The Royals are set to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. Part of that process is releasing the 50 greatest Royals, as voted on by the fans. This is perfect timing for an update to our All-time 25-man roster. Originally published in 2014, here’s what it looks like as the franchise turns 50. First, a look at the ground rules: to qualify, a player had to play a minimum of four seasons in Kansas City.
C Salvador Perez (2011-current)
Perez, in seven seasons, is already a five-time All-Star (five straight appearances) and became the first position player to start the Mid-Summer Classic since Jermaine Dye in 2000 in 2014. He joined three other Royals (two which are on this roster) – Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain – as the first players to get voted in by the fans since Dye (who was the first since Bo Jackson) in 2015. He is the best defensive catcher to ever wear a Royals uniform, hands down. He already owns four Gold Gloves and the Royals catcher record with 23 pickoffs – and had the record by fourth season. Perez has a decent slashline (.272/.301/.442) so far in his career, but his plate discipline remains woeful. Last season marked the first time in his career that his batting average, OBP and OPS did not drop from the previous year. Despite posting a .247/.288/.438 line in 2016, he earned Silver Slugger honors thanks to a then career-best in HR (22). He topped that in 2017, with his best power numbers of his career, setting the Royals record for HR by a catcher in a season (28), with 80 RBI and a .495 OPS.
1B John Mayberry (1972-77)
Until Eric Hosmer (.284/.342/.439 with 127 HR, 566 RBI, 4 Gold Gloves, 1 All-Star appearance, 1 Silver Slugger) came along, Mayberry, a Royals Hall of Famer, was the easy choice for the franchise’s best first baseman. While Hosmer has a lasting legacy as the face and leader of the Golden Age, Big John, at least in things you could measure – like stats, was the better player (more HR, in one less season, higher OBP and SLUG; 1 more All-Star appearance). He was a true slugger and made an impact right away in Kansas City, winning the 1972 Royals Player of the Year. In his six seasons in a Royals uniform, Mayberry averaged .261/.374/.448, 24 HR and 94 RBI (Hosmer’s average: 20 HR, 87 RBI) and was a two-time All-Star. In 1975, he became the first Royals player to post a 30-plus home run season (34), finishing second in the MVP voting, leading the league in walks (119) for the second time in three years, as well as posting the league’s best OPS+ (968). In 1973, the other year he led the league in walks (122), he also had the league’s best OBP (.417) and was intentionally walked (19) more than any other player in baseball. Hosmer, however, has never led the league in any offensive category, but he certainly has the better glove. First base is an offensive position, and Mayberry was that guy. He posted the Royals first three 100-plus RBI seasons, and ranks among the Royals all-time leaders in home runs (143) and RBI (552; 14 behind Hosmer).
2B Frank White (1973-90)
White, although still not a MLB Hall-of-Famer (HE SHOULD BE), became one of the greatest second basemen in baseball history. The Royals Hall of Famer, two-time Royals Player of the Year and a five-time All-Star, was the first American League second baseman to ever collect EIGHT Gold Gloves. Renowned for his defense, White was a complete player. He was named ALCS MVP in 1980, hitting .545 and he batted cleanup and led all players with six RBI in the 1985 World Series, where he hit cleanup for the 1985 World Champions. He finished his career second on the Royals all-time list in games played (2,324), AB (7,859), and hits (2,006). The veteran spent all 18 years in Kansas City, where he hit .255/.293/.383, averaging 11 HR, 62 RBI and 12 SB a season. White, in his mid-30’s, hit 22 HR in consecutive seasons (1985-1986) – a lot for a second basemen back then, and won the Silver Slugger in 1986 – his final All-Star appearance.
SS Freddie Patek (1971-79)
Only a .241 hitter as a Royal and small in stature (MLB’s smallest player at 5-foot-4, his on-field skills played a giant role in the Royals early success. His outstanding speed, aggressiveness, defense and durability earned him three-time All-Star nominations. He led the AL in steals (53) in 1977 and triples (11) in 1971 – where he shared Royals Player of the Year honors with Amos Otis and finished sixth in the MVP voting. He also hit for the cycle on July 9 of that year.
