The 2017 Kansas City Royals season has had quite a lot of ups and downs, though there has been one constant: third baseman Mike Moustakas’ chase of Steve Balboni’s franchise’s single-season HR record. The elusive 36 HR mark is the lowest total by any franchise’s single-season home run king, and the Royals are the only franchise that has never seen one of their own eclipse 40 DONGS. In fact, no Major League Baseball player calling Kansas City home has ever made 40 trips to DONGTOWN. Bob Cerv of the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967) hit 38 in 1958. His total stands as the best in Kansas City, but, let’s get to Balboni’s number first. His record has stood for over thirty years. Records are meant to be broken and this one needed to go down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that fans don’t like Balboni. Many of us, that remember him, like him just fine.
Baseball is a LONG season – a grind, a marathon and not a sprint. Kansas City Royals fans like to get behind a variety of things happening in the season, as for many, many years, winning wasn’t much of an option. We’ve had “rally sauce”, “1738/Fetty Wap,” and “Rally Mantis” however, not often have we had the opportunity to watch a player challenge 36 home runs.
In the few instances where 37 home runs by a Royals player seemed within reach, fans had to wait until the final days of the season, only to be disappointed. Let’s stroll down memory lane, shall we?
- The 1994 American League Rookie of the Year, Bob Hamelin, hit 24 home runs through the first 115 games of the season (a 34 HR pace), only to have his chase end early due to a players’ strike, and the season ending in mid-August. Bob “the Hammer’” Hamelin had a very similar physical build to Balboni. What he lacked in growing an exquisite moustache, he made up for with a sharp pair of glasses and a mullet.
- The following season would see third baseman Gary Gaetti chase 37 and come closest to breaking the mark. Gaetti sat on 34 home runs with 14 games remaining and appeared sure to at least match Balboni’s 36. Over the next 13 games, Gaetti would go 4 for 49 (.082) with no home runs. Gaetti homered on the final day of the season, ending with 35. The 1995 season started late, also due to the players strike. Those early games likely cost Gaetti the record. Imagine #BreakingGaetti or #GettingGaetti, instead?
- In 1998, Royals fans saw another third baseman, Dean Palmer, come close. Palmer started the season hot with 9 April home runs. He was a streaky player and 1998 was no different. Palmer only hit 7 home runs over the next two months. After hitting home runs in both games of a September 11 double header vs. the Mariners, Palmer was at 33 home runs with 15 games left to play. He would hit just one more long ball, finishing the season with 34.
- Jermaine Dye exploded out of the gate in the 2000 season, hitting 11 home runs in the team’s first 22 games. He would slow some (of course, who could maintain the 81 HR pace?), hitting 11 more first half home runs, en route to being voted the first Royals positional starter in the All-Star Game since Bo Jackson in 1989. 22 dingers at the All-Star break was a very encouraging number for fans itching to see Balboni’s record fall. Sticking with 11’s, Dye would hit 11 more home runs the remainder of the season, finishing with 33, and only two of those coming after August 29. (Sad trombone)
This brings us to Mike Moustakas. We said in our season projection that Moose is the player on the roster who can challenge Balboni’s record. We projected him to hit 31, and he’s not let us down. His first MOOSEDONG came on Opening Day. He had six by the end of the month. He homered in three straight games in Seattle in early July in what was part of a seven homers in nine games binge. He hit another one the next night. He hit No. 31 on August 6. He hit two solo shots on Aug. 11. No. 35 came on August 15, leaving him 44 games to tie and break the record that is almost a certainty he’ll break. Even the slumpiest of slumps would seem to allow him the ability to get to 37. If only hitting one #MooseDong every two weeks to finish the year, he gets to the elusive 37. Slump, he did – going more than two weeks without a HR when he hit the record-tying DONG on September 1, snapping his longest homerless drought of the season (14 games played), hitting just .205 in the process. His health was likely the only thing that could hold him back. Battling hip and knee issues, Moose went another 14-game stretch without a homer before finally connecting on the record breaker tonight in Toronto, in the Royals 15-5 beatdown of the Jays, coming a triple short of the cycle. In the process, he set a new career-high in RBI (83) and became one of four active players to be a franchise’s single-season HR leader (Joey Bautista, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton).
Moustakas has been a fan favorite for quite some time now, with fans bellowing “Moooooose” each time he approaches the plate for an at bat or makes a play of any level of difficulty in the field at Kauffman Stadium. Similar to this Royals 2017 season, Moustakas has had several ups and downs throughout his career. He started his career slowly, and had to make a trip back to the minors, where he stayed for just eight games, hitting .355 with 1 HR, 7 RBI while reaching base in seven straight. He has been very good over his last few full seasons. Moustakas is a homegrown player drafted by the organization, a World Series Champion, a two-time All-Star, and he is the perfect guy to take over the title of Royals single season home run king.
Balboni himself had some nice words for Moose:
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) September 21, 2017
When he was drafted as the reigning California high school homerun champ, he was labeled as the guy who had the potential to break Balboni. And, today, he is. With one more DONG, he will ironically match Balboni for 12th on the Royals all-time list (119).
For more discussion on #BreakingBalboni: http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2017/07/28/244306734/mike-moustakas-is-closing-in-on-steve-balbonis-record
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