We finish the 1969 round of expansion with the Kansas City Royals. Just as a reminder, we’re trying to figure out which four Royals we’d put up on a monument for the team. The selection criteria are entirely up to you–best player, best performer, best embodiment of the team…
The Royals started on fire, with 3 second-place finishes in the first 6 years, followed by 4 first-place finishes in the next 5 years. After losing the World Series in 1980, they finally won it all in 1985. Sadly, in the subsequent 27 years they haven’t made the playoffs at all and haven’t even sniffed the post-season since the late 1980s.
There are an awful lot of players for this franchise who deserve consideration. Let’s dig in.
Let’s take a peek at the Wins Above Replacement leaders among batters for the Royals franchise:
Lots of good names here. The first 5 are pretty obvious. Carlos Beltran is sort of easy to forget as a Royal, but Mike Sweeney isn’t. For all the team’s losing seasons, Sweeney was a mainstay. Going all the way down to Alex Gordon, every other guy here was an important contributor although most (save Macfarlane) didn’t play with the team for too many years.
And how about some other memorable players who didn’t even make the above list?
Danny Tartabull just missed the above list, coming in at #17 for the franchise. He put up some monster years for the team, especially his last one in 1991 when he led the league in SLG and posted a whopping 171 OPS+.
Bo Jackson is only 30th in WAR for the team, thanks to a low batting average, lots of strikeouts, and (believe it or not) below-average defense. But he was electric and had a number of memorable moments.
Willie Aikens is actually exactly tied with Bo Jackson in WAR with the Royals, despite playing just 4 seasons with the team. Of those 4 years, two were really good and two were awesome. But what Royals fans remember was his triple and FOUR homers in the 1980 World Series, leading to 8 RBI. In 3 post-season series with the team, Aikens hit .