For eight consecutive years, he posted 30 or more stolen bases, and he led the league in double plays turned four straight seasons. A durable player, like his competition at the position (Alcides Escobar) at a demanding position, he ranks among the Royals all-time leaders in hits (1,036), walks (413), runs scored (571), stolen bases (336), and games played (1,245).
Manager Whitey Herzog called him the greatest artificial turf fielding shortstop he ever managed, ranking him ahead of Ozzie Smith. When asked by a reporter what it felt like to be the smallest player in the major leagues, Patek replied, “I’d rather be the smallest player in the majors than the tallest player in the minors.”
3B George Brett (1973-93)
A Royals and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Brett was one of the best clutch hitters of all-time and Royals GOAT who was feared by opposing teams and managers alike who will forever define Royals baseball. The 8-time Royals Player of the Year, 13-time All-star, member of the 3,000 hit club (3,154) with a with a lifetime batting average of .305 and the first (and only) player to win a batting title in three different decades (1976, ’80, ’90), hit .390 in 1980 in winning the MVP and led the Royals to their first World Series in 1985. In each season from 1977-1981, he had more doubles than strikeouts. In 1980, he HOMERED more times than he struck out – only one of two players to do that since 1951.His second half of the season that year was UNREAL: .421 AVG with 16 HR and 77 RBI in 72 games…1.178 OPS.
He has career totals of more than 300 home runs, 600 doubles, 100 triples and 200 stolen bases as well as owning the all-time American League record for intentional walks. Not known for his defense, he worked hard at it and improved in that area and earned a Gold Glove in 1985. In 1999, Brett was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the fourth-highest vote percentage ever recorded (98%), where only nine voters left him off their ballots (who were these assholes?).
LF Willie Wilson (1976-90)
The speedster debuted in 1976, played significantly for the first time in 1978 and became a regular in 1979, where he stole a Royals record and league-high 83 stolen bases, and maintained his regular presence in the outfield and atop of the Royals order until 1988. Had a mammoth 1980 season, finishing fourth in the MVP race, leading the league in AB (705), hits (230), runs (133) and triples (15), while hitting .326 and became the second player in MLB history with 100 hits from each side of the plate . He stole 79 bases while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He was amazingly not an All-Star that year, and only was twice (82-83), but was the Royals Player of the Year in 1981 and won the batting title in 1982 (.332). Wilson led the league in triples five times and set all-time Royals records with an amazing 13 career inside-the-park home runs and 612 stolen bases. He averaged 50 SB a season throughout his 19-year career and ranks 12th all-time in that category (668).
CF Amos Otis (1970-83)
The gifted outfielder was named Royals Player of the Year three times and was selected to five All-Star teams. He was so good, that Willie Wilson had to play left field. Known as one of his era’s best center fielders, he won three Gold Gloves. In 1976, he led the league with 40 doubles and helped the Royals capture their first American League West title. Otis became a clear Kansas City fan favorite throughout his 14-year career and finished among the Royals all-time leaders in hits (1,977), home runs (193), runs scored (1,074), stolen bases (340) and games played (1,891).
RF Carlos Beltran (1998-2004)
A future Hall of Famer, Beltran’s best years as a pro were in Kansas City, although none of his eight All-Star appearances came in a Royals uniform. He splashed onto the scene in 1999 as the centerfielder and made up a very talented outfield, flanked by Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye, who together led all big-league starting outfield trios with 546 hits, 108 doubles, 24 triples, 298 RBI and 41 assists and Beltran (.298 with 22 homers, 108 RBIs, seven triples and 27 stolen bases) earned Rookie of the Year honors, registering all but two of the first-place votes. In 2001, at the age of 24, he matched George Brett as the youngest Royals Player of the Year, where he hit .358 in the second half of the season. He became just the third Royal to play all 162 games that year and led the Royals in every significant offensive category. In 2003, he became just the sixth player in big league history to record three seasons with 100 runs, 100 RBI and 30 steals, joining Barry Bonds, George Sisler, Honus Wagner, Kiki Cuyler and Ty Cobb. Not bad company. Beltran was named an All-Star in 2004, but ended up playing in the game representing the Astros after a trade, replacing an injured Ken Griffey, Jr. Hit .287/.352/.483 with 123 HR, 516 RBI and 164 SB as a Royal, earning two Royals Player of the Year awards.
