in the business of losing Mr. Glass a lot of money. That’s the bottom line -- (though) he’s always been extremely supportive, he’s a wonderful man to work with and to work for.”
So all Moore, or any of us, can really know now is that autumn has arrived for these particular boys of summer.
And with that, it’s a time to pause and bask in the seasons of life every one of us has shared somehow in this.
“We’re all forever attached,” Moore said.
He thought about getting to know the families of prospective players like Hosmer and Moustakas and others who became pillars of all that would unfold.
“We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses. We’ve watched them grow as men. We’ve watched (some of them) being their lives in marriage and have children and become fathers,” he said. “Along the way, it’s very fulfilling. …
“And we’ve experienced the top of the mountain, and we’ve experienced the lows of the low — on the field and off the field.”
Here, Moore thought of the death of Yordano Ventura in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 22.
It has permeated him more in recent weeks, he said, calling it “the most powerful thing to happen to any us since I’ve been here. Not winning a world championship but just being a part of that tragedy and whatever way we felt to manage that personally.
“But we were all a part of that.”
Moore doesn’t mean just people in the organization when he says this.
He means everyone who loves the Royals and in the area, really, where he came in 2006 thinking, “I’d rather win one year in Kansas City than have the opportunity to win every single year in some of these other markets.”
Achieving that was part of why this group will never really be gone, why out of sight won’t be out of mind — and why Moore can only wish them all well wherever they end up.
“We want what’s best for our players, and whether this group remains in Kansas City or a portion of them remain in Kansas City or they go on to play for another team, we still get to follow then, we still get to embrace what they do and celebrate what they do going forward,” he said. “And we have several of these players, you know full well they will be in the Royals Hall of Fame at some point in time.”
But it’s not just that you won’t forget them — and any number of players will attest to this.
“When you begin your career in a certain place … and then have the type of success that they’ve had and enjoyed and the types of relationships that they have with one another, the coaching staff, the front office, the media, the fans, it’s the most special thing that they’ll ever experience professionally,” Moore said “They’ll never forget that. They’ll always have Kansas City first in their hearts, and I guarantee you they’ll prove that as their careers continue.”
He added, “When you make yourself a part of somebody else’s lives, somebody else’s life, it makes the journey much more fulfilling, doesn’t it?”