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KC Royals clubhouse feels the sting of Dayton Moore’s firing


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Kansas City Royals’ Nicky Lopez slides across home plate as he scores from third off an MJ Melendez single during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

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Sure baseball in the big leagues is a business, and a business based around a game that most people start playing when they’re children.

Be that as it may, the emotions of the men inside the Kansas City Royals clubhouse included sadness and loss as a somber atmosphere hung in the air hours before Wednesday night’s game.

The Royals received the news that Dayton Moore had been dismissed as the president of baseball operations after 16 years in the organization. Moore had a hand in hiring, signing, drafting or acquiring every player, coach and staff member on the baseball side of the organization.

“There’s a heaviness whenever you have anybody that kind of leaves the family, but this is unique,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “I don’t know of a man that’s made a bigger impact on an organization and a culture, knowing what he has done in the community.

“A lot of people in leadership positions talk about the investments they make into people, and not just as coworkers, employees. But this man lived it out. So every single one of us have been beneficiaries of the character of Dayton Moore and the investment that he has made into us on the field and the investment that he has made in us, directly or not, as a person and as a man.”

For most of the players, Moore had been the only boss they’d ever known in this business. For others like Salvador Perez, the connection ran even deeper.

“I love him like a father,” Perez said. “It’s not about the contracts have gave me. He just taught me some things that my father didn’t have the opportunity to teach me. Dayton did it. I love him like a father. He’s the best.”

Perez, 32, has been a member of the Royals organization since 2006. He was one of the first international free agents signed by Moore and his front office regime.

Perez has gone from a relatively unknown teenager out of Venezuela to a central figure in back-to-back World Series runs in 2014 and 2015 and the MVP of the 2015 World Series to know the face of the franchise.

Perez was caught off guard and shocked when the news arrived that Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman had decided to make a change at the top of the baseball operations department.

“It’s hard,” Perez said. “I never expected that. I never thought that Dayton was going to leave the organization. He taught people the right way here. Now, we’re going to play for him and try to have another great (run) like we did in ‘14 and ‘15 for the city. I know Dayton is going to be proud of that.”

Moore’s fierce loyalty to his staff extended to the players in the organization, arguably to a fault in an industry that has seen rosters become more like revolving doors.

“It’s special here, very family-oriented,” Royals infielder Nicky Lopez said. “He really truly cared about the person.”

The personal connections Moore made and maintained with players remained evident with former players as well as current players. It showed in the reaction on Wednesday.

“Dayton is all we’ve known,” Lopez said. “A piece of us left today. … A piece that we’ve known our whole careers has left, so obviously it’s going to hurt. You’ve got to feel for the veterans like Sal. He’s all he has known. They won a World Series together, got to two World Series together. It’s tough times right now.”

Moore addressed the team following a press conference announcing his dismissal. Then Moore went around the room and said goodbye personally to every person, including staff and trainers, clubhouse personnel and players.

“Baseball is a business,” Lopez said before he paused and then added, “But yeah, this one stings.”

Moore’s longtime lieutenant J.J. Picollo will take over as the top official in the baseball operations department and the title of executive vice president and general manager.

“This has nothing to do with J.J.,” Lopez said. “We think highly of J.J. It stings because when a big piece of an organization leaves, obviously it’s going to sting.

“But J.J. has been there for me, personally. When I got sent down, it was me, (Alec Zumwalt) and J.J. in a room learning, teaching. So me and J.J. have a good relationship. Like John Sherman said and Dayton said, J.J. is ready for it. I’m assuming he’s ready for it.”

Sherman indicated that Picollo will likely make some changes within the organization, and Picollo will have final say over the major-league club as well as the player development system.

“JJ has been great to work with,” Matheny said. “We’ve had him on the road. We’ve done a lot of meetings here lately, just catching up as the season has drawn to an end, for me to listen to how the front office is evaluating and some of their thoughts and concerns, some of their ideas.

“He’s very easy to talk to. He’s got a great grasp of, not just the system, but the people in the system and some of the things we need to do to bring championship baseball back here.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.





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