DH Hal McRae (1973-87) / Mike Sweeney (1995-2007)
It was too close to call here, so if we’re writing out the lineup card, we find a way to get AB for of these guys. Consider it a time share. McRae had the longevity, but Sweeney had the best peak, and was more explosive.
McRae hit .300/.362/.460 from 1974-1983, with a 130 OPS+, only struck out 50 times per season on average in that 10 season stretch; 14 HR, 80 RBI, 75 R, 40 2B AVG season.
During Sweeney’s peak (99-05), he hit .313/.383/.521, averaging 23 HR, 97 RBI, 81 R, 33 2B per season with a 130 OPS+, striking out 55 times a season.
The 130 ops+ says they were similarly 30% better than the average player in those stretches, with McRae’s lasting three seasons longer.
McRae’s hard-nosed style of play set the tone for his teammates. He won two Royals Player of the Year honors and was selected as an All-Star three times. McRae led the league in doubles twice and RBI (133) once (1982). One of the first players to take the designated hitter role to star status, he finished his career second on the Royals career list in both doubles (449) and RBIs (1,012).
Bonus points: McRae later managed the Royals from 1991 to 1994, posting a 286-277 (.508) record and had this epic tirade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kamDqL-AGzI
Sweeney, a five-time Royals All-Star, two-time Royals Player of the Year, Royals Hall of Famer and captain from 2003-2007, was one of the most feared right-handed hitters in the American League from 1999-2005, where he compiled a .305 average with 161 home runs and 683 RBI and finished second in the batting title twice, hitting above .330 THREE times. He set the franchise record for RBI (144) in 2000 – the second best offensive season (.333/.407/.523, 29 HR – a career-high, also matched in 2001) in Royals history (George Brett, 1980) – where he finished second in the league. His .299 average is the second-best to Brett in franchise history. Sweeney played his first four years as a catcher and was nearly traded to the White Sox before moving to first base in 1999 after Jeff King’s sudden retirement in April. His career took off from there before injuries really slowed him down. In 1999, he posted the best fielding percentage for a first baseman in more than 20 years and posted a 25-game hitting streak – the third longest in franchise history. On August 13, 2000 he reached the 100 RBI mark faster than any player in Royals history. Sweeney’s .340 average in 2002 is the second best in franchise history, only behind Brett’s .390 in 1980. He is only one of five Royals to ever record a steal of home. Sweeney led the Royals in hitting six times and from 1999-2004, walked more times than he struck out five times and tied the other year (64 each in 2001).
Ended his career second on the Royals all-time list in home runs (197), slugging percentage (.492) and batting average (.299). He also ranked in the Royals Top 10 in games played (1,282), hits (1,398), walks (484), doubles (297), runs scored (700), and RBI (837).
C Darrell Porter (1977-80)
Porter played just four seasons in Kansas City, but was an All-Star three times (1978-1980), finished in the Top 10 in the AL MVP voting twice (1978-79) and was the every day catcher for three division champs. He ranked second in the AL in on-base percentage in 1979 (.421), reaching base a league best 284 times with 121 walks, also a league high and the second best mark in franchise history in a season he hit .291/.421/.484 with 20 HR, 112 RBI. Posted an incredible 4.75 WAR (per year) as a Royal.
His drug abuse was a dark stain on his career, as he once had to leave the club for drug rehab. Drugs also led to his ultimate demise – Porter was found dead in a park in suburban Kansas City after overdosing on cocaine.
