Rany Jazayerli of Rany on the Royals fame wrote an article for Grantland during the All-Star break that discussed the Royals continued futility. In the article, Rany unearthed a quote
Supreme Leader General Manager Dayton Moore gave to MLB.com in 2010:
Look what Colorado did, look what Minnesota did, look what the New York Yankees did. It took the Yankees seven years. They committed to it in '89, and finally in '96 they won with homegrown guys. I'm not talking about getting to .500, I'm talking about winning the World Series when I say eight to 10 years.
It's amazing how dated a two-year old quote can look, but the idea of the Royals contending and winning the World Series in 2014 requires quite a bit of squinting and praying that the pitching staff issues will work themselves out by then. Moore then elaborated on the Minnesota point further:
To get your team in the playoffs, that's how long it takes. Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins had a well-built farm system, and they started in '94 when Terry took over, and for seven straight years they had 87 to 97 losses. In year eight, they were above .500, and in year nine they were in the playoffs. That's all I said. It just amazes me that guys don't do their own research.
As Rany correctly notes, the Ryan-led Twins were below .500 for six years before reaching the promise land of a winning baseball team. The end of Moore's quote inspired me, however, to do my own research, specifically involving General Managers at the helm of consistent losers. The question I proposed was this: How many General Managers have had as many consecutive losing seasons as Moore and then gone on to lead their team to a .500 record?
Dayton Moore was hired during the middle of the season in 2006, so it is unfair to count 06 against him. That said, if the Royals finish with a losing record this season (which seems a foregone conclusion at this point) Moore will have been in charge of six consecutive losing seasons. Baseball America has an impressive database of every team's General Manager since 1950. Using this database, I looked up every General Manager of the past sixty years to see how common it is for a General Manager to lose that consistently and keep his job.
If the Royals continue to lose this season, Dayton Moore will become the 13th General Manager in the past 60 years to lead a ballclub for six straight losing seasons. Out of the 12 before him, nine started their careers similar to Moore, posting six straight losing seasons to start their careers. Three other General Managers since 1950 lost six consecutive seasons, but they were not the first six full seasons of their careers. Although each individual General Manger had a unique situation, it is still worthwhile to examine the careers of the other 12 GM's to see if they ever made it to that .500 season. Much to my surprise (and I'm sure to your surprise as well) most of the General Managers who led a team for six consecutive losing seasons turned out be unsuccessful GM's.
Before moving forward, here is a table of the 12 General Managers who were in charge for six consecutive losing seasons.
*indicates that the six consecutive losing seasons were not the first six of the General Mangers career
Of the 12 General Mangers listed above, four (Geore Selkirk, Harry Dalton, Herk Robinson and Dave Littlefield) were fired following their sixth consecutive season losing. Dayton Moore's job does not appear to be in jeopardy, so these four GM's do not offer the best comparisons. Besides, we are more interested in if Dayton Moore can do the job moving forward, not if he has been bad enough to warrant a firing.
Two more of the GM's, Sal Bando and Jim Fanning, lost for a seventh consecutive season before being fired. Cam Bonifay and Chuck Lamar, remarkably, lead losing teams for two more seasons to reach eight consecutive losing seasons before being canned. I'm sure, however, they just needed more time.
John Holland drove the Cubs for six straight losing season before finally reaching 82-80 in season seven. The Cubs then returned to sub-.500 ball for the next three seasons before reeling of five straight winning seasons. Even during those five straight seasons, the Cubs never made the playoffs during Holland's tenure. The Cubs were under .500 for the final three seasons of Holland's 19-year career as General Manager.
To review, five of the eight general managers who survived season six never reached the playoffs, and four never led a team above a .500 winning percentage. That leaves Calvin Griffith, Dan O'Dowd and Terry Ryan as success stories.
Calvin Griffith was the Owner and GM of the Washington Senators, inheriting the team from his uncle Clark Griffith in 1955. Griffith oversaw the final five terrible seasons in Washington before moving the team to Minnesota for the 1961 season. The Twins were below .500 their first season in Minnesota as well before the Griffith led team had nine strong season. From 1962-1970, the Twins posted winning records seven of the nine seasons and made the playoffs three times. Griffith continued to run the team for the next 14 seasons; the Twins never made the playoffs in his final 14 seasons in charge, and had more sub-.500 records than winning seasons.
The Rockies went 82-80 Dan O'Dowd's first season, but then had a losing record for six consecutive seasons. The Rockies then won 90 games in O'Dowd's eight season, making the World Series in 2007 before losing to the Red Sox. O'Dowd's Rockies, however, have been inconsistent winners. In 12 full seasons as General Manger, O'Dowd has had a winning team four times, made the playoffs twice, and the Rockies appear well on their way to a ninth losing season with O'Dowd in charge.
Terry Ryan, in my opinion, has had the most successful career out of these 12 GM's and has clearly the best (one could even argue the only "good") path for Moore to mimic in the future. Ryan was at the helm for six straight losing seasons, but then presided over six straight winning seasons as well. The Twins made the playoffs four times during that six year stretch, losing once in the Championship Series and three times in the Divison Series.
Although this was a simplistic exercise with a simple conclusion, I think it is worth pointing out that General Managers who lead a team to six straight losing seasons generally are not good General Mangers. Even though some of the General Mangers who lost for six seasons ended up having successful stretches as well, there are no World Series rings amongst the group I just mentioned. World Series rings are not the only way to measure success, but it is worth pointing on his current eight to 10 year plan, Moore could become the first General Manager to record six sub-.500 seasons and win the World Series.
At 13 games under .500, the Royals are just "two good weeks away" from reaching the break-even point, so there is a chance this article is rendered moot. I'll take my chances, however, that Dayton Moore will become the 13th member of this exclusive club. The better question for Royals fans, however is this: Are you willing to bet on Dayton Moore bucking the trend and turning into a successful General Manager despite his track record?