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AL Central: Bastion of front-office stability

Dayton Moore's extension is another milquetoast mile marker in a division that likes to stay the course

The AL Central: Haircuts and GMs you can set your watch to.
The AL Central: Haircuts and GMs you can set your watch to.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It took Dayton Moore seven years -- and a potentially franchise-worsening trade -- for his first winning season in Kansas City.

Now he's set for at least three more years, as the Royals handed their GM a two-year extension that keeps him under contract through 2016.

And yet the extension isn't surprising. It might even be wise, since the last thing a fragile franchise needs is a GM needing to save his job. There's nothing saying the Glass family has to keep Moore in the position, and it's easier to pay a parachute than to get multiple Wil Myerses back.

But the extension could also be seen as a function of the division in which the Royals belong. Things just move slower in the AL Central.

Rick Hahn is technically the newest kid on the block, but he still reports to Kenny Williams. It's the same deal in Cleveland, where Mark Shapiro (whose first season as GM was 2001) moved upstairs and handed the day-to-day duties over to Chris Antonetti before the 2010 season.

The division's Grand Old Man is up for debate, and it comes down to a matter of interpretation. In Detroit, Dave Dombrowski has held the Tigers GM title for nearly 11 full seasons. He's easily the longest-tenured GM for those who have held the title continuously. It's hard to read Minnesota, though, because Terry Ryan took over as the Twins' GM late in 1994, and stepped down at the end of the 2007 season.

He then hung out in the front office as a senior adviser while his protege, Bill Smith, took over. When Smith lost the game of roster roulette with Johan Santana and Justin Morneau, the Twins went back to Ryan, who wore an "interim" tag in 2012 before shedding it for permanence in 2013. That gives him 15 seasons of service time, albeit with an interruption.

In order to combat these vague distinctions, I went through the 30 teams, looking for when they changed their GM and when they changed the regime.

Looking only at GMs, the AL Central doesn't really stand out. In fact, you could say there's been quite a bit of recent turnover. From longest to shortest reign (with MLB longevity rank in parentheses).

  1. Dave Dombrowski (5th)
  2. Dayton Moore (10th)
  3. Chris Antonetti (20th)
  4. Terry Ryan (27th)
  5. Rick Hahn (29th)

But when you look at the age of the regimes, the AL Central looks far more bound to tradition. Hahn and Antonetti ascended to the GM seat, but they still have to report to their predecessor. The Minnesota switcheroo doesn't really seem like a sea-change either; hell, Smith is still in the organization as a special assistant.

In order to find the last time an AL Central team really turned over its decision-making engine, you have to go back to the Royals hiring Moore away from Atlanta in 2006. Half the league has overhauled their front offices since the last Central GM left his organization entirely, whether by choice or by force.

  1. Minnesota (2nd-oldest)
  2. White Sox (7th)
  3. Cleveland (8th)
  4. Detroit (9th)
  5. Kansas City (15th)

Basically, there hasn't been a whole lot of office-cleaning in AL Central front offices, even though the division has the reputation of being the weak link of the American League.

For some context, here's how the rest of the division stack up:

AL East: Yankees (5th-oldest), Rays (13th), Blue Jays (21st), Red Sox (24th), Orioles (26th)

AL West: Athletics (4th), Rangers (11th), Mariners (19th), Angels (28th), Astros (29th)

NL East: Braves (1st), Phillies (12th), Nationals (20th), Mets (23rd), Marlins (30th)

NL Central: Brewers (10th), Pirates (16th), Cardinals (17th), Reds (18th), Cubs (25th),

NL West: Giants (3rd), Rockies (6th), Dodgers (14th), Diamondbacks (22nd), Padres (27th)

Stranger still, the end of Moore's extension in 2016 could be the next time any Central GM is really up for evaluation again. Dombrowski shouldn't be going anywhere, and the Cleveland front office was firmly, strangely entrenched before it won the second wild card in 2013 (Let's Go Tribe made a compelling case to fire Shapiro back in 2009).

The division's current stragglers aren't veering from their courses, either. Even if Jerry Reinsdorf weren't extremely loyal, Hahn would get ample time to bring his vision to a self-sufficient White Sox organization to life. Minnesota doubled down on the Twins way by handing Ron Gardenhire a two-year extension, and waiting for the well-regarded farm system to address the talent gap.

Meanwhile, the AL Central has existed for 20 years, and the 2005 White Sox stand alone as its only World Series champions.

I'm not sure what any of this means, or if an overhaul actually would have made any measurable difference. Glass half full (not David Glass) says the AL Central owners are unusually loyal and/or far-sighted, and believe they can discern process from results and luck.

On the flip side, maybe the lack of a standard-bearer has inadvertently led to complacency or conservatism. Every Central team can see themselves as one to three years away from taking control of the division if things break right -- and if multiple teams aren't catching those breaks, the bar is lowered. The expanded postseason doesn't help much either, since the extra postseason bid makes a lucky strike a more tempting pursuit than an overhaul, and the extra TV money theoretically makes quick fixes easier to obtain.

That last point might have the most legs going forward, because there aren't many hot seats outside of the Central, either. Jeffrey Loria just cleared out Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill, and Jerry Dipoto isn't on solid ground in Anaheim. Dipoto should have company, but other GMs with spotty-at-best track records seem to be getting votes of confidence, from Moore to Dan O'Dowd from Ruben Amaro Jr. to Jack Zdurenciek. Perhaps in the golden age of baseball finances, more owners have stripped away the settings between "meddling" and "benevolent."