He’s still good enough to make our roster.
2B Cookie Rojas (1970-77)
It was a tough choice between Alcides Escobar (262/.293/.348, 5 HR, 51 RBI, 22 SB (5 CS) average season; 1x All-Star and Gold Glove, ALCS MVP in 7 seasons), who was on our previous rosters, and Rojas, as both are weak hitters. For all intents and purposes, the same weak hitter and neither probably should have ever been All-Star’s. The difference here for us is Rojas, while playing solely 2B as a Royal (1 game in the outfield), played every position on the field, including catcher, throughout his career. His best years were as a Royal, where he hit .268/.314/.346 and four (consecutive) of five All-Star appearances. He finished Top 25 in the MVP twice and was an unmistakable fan favorite. In 1971, Rojas led the league in fielding percentage, including an amazing 52-game errorless streak at second base).
3B Joe Randa (1995-96, 1999-2004)
Needing someone on the roster that is a legit 3B to backup Brett (who would also play 1B, and DH some), other than Rojas, who is a legit 2B, it was down to Kevin Seitzer and Randa for that role. Mike Moustakas was also an option, as his two best seasons are better than anything Randa ever did, and he has the franchise HR record. However, his bad was really bad, and that eliminated him.
Both Seitzer and Randa are on list of three Royals that have produced 6 RBI game. Seizter has the better slash line as a Royal (.294/380/.394), and has the best individual season of the duo, when he burst on the scene leading the league in hits his rookie season and finishing second in Rookie of the Year balloting to Mark McGwire. He declined every year after that, with very little power, and shaky defense. He was also known as a hothead and played in an era in which the Royals were good, but did not reach the postseason (a winning record in all but one season; 92 wins in 1989). He is one of the most prolific hitters in club history at drawing walks.
Randa played in an era when the Royals were not good..at all (other than the miracle 2003 season, when they challenged for the AL Central crown when they had no business doing so, before falling off and finished 83-79), but they had some prolific offenses. The Joker was definitely and beneficiary of that. He hit .288/.340./428 (all above career norms) in 8 seasons as a Royal. Hit .303/.351/.453 in 110 games in 1996, before departing (Pitt, Detroit), returning in 1999, hitting .289/.341/.431 over 6 seasons, averaging 16 HR, 81 RBI. Randa did play some other IF positions throughout his career, so his flexibility would help him get in the lineup.
OF Bo Jackson (1986-1990)
This was the most difficult roster spot to fill. With the need for two backup IF, it limited us to just one backup outfield spot, and the options were plentiful.
First, lets look at the other options:
- Alex Gordon: A career .259/.340/.419, hitter with 160 HR (15 per season) and 608 RBI (55). He shook off the bust label in 2011 with a career-year (.303/.376/.502, 23 HR, 87 RBI), earning Royals Player of the Year honors. Beginning that year, over the next five years, he hit .281/.359/.450, averaging 18 HR, 72 RBI, 82 R, 10 SB, 35 2B. He’s a 3-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner and led the league in doubles (51) in 2012. 2014 Platinum Glove winner. He also hit the second biggest homer in Royals history. Was on the 25-man roster when we did this the first time, but the two down years have soured many.
- Lorenzo Cain: Hit .289/.342/.421 as a Royal, averaging 12 HR, 69 RBI, 27 SB a season; 1 All-Star, 3rd in MVP voting in 2015 and 2014 ALCS MVP. Hit .300 or better three times in five full seasons in KC.
- Johnny Damon: .292/.351/.438 in KC in six seasons. In five full seasons, he slashed .293/.353/.438, averaging 12 HR, 66 RBI, 94 R, 30 SB; The best year of his career came in a Royals uniform in 2000, with career-high’s in runs (136), AVG (.327), OBP (.382), SLUG (.495), OPS (.877), hits (214), doubles (42), RBI (88) and SB (46), while walking more than he struck out for the first of two times in his career. He led the league in runs and stolen bases; finished 19th in the MVP voting.
