Royals GM Dayton Moore needs to take a break from public comments. The trade deadline is coming up, and he’ll be doing a lot of talking during that stretch. Maybe he should rest his vocal chords and go meditate somewhere, just enjoy the silence more than he enjoys hearing himself talk.
Because Moore isn’t doing anyone — especially the organization he works for — any favors by continuing to discuss the ongoing Luke Heimlich situation out loud and in public.
His latest comments on the possibility of the Royals signing Heimlich — the Oregon State pitcher who was convicted of child molestation and went undrafted in this year’s MLB Draft — came via an interview with The Athletic, in which he said that that they are continuing to “vet” Heimlich, even though The Athletic confirmed through other sources that the Royals are not close to signing him, nor is there currently a plan in place to do so.
Despite the Royals’ non-extant plans to sign Heimlich, Moore is clearly comfortable with speaking on the situation. There’s no gag order here. Which certainly makes it seem as if Kansas City “vetting” things includes floating the idea of the signing publicly and seeing what the reaction looks like.
But the way Moore is talking about Heimlich, regardless of whether he is being encouraged by the team, is disrespectful to the victim, the family, and anyone with a brain. In that order.
Before he spoke with The Athletic, Moore took part in a Fox Sports Kansas City interview at Kaufman Stadium. When asked about the idea of drafting Heimlich, Moore said:
“The truth of the matter is, I was hoping, as the general manager, that somebody else would draft and sign him. Maybe I don’t have enough courage.”
That’s a surprisingly honest answer, coming from someone publicly representing a team that has had a relationship with Heimlich for multiple years. Oregon State trains at the Royals’ Arizona outpost each spring.
If that was Moore’s only comment on the subject, he might be forgiven for at least being honest about the team’s interest in the potential signing. Probably not, but maybe. There’s at least a chance that his words would have flown under the radar.
But he kept going, and for full clarity, the following excerpt includes the full question from the Fox Sports interview, and Moore’s subsequent response.
Ryan Lefebvre: There’s a really interesting topic being tossed around right now. There’s a pitcher at Oregon State named Luke Heimlich. As a 14-year-old [Heimlich was actually 15 at the time], he was I guess convicted because he pleaded guilty to molesting a 6-year-old relative of his.
From what I’ve read, he’s done everything that the state of Oregon asked him to do, and he continued to pitch. Some think he’s a first-round, second-round type of talent. Somehow, his record became public, and now all 30 teams passed on him in all 40 rounds. I know you care a lot about people, you care a lot about character, and No. 1, what do you know about Luke Heimlich? And No. 2, what is fair and what is unfair about his situation?
Dayton Moore: You know, Ryan, it’s extremely complex.
We were very interested in Luke last year. And obviously this accusation came out. So we immediately put everything on pause, as we should, to gather facts, gather information. He went out and performed this year. Not only did he achieve athletic excellence, he achieved academic excellence along the way. He went undrafted, all 30 teams. I think teams are still trying to find out more and more information. They’re trying to come to grips with this. This is something that happened in their family. Their family has dealt with this. Their family remains very close today, all parties involved.
It’s a very complex deal.
... I think the player has earned an opportunity to play professional baseball. Again, based on what he has—how he has conducted himself since we’ve known him, for four or five years, and how he’s performed on a baseball field. That’s as transparent as I can be. That’s my heart in this situation.
That is an irresponsible, unconscionably back-patting answer from Dayton Moore.
The information surrounding the case was made public thanks to an open records request by The Oregonian. Heimlich pleaded guilty to molesting a six-year old family member when he was 15 years old. In his telling, he pleaded guilty to protect the victim and their families from a long and potentially painful trial. He was initially being charged with two counts of molestation, but he was able to plead guilty to just one. The other count was dismissed as part of his plea bargain, which included him writing “I admit that I had sexual contact” with the victim.
Since then, Heimlich has attempted to position himself as someone who did the right thing and sacrificed by forgoing a trial that would have involved a six-year old child testifying about the places and ways in which he touched her.
Juvenile court records in Heimlich’s home state of Washington are not automatically confidential, so any team that might have had, say, a half-decade-long relationship with a player would have been able to do its own research to find the same conviction if it so chose.
The situation is not that “complex.” It’s not something that requires more information before teams can make a choice. The Oregonian’s investigation was published a year ago. Is that not enough time for teams to get all their facts in order? To decide whether they have it in them to sign someone with this kind of history?
Putting aside the question of what level of redemption — if any — would be enough for Heimlich to deserve “an opportunity to play professional baseball,” it feels more than fair to say that academic and athletic excellence are not the primary measurements for that type of decision, despite how fervently major league teams may wish it was that cut and dry.
A good ERA and a diploma does not wipe away the past of someone transitioning into adulthood.
The most insulting and maddening piece of Moore’s comments is that he had the gall to speak on a family situation and say, “their family remains very close today, all parties involved.”
Speaking with The Oregonian, the victim’s mother explained that her daughter “doesn’t really remember everything that happened,” but that they have been “ostracized from family events” because the family has been siding with Luke rather than her and her child. Most pointedly, the mother said:
“I’m appalled that the college he’s going to would even have him on their team ... He got two years of counseling and classes. My daughter’s life has been changed for the rest of her life”
That’s not remaining “close” by any means. That sounds like a mother still trying to cope with what happened to her six-year old child at the hands of someone within her own family, while the rest of her family is allegedly closing ranks around the person who was convicted of the crime.
Moore is inserting himself into a family’s pain and internal relationships, and incorrectly assuming (or, even worse, willfully pretending) that the family has found a resolution. It’s hard not to think that he has the Royals’ future in mind rather than the pain of those involved.
Teams don’t have to keep reckoning with Heimlich. They’ve had plenty of time to make up their minds. If they haven’t done their due diligence yet then they should reassess every piece of their organization from top to bottom and figure out why they’ve failed so completely.
But as Moore has so nauseatingly made clear, teams are not done coming to grips with what it would take to sign a convicted child molester and still be able to look at themselves in the mirror every day before heading to the stadium. And if Moore is attempting to create a path to signing Heimlich after the College World Series, he’s going about it in an irresponsible, abrasive way.
There is an argument to be made that what Luke Heimlich did as a teenager should not preclude him from eventually playing professional baseball. I disagree, but you could certainly make it, and I’ve seen people in the baseball community and outside of it make cogent points while parsing perspectives.
The one thing that is overwhelmingly apparent is that Dayton Moore is not the person to be navigating these particular rapids, and that if the Royals are searching to be forgiven in advance for a signing of this nature, they’ve sent the wrong messenger to polish this immense pile of shit.