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Who fired Trey Hillman, and what does it mean for the Royals?

May 14, 2010, 8:23 AM EDT

The dreaded vote of confidence. Trey Hillman got it just this past Monday when his GM, Dayton Moore, said this:

I think Trey’s done a terrific job . . . Trey is a tremendous leader. Somebody who is very consistent with who is he is day in and day out.
He’s exactly what our organization needs at this point in time.

I suppose technically speaking Monday was a different point in time than yesterday morning, so maybe things radically changed in Dayton Moore’s mind in the interim. I just kind of doubt it, though.  Something else is going on. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star says this was Moore’s decision, but really, it sounds to me like this was simply a matter of Moore being ordered to fire Hillman by the team’s owner, David Glass.

But let’s assume for a moment that Mellinger is right, and Moore did make the ultimate decision to fire Hillman. If so, what does that say about him as a general manager that his mind was changed so quickly and radically? That his words and deeds seem to have such a disconnect?  If his take on such important matters changes like the breeze, what confidence can Royals’ fans have in the players Moore drafts or the people he hires? Maybe they’re great on Monday but terrible by the end of the week too.

Alternatively, if I’m right and it was really David Glass who demanded that Hillman go, what does it say about Moore’s job security that he was allowed to put himself so far out there in defense of his manager, only to have the rug pulled out by ownership three days later?  If the owner isn’t going to let the GM make the call on these things, how much longer can we expect the GM to keep his own job?

To be honest, I kind of hope Glass is the one making the moves here, with all of the implications that entails. For starters, Hillman needed to be fired, no matter who did it.  Sure, he had little to work with in Kansas City,
but he likewise did
little to suggest that he would have been the right guy for the job if
he had.  He showed no ability to connect with his players — famously
alienating them during his first spring training game when he berated
them on the field in front of the fans and everyone — and perplexing
everyone else. He also very likely burned out Gil Meche’s arm and had a
habit of penciling in lineups that, for all of their creativity, didn’t
seem to have winning baseball games as their top priority.  I was cautiously optimistic about his chances when he was hired, but events proved that he just wasn’t the right guy for the job.

Second, if this all serves as a harbinger for Dayton Moore’s departure, all the better. Moore is a nice man. He was a fine assistant in Atlanta. He’s done nothing, however, to make the Royals better, and in many ways they’re worse off now than when he took over from previous GM Allard Baird.  Zack Greinke and Billy Butler are Baird guys. They’re also just about the only two decent players on the team. Everyone else is more or less a Moore product, and the team is presently older, more expensive and above all worse than it was just three years ago.

The ideal situation for this Royals team is for Ned Yost to play out the string as manager this year, while David Glass quietly and deliberately searches for a new general manager to take over after the season (ideally one could take over before the draft, but it’s too late for that now).  At that point Yost is thanked for his service and given a roving coaching job or a nice assistant to the whoever position, and the new GM can pick his own manager.

Yes, that was kind of what happened when Moore and Hillman were hired, and no, I don’t have a ton of confidence that Glass is capable of choosing the right guy for the GM’s chair, but there’s really no hope for this team unless they start all over again. Maybe Hillman’s firing — maybe at Glass’ direction — is evidence that process is getting underway.

  1. DantesWitness - May 14, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    While you can argue that the extension Moore received reflects poorly upon Glass, you cannot really argue that his initial hiring was a bad idea. Before coming to the Royals, Moore was considered by many to be the next great GM in waiting, so Glass’s hiring of him at least showed that he was listening to the opinions of those in the game. It’s not like he hired Jim Bowden or someone of that ilk. The fact that Moore’s hiring did not work does not mean that it was a bad decision at the time.

  2. Alex K - May 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    Trust the process.

  3. BC - May 14, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    I’m not convinced Hillman is a bad manager. Teams were lining up to talk to him before he signed on with KC. Moore is a joke as a GM – they have 3 decent players (well, 4 if Gil Meche’s arm hadn’t fallen off). Farm system sucks. They’ve done zippo to improve. If they were going to can Hillman, Moore should have gone, too. Bring in George Brett to run the team as Grand Poobah Of All Things Baseball, TRULY rebuild, and hire a manager that can work with young players.