- Danny Tartabull: Only one of two Royals with two 30-HR seasons, slashing .290/.376/.518 in five seasons with the Royals, mashing 124 HR (25 per season), despite missing portions of two of those seasons due to injury. Three of his five 100-RBI seasons came in KC. Led the league in SLUG (.593) un his last season in KC in 1991. One-time All-Star. Not the greatest fielder, but what a masher.
- Jermaine Dye: He was looking like a huge bust after coming over in a trade from Atlanta until he finally flipped the switch in 1999 and emerged as one of the league’s best outfielders in his third season as a Royal. He enjoyed back-to-back 4-WAR seasons in 1999-2000 and was voted into the All-Star Game in 2000, the Royals first position player starter since Bo Jackson in 1989. He hit a career-best .321 in the 2000 season, driving in 118 runs and flirting with the club home run record with 33 dingers, where he entered the final month of the season just four shy of the record, but hit just 1. He also won a Gold Glove that year, and was one of the most coveted trade assets on the market. The Royals ultimately dealt him in the summer of 2001, giving Royals fans just two and a half seasons of greatness. He had a great 3-year span, driving in 343 runs, hitting .299/.363/.518, averaging 29 HR and 39 doubles.
Bo, statistically speaking, may be the “worst” player of this bunch, but for a brief 2-3 year period, he was one of the most popular athletes in the nation and had his own Nike ad campaign as well as a Saturday morning cartoon. He did amazing things with his bat – whether it was breaking it over his knee, or hitting the ball over the wall and in the field – running up the wall or gunning down runners with his cannon arm (he led all left fielders in assists in both 1988 and 1989). He was a human highlight real.
Were there serious flaws to his game? Sure. He has the 13th worst on-base percentage in club history for anyone with 1,000 plate appearances (although Frank White is worse). He only played in 511 games – 4 full seasons, and never played more than 135 games in a season and played 124 or less in three of them. But, he has the 8th best slugging percentage (.480) in club history, has the best ISO in club history, is the one of two All-Star Game MVP’s in club history, and put the Royals on the map in the late 80s/early 90s. It is hard to say there are too many players in Royals history more famous than Bo.
A .250/.308/.480 hitter in KC, he hit more than 22 HR in all four of his full seasons, including a 32-HR, 105-RBI (4th) 1989, where he also led the league in strikeouts (172) in 135 games. He was kind of a HR or nothing type of guy, as he hit more HR than doubles or triples combined every year. Other than the 100-RBI season, his next highest total was 78.
But, if you consider everything else, he was special.
SP Bret Saberhagen (1984-91)
Saberhagen, the Royals Hall of Famer, became the Royals ultimate big-game pitcher mixing incredible skill and mound presence with precise command. The four-time Royals Pitcher of the Year won two American League Cy Young Awards, the first in 1985 after going 20-6 (2.87 ERA) and again when he posted a club record in wins (23) and led the league in ERA (2.16) in 1989, where he started the All-Star Game (15-3, 2.47 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 11 CG, 3 shutouts at the break).
That same year Saberhagen also won a Gold Glove. In 1985, his nearly perfect postseason performance helped the Royals capture their first (and only) World Championship. Named World Series MVP, Saberhagen went 2-0 (0.50 ERA) with two complete games, including an 11-0 Game Seven shutout.
