Royals’ top general managers: Flanagan’s take

June 22nd, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club, before grading the managers. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

Royals' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RHP | LHP | Reliever | Manager

Here is Jeffrey Flanagan’s ranking of the top 5 general managers in Royals history.

1) Dayton Moore, 2006-present
Key facts: Two World Series appearances, one championship, 22-9 postseason record

Some longtime Royals observers might feel the team’s original general manager, Cedric Tallis, deserves the No. 1 spot here for having essentially built the Royals' organization from the ground up from its expansion roots. I would contend Moore’s work was much more challenging. Moore took over an organization in 2006 that was clearly one of the worst in all of professional sports. The scouting department was in shambles (scouts didn’t even have cellphones), there was virtually no international scouting and few talented people in baseball had any interest in working for Kansas City based on its reputation.

Moore changed the culture. He convinced then-owner David Glass to invest money in amateur scouting, and the Royals eventually built one of the best farm systems in the game by 2011. International scouting became a priority, and Kansas City eventually signed players such as Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera and Yordano Ventura. And unlike Tallis, Moore did this with a lopsided economic landscape tilted against small-market teams -- when Moore’s Royals won it all in 2015, they became just the second small-market team in 25 years to win a title (Minnesota won the World Series in 1991).

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Moore’s teams improved in the victory column every season from 2009-15, the only team in MLB to do so. His incredible offseason in '14 landed free agents such as Edinson Vólquez, Kendrys Morales, Chris Young, Ryan Madson, Alex Rios and others who paved the way to the '15 title. His trades for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the Trade Deadline in '15 also were instrumental to the championship.

And as new owner John Sherman has found out, Moore’s influence in the Kansas City community through his commitment toward the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and his own foundation, C You in the Major Leagues, is vital.

“[Moore] cares so much about the growth of baseball in our community,” Sherman said recently.

Players, too, have come to view Moore not only as an excellent GM but almost as a family member. He advised Billy Butler to take a superior offer from the A’s in 2015 -- “He talked to me like a father,” Butler said. Whit Merrifield recently tweeted, “Proud to play for a man who gets it. On and off the field.”

And with three consecutive promising MLB Drafts, Moore and the Royals appear on the verge of returning to contention.

2) Cedric Tallis, 1968-74
Key fact: Drafted Hall of Famer George Brett

There is no question that Tallis deserves tremendous credit for building a foundation that later turned into the Royals’ glory years of the 1970s and '80s. He drafted players such as Paul Splittorff, Al Cowens, John Wathan, Brett, Steve Busby, Jamie Quirk, Dennis Leonard, and Willie Wilson (Tallis also signed an undrafted amateur named Frank White).

Tallis was perhaps an even shrewder trader, acquiring players such as Hal McRae, Cookie Rojas, Freddie Patek, Lou Piniella and John Mayberry.

Without Tallis’ eye for talent, who knows whether the Royals could have been what they were in the late 1970s, and who knows whether they could have gone to the World Series in '80 and won it all in '85? Fortunately for Tallis, there was really no major gap between large markets and small markets then, and the teams he built eventually went toe-to-toe with the Yankees for several years.

3) John Schuerholz, 1981-90
Key fact: Led the Royals to their first World Series title in 1985

Schuerholz’s outstanding career really took off after he left Kansas City for Atlanta in 1990. But while he was with the Royals, his scouting background really paid off for the organization. Under his leadership, the Royals drafted Danny Jackson, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Seitzer, Brian McRae, Mike Macfarlane, Bo Jackson, Tom Gordon, Kevin Appier, Jeff Conine and Bob Hamelin.

Schuerholz also made some hugely impressive trades, acquiring players such as Bud Black, Charlie Leibrandt, Steve Balboni, Danny Tartabull and Jeff Montgomery.

4) Joe Burke, 1974-81
Key facts: Four division titles, one World Series appearance

Those who knew Burke described him as almost a paternal presence whose calm demeanor was a steadying influence on the entire organization. He didn’t help build the Royals that became a perennial playoff threat, but he made sure the operation ran smoothly. And one of his first moves, hiring Whitey Herzog in 1975, helped catapult the team to greatness.

Burke also is responsible for drafting players such as Mark Gubicza and David Cone, and he made some key trades during his time to acquire Larry Gura, Darrell Porter, and Willie Aikens.

5) Herk Robinson, 1990-2000
Key fact: Three winning seasons

Robinson really was the most unlucky general manager in Royals history. After hiring Hal McRae as manager in 1991, Robinson helped build a team that appeared on the verge of making the playoffs in 1994, posting a 64-51 record before the strike wiped out the season. After that, Robinson also had to try to navigate the Royals through a horrible time in franchise history following the death of Ewing Kauffman, when the team essentially was an ownerless and rudderless ship. Oh, and Robinson was the Royals’ first GM to have to deal with the cavernous gap between large markets and small markets that exploded after '94.