Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger bent over backward, and squinted his hardest, in order to give Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore a chance to explain. And, perhaps, Mellinger accomplished his mission.
Regardless, Moore's comment at a season-ending press conference Tuesday — that, "In a small way, I feel like we won the World Series" — still rings on, like a gong to the eardrum.
In Moore's seventh season as GM, the Royals had their best results in a long time, but still went 86-76 and finished 5 1/2 games out of the wild card. In some years, maybe that gets you a playoff spot and then, after a bit of luck and some hot baseball, you win the actual World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals come to mind after winning 83 games in 2006.
But Major League Baseball is not like it was in 1985, the last time the Royals made the playoffs, when four teams total got into the postseason tournament. In the old AL West, of which Kansas City was a part in '85, winning 86 games would have got you 10 games out of first place and a third-place finish. In that sense, the Royals weren't much closer to winning this season.
But Mellinger, uncynically looking to soothe angry fans righteously wondering what Moore might have been smoking, gave it a shot in shaping Moore's comment:
“What I’m saying, I mean, look, ‘World Series’ is the wrong term,” he says. “But I feel very, very good about where our organization is. It means a lot to me. You have to know how I’m wired. The only reason I’m a general manager is that this is my boyhood team. It’s a special place for me.…
“I had a strong relationship with my grandmother, and she loved the Royals. When our games are on at night, I picture my grandmother and people of her generation loving and tuning into this game. I know how important it is to their lives.…
“And it means a lot to me that little boys want to grow up and be baseball players so they can be like Sal Perez or Eric Hosmer. That means a lot to me. That means everything to me. That means more to me than winning a World Series.”
There’s that term again. World Series. I ask if he really means that.
“Without a doubt.”
I tell him I want to quote him on that.
“Yeah. Without a doubt. I want to win a World Series, and I expect us to compete to win a World Series. So that needs to be printed as well. But it means a lot to me that our fans are engaged with the team and love baseball.”
Of course, in the Star's comment section, several readers — using the term loosely — somehow came to the conclusion that Mellinger was being negative. All he was doing was giving the benefit of the doubt to Moore, again, for an eighth year.
Moore's story about grandma and crying men is touching emotionally, if you let it be. Any GM's main focus should be winning the World Series, but even the best teams don't do it every season. Being in position to win every season, really, is the best any fan can hope for. But if the Royals aren't tangibly closer to winning next season, then Mellinger won't be writing in quite the same way about how Dayton Moore loved his grandmother.