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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Moore has Royals pointed in right direction

Moore has Royals pointed in right direction

Moore has Royals pointed in right direction

If you congratulate Royals general manager Dayton Moore on his two-year contract extension, he'll shift the conversation to others.

Moore will tell you how his bosses, team owner David Glass and team president Dan Glass, have been so supportive in giving him both the resources and the time to build a first-rate baseball operation.

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At a time when almost no one is patient anymore, in fact, at a time when patience has become something of a dirty word in sports, David Glass has allowed Moore to execute his vision of what the Royals could be.

Glass understood that with a lower payroll and a dependence on player development, the Royals weren't going to be transformed overnight. He also understood that when the Royals were good again, they'd have a chance to be good for a long time.

That time seems to be now. That's what last season's 86-76 record announced. The Royals didn't make the playoffs, but their best record in 24 years was a significant step in that direction.

They had the American League's best record after the All-Star break (43-27), and with a young, homegrown nucleus built around Eric Hosmer, Greg Holland, Salvador Perez and others, the Royals are really, really close.

Kansas City led the Major Leagues in ERA and stolen bases and had the AL's best bullpen in 23 years. The Royals will go to Spring Training confident that some of their homegrown starting pitchers -- Danny Duffy, Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura -- are about to force their way onto the roster.

The Royals' signing of veteran left-hander Jason Vargas and pursuit of free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran indicate that Moore is pushing his chips onto the table for 2014. He moved in that direction last offseason with the trade of top prospect Wil Myers for James Shields and Wade Davis.

Beltran is being pursued by the Yankees and others, so the bidding may go beyond what the Royals are comfortable with. On the other hand, does returning to the team with which he began his career hold some appeal?

That's the interesting call. If Beltran looks around, he'll barely recognize the organization he left in a trade to the Astros midway through the 2004 season. From the moment Moore was hired two years after that trade, things began to change and dramatically.

The Royals aren't better than the Tigers in the AL Central at the moment, but things can change quickly. They're a club still counting on a bunch of young players continuing to progress, and that kind of thing can go both ways.

But the Royals are in a great spot. After Moore watched his team lose at least 90 games in six of his first seven seasons, he must have had trouble seeing progress at times. In the lowest times, he simply returned to his core beliefs that he had surrounded himself with competent people and that sometimes progress comes an inch at a time.

What Glass saw was that he had a general manager of wisdom and integrity, a general manager who would eventually get it right. Sometimes, the toughest thing in the world is not to make changes and to ignore the noise from outside.

Moore did that himself last summer when he refused all those calls to dismiss manager Ned Yost. There's a time in baseball to change the voice the players are hearing, but as long as they're playing hard and as long as there's a cohesive clubhouse, change for change sake does nothing except shut up the people who don't know what they're talking about anyway.

Anyway, back to Moore. The general manager got the vote of confidence he deserved, but Moore seems genuinely happy for all the people he convinced to join him in this quest. That's why he's effusive in his praise of his front office staff, of assistant general manager Dean Taylor and the others, and how hard they've worked to get the Royals to this point. Then Moore will tell you about all those scouts and instructors and all the great things they've done.

Moore will tell you that last season was terribly disappointing because 86-76 didn't get the Royals back to the postseason, so there's still work to be done. He badly wanted it to happen in 2013 after the confidence David and Dan Glass showed in him and after 1.75 million showed up at Kauffman Stadium.

Moore knows that October baseball will be every bit as spectacular in Kansas City as it was in Pittsburgh. That's the day Moore's still working for, the day he's hoping to sell Beltran on.

But Moore's also proud in how far the Royals have come and wants to be there for the next step. And that's why he's so happy about the confidence his bosses have shown in him.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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