SP Zack Greinke (2004-2010)
Greinke had a losing record (60-67) as a Royal, with a 3.82 ERA – the highest ERA of any of the five teams he has played on – and only had a winning record twice (other than a 1-0 season in just three appearances in 2007), but he played on some really bad teams and was really good beginning in 2008 after a slow start to his career. After a solid rookie campaign in 2004, Greinke had a disastrous season in 2005, going 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and then “quit” baseball the following spring training, only to return late in the season after pitching in the minors. A bullpen stint for a good part of 2007 was a blessing for Greinke, where he learned how to throw hard and carried it with him back into the rotation, for a 13-10 season in 2008 and a dominant 2009, where he was an All-Star and won the Cy Young with just 16 wins – the fewest ever at that time for a Cy Young winner (Felix Hernandez went just 13-12 in winning the award the next year) – while leading the league in ERA (2.16) and WHIP (1.073) while posting six complete games and three shutouts. His final season in 2010 was marred with little run support, a losing record (10-14) and an admitted lack of effort down the stretch as the Royals continued to lose. He was traded in the offseason. Of course, he’s 112-40 (106-38 in the NL) since. Dude was still a STUD, here. Imagine Greinke on the 2013-2016 teams.
SP Kevin Appier (1989-99; 2003-04)
Ape and his trademark delivery equaled one of the most dominating pitchers in his era. The Royals Hall of Famer was a three-time Royals Pitcher of the Year and retired as the club’s all-time strikeout leader with 1,458. He made more Opening Day starts (7) than any Kansas City pitcher before him. He posted the lowest ERA (2.56) in the league in 1993 and was named to the 1995 American League All-Star team. He also threw a pair of one-hit games and finished his career among the Royals top 10 in almost every pitching category, including wins (115), ERA (3.49), shutouts (10), games started (275) and innings pitched (1,843.2).
SP Mark Gubicza (1984-96)
Gubicza, a Royals Hall of Famer, anchored the Royals pitching staff for over a decade. He was named Royals Pitcher of the Year two times and by the end of his career had recorded the second-most innings pitched in club history (2,218.2). After his 13 seasons, Gubicza was also the Royals all-time strikeout leader (1,366). On Aug. 27, 1988, the two-time All-Star set a franchise record with 14 strikeouts in a single game, which has since been broke by Greinke, and then Danny Duffy. His 132 career wins gave him the third-most ever collected by a Royals pitcher.
SP Dennis Leonard (1974-86)
A true workhorse, Leonard, the Royals Hall of Famer, was named Royals Pitcher of the Year three times, had three 20-win seasons and finished his career leading the Royals all-time list in complete games (103) and shutouts (23) and he was second in wins (144). He also held the club’s single-season bests in starts (40), complete games (21), innings pitched (294.2) and strikeouts (244). From 1975-1981, Leonard collected 130 wins – the most by any right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Closer: Greg Holland (2010-15)
The Royals all-time bullpen is loaded. It was tough to pick a closer. And while Holland’s dominance was short-lived, his best was better than any other closer in franchise history.
He was best closer in the American League in 2013 and 2014 (3-4, 1.32 ERA, 93 saves [the top two saves seasons in franchise history – 47 and 46], 0.89 WHIP; two All-Star appearances and Top 9 in the Cy Young twice) before injuries slowed him down in 2015, where his velocity was down early in the year before slowly climbing after a DL stint, but his control wavered as he has walked more batters (26) than he did all of 2014 (20) in 18 less innings. His ERA was 3.83 – well-above his career 2.40 mark (now 2.60) and he blew as many saves (5) as he did the previous two years. But despite his struggles, Holland was a warrior and pitched most of the season even though he had a damaged elbow and still saved 32 games.
Dirty Souf’ had a woeful debut in 2010, posting a 6.75 ERA, but posted three seasons with a 1.82 ERA or better in the next four. He took over as the full-time closer when Jonathan Broxton was traded to Cincinnati in 2012 and all the Save Man did was…save games, converting 91% of his saves (141/155), including the down 2015 – still better than any other Royals closer – and established a Royals save record (47) in 2013 and won the Mariano Rivera AL Relief Pitcher of the Year Award.
Save Man, who represented the Royals twice in the All-Star Game, unfortunately missed the 2015 playoff run to a World Championship with Tommy John surgery, and all of the 2016 season. He rebounded to win the NL Comeback Player of the Year for the Rockies in 2017 (league-best 41 saves). He is the only Royals pitcher to record saves in both games of a double header more than once.