  4. Joey B - May 14, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Good call. I think, and even Craig agrees, that Moore’s hiring was greeted by everyone as a very good move. And I truly believe that a GM’s body of work cannot be judged for a fairly long period of time. But I really don’t see any eye-popping moves. They have some talent in the minors, but I’ve yet to see a move at the major league level that impressed me, maybe Callapso.

  5. Grant - May 14, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    Keith Law seems to think that Moore’s biggest strength lies in drafting, and that he has really rejuvenated their farm system. Given that, might as well keep him for the draft.

  6. ecp - May 14, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    For heaven’s sake, Craig, what did you expect Moore to say publically when he was asked about Hillman earlier in the week before the firing? “Trey Hillman ins’t the right guy for the job and I’m going to can his a** in a couple of days, as soon as I can convice somebody to take over this mess for a while?” What Dayton Moore said and what he was actually thinking were two entirely different things.
    I would also argue with your statement that he’s done nothing to make the Royals better. You, like many others, are guilty of looking only at the surface: the major league team. Granted, you would be correct about that. But he took over an organization that had zero talent in its farm system, and no, they are not now worse off than they were with Allard Baird. Commenter BC is incorrect: The farm system does not suck. Not anymore. Moore can proudly say that he has built it up to be one of the better farm systems in the majors, something Baird never did. It’s not quite there yet, but at least there are now guys with some talent. He said yesterday that his goal is to have the major league roster dominated by home-grown players (hey, everybody wondered what “The Process” was; now you know) and when you inherit a system with nothing, that takes many years to accomplish.
    Whew. OK, now having defended Moore, I will say this: I’m not convinced he’s the right guy for the job, given the butchery he’s wrought with the major league team. I don’t know if he can actually put together a major league team. I know he hasn’t had the resources (read: types of players) at his disposal that he wants for a major league team, however, and until he does, I’m not convinced he’s the wrong guy for the job either. And I’m not a Moore lover by any stretch of the imagination, I just say give it the time it needs.

  7. ed - May 14, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    He picked Soria in the Rule 5 draft.

  8. KCA - May 14, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    great post ecp,
    Anyone advocating Moore’s firing is an imbecile. You have to give him time to let his picks get here. It seems many people have no clue how bad it was here under Allard Baird. They drafted signability, 1K bonuses, turned down unreal trades, decided to sign Sweeney long-term over Dye, Beltran and Damon…and when they traded those players got nothing of substance.
    Moore has STOCKED the low minors now…and some of those guys are reaching AA. Guys like Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakos, Will Myers, Tim Mehlville, John Lamb, Jeff Bianchi, etc. are all highly regarded players from NATIONAL SOURCES.
    In the interim, you can’t close up shop and wait till those guys get here. You have to play the MLB schedule, and you can’t force players to come to KC, so you sign guys like Meche and Jose G. and hope you catch lighting in a bottle.
    To people dumping on DM, you really need to know what you are talking about before you speak on things.

  9. Joey B - May 14, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    “In the interim, you can’t close up shop and wait till those guys get here. You have to play the MLB schedule, and you can’t force players to come to KC, so you sign guys like Meche and Jose G. and hope you catch lighting in a bottle.”
    Those two guys are pulling down $24M between them. When you can’t sign Greinke to a l/t deal, this will be the reason why.
    They traded away Nunez and Ramirez for two mediocre players costing ~$9.5M, and then had to sign two RPs to take their place that cost ~ $7.5M and a #2. When you can’t sign Butler to a l/t contract, you can look to the $17M flush as the reason why.
    DM might well be very good at developing a minor league system. But I have serious doubts about how he handles the team. Even by the time the prospects are ready, Greinke and Butler might be gone, and that’s about all you have.

  10. kca - May 14, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    And, no he did not trade Nunez and Ramirez for two “mediocre” players. Jacobs hit 32 HRs just two season prior and CoCo Crisp was a fine MLB OFer who got hurt…and who we only paid for one season.
    And why would we be hamstrung on signing Billy long term? Jose’s deal is up in October — that is 13 mil right there to use for BB.
    If Glass is going to use two failed trades from three years prior as a means to say he will not pay Butler, then nothing is going to help. No GM or MGR or fan or player will have any hope. If the owner is going to operate that way, it’s all shot to hell.
    It is akin to showing up to a gun fight with a butter knife. You and people of your mindset want to judge Dayton when he, and whoever else is GM under this owner, has one of the smallest margins for error of all-time.

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