Dan Quisenberry (1979-88)
The Royals Hall of Famer is most remembered for his unconventional signature submarine delivery and his emergence in the bullpen was key to the Royals finally capturing their first American League pennant in 1980. He was named Royals Pitcher of the Year four times and was also selected to three American League All-Star teams. Quiz won American League Fireman of the Year honors and led the league in saves five times, including a then record-setting 45 in 1983. He finished second in the Cy Young voting in 1983 and 1984 and third in 1982 and 1985. With the way bullpen usage is today, Quiz would be more valuable in a non-closing role, where he can come on at any time in high-leverage situations and put the fire out.
Wade Davis (2013-16)
The Wade Davis Experience came to Kansas City as part of the James Shields trade in December 2012, but by time his tenure in Kansas City was over, it had become the Wade Davis trade. Wader was a bust as a starter in KC (6-10, 5.67 ERA, 1.755 WHIP in 24 starts), due to the lack of more than one secondary pitch, but a bullpen move in August 2013 morphed Davis from human t0 cyborg. It was clear after just seven relief appearances in 2013 (0.90 ERA, 0.70 WHIP), that Davis could be successful as a power-arm, late-inning reliever. The role of set-up man was his to start 2014, and it had a shaky start, as he earned the loss on Opening Day and blew a lead just three games later. He was charged with another blown save in his sixth appearance and allowed another run on April 23 in his 10th appearance. He then ripped off an incredible run – one run in 54 appearances – into September. It didn’t stop in 2015. In all, he posted the best two-year run by any pitcher in modern history: 17-3, 17 saves, 51 holds, 0.94 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 12.6 K/9, 2 All-Star appearances, Top 8 in the Cy Young twice. He was the Royals closer in 2016 with the absence of Greg Holland, and wasn’t as good – thanks to two DL stints and what looked like the Holland injury trajectory. That said, he still saved 27 games, was an All-Star with a 1.87 ERA and 1.131 WHIP.
Joined Holland and Kelvin Herrera in the Best Bullpen in Baseball – a formula other franchises are trying to emulate. Holland and Davis both had sub-1.000 WHIP’s in 2014, as the Royals began their 2-year historic bullpen run.
Wader, Check Please!
Joakim Soria (2007-11, 2016-17)
Soria’s second stint as a Royal (9-11, 3.89 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2 saves, 40 holds, 14 blown saves) did not go nearly as well as the first (13-15, 2.40 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 160 saves, 9 holds), but he wasn’t brought in here to be the same guy he was, then.
The Royals found a gem in Soria, who they picked up as a Rule 5 pick in 2007 after seeing him pitch a no-hitter in the Mexican League. After protecting him early, he was the closer midway through the season, and dominant the next three seasons (6-7, 1.84 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 115 saves [38 per]), making the All-Star Game twice. Soria, riddled with elbow issues in 2011, still saved 28 games, but his ERA (4.03) and WHIP (1.276) was way up and his strikeouts (9.0) per nine were down. Prior, the “Mexicutioner’s” curveball was unhittable. When he was up in the count and hitters knew it was coming, they still couldn’t hit it. He missed all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, before moving on to the Rangers in 2013. He had a 89% save success rate in his first stint as a Royal, which was a Royals record until Holland established a new one.
Jeff Montgomery (1989-99)
Monty, the Royals Hall of Famer, was a three-time All-Star and 1998 Royals Pitcher of The Year. He led the club in saves for a decade and broke the traditional closer mold with an unconventional four-pitch repertoire. In 1993, he was American League Fireman of the Year with a league-leading 45 saves, which also tied the then-Royals club record. Montgomery was MLB’s 10th pitcher to reach the 300-plus saves mark, and the first to collect all of them with one club. He finished his career atop the Royals all-time list in appearances (686) and saves (304).
Charlie Leibrandt (1984-89)
Leibrandt’s best years were the three he spent in Atlanta, but he was pretty damn good in Kansas City, going 76-61 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.315 WHIP, 1.72 SO/BB rate with 34 complete games and 10 shutouts in six seasons. He was not a power pitcher by any means, averaging just 4.4 K/9 and was used almost exclusively as a starter in KC, but he just missed our rotation and had more votes than any other possible reliever, so we stuck him here. He posted five straight seasons with a winning record before a 5-11 mark in his last season in a Royals uniform, where he was eventually demoted to the bullpen. His best year came in the World Series year of 1985, where he finished fifth in the Cy Young, went 17-9 and posted a 2.69 ERA. But, for as good as he was in the regular season, Leibrandt may be best known for his postseason failures and hard luck. In 1984, facing elimination from the Tigers in the Best-of-Five ALCS, he tossed a complete game, but lost 1-0 on a fielders choice in the second inning. The following year, Leibrandt was beat badly by the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the ALCS. In Game 4, he took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning, but saw Quisenberry allow both of his inherited runners to score, losing 2-1. In the World Series, he took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning, but the Cardinals scored four, for the win. He replaced an injured Saberhagen in Game 7 of the ALCS that year, sending the Royals to the World Series and was picked up by the offense in Game 6 of the World Series, where he took a 3-hitter into the ninth inning. The Royals rallied and won the game 2-1 on a one-out bases-loaded bloop single by pinch-hitter Dane Iorg, in the infamous Don Denkinger game.
Honorable Mention: SP’s: Steve Busby, Larry Gura, Paul Splitorff; RP’s Steve Farr, Steve Mingori, Kelvin Herrera; SP/RP: Tom Gordon
Manager: Whitey Herzog (1975-79)
It was a 3-man race here, and the current manager Ned Yost almost received the nod. He took over a bad situation and improved the team’s record in six straight seasons, winning the American League pennant in the last two and the World Series in the sixth year. Since, he has went 161-163, but has the most wins in Royals history (629), but is below .500 (.499).
Ned was good, but Herzog, led the Royals to three straight American League West titles from 1976-78, was special. He led the 1977 Royals, perhaps the best team in franchise history, to a then club-record 102 wins. The first 13 players inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame all played during his five years in Kansas City. In each of those seasons, the Royals posted a winning record and never finished lower than second place. Herzog’s Kansas City career ended as the Royals all-time winningest manager, posting a record of 410-304 (.574). He still has the best win percentage in club history.
General Manager: Joe Burke (1973-92)
Dayton Moore’s rebuild job in Kansas City has been phenomenal. However, it’s hard to go against Burke. Under his guidance, the Royals enjoyed unprecedented success, winning six division crowns, captured two American League pennants and a World Series championship during his tenure. The Royals also set attendance records, which included 11 seasons that surpassed the 2 million mark – something that had not been done since 1991 until this season, where the Royals topped the 2 million plateau last night in the fewest amount of games in franchise history. Burke was named Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year in 1976 and honored with Kansas City’s “Mr. Baseball” Award in 1978.
Owner: Ewing Kauffman (1968-93)
Without Kauffman, there is no Kansas City Royals. It’s simple as that.
After returning Major League Baseball to his hometown, Ewing Kauffman fulfilled his promise to bring a World Series championship to Kansas City. In 1968, he founded the Royals with his wife Muriel, and the two guided the organization through its first 25 years. In those seasons, the club won six division titles, two American League pennants and a World Series crown. He applied his personal philosophy and passion for original thought to business and baseball, achieving lasting success in both. However, his contributions to Kansas City run much deeper than baseball alone. The foundation that bears his name continues his legacy inspiring new pursuits in education and entrepreneurship.
Kauffman owned the Kansas City Royals from their inception in 1969 until his death. A billionaire for his investment in pharmaceuticals, Kauffman saw the club go from an expansion franchise to a perennial American League contender. Kauffman died in 1993, shortly before his death Royals Stadium was renamed Kauffman Stadium in his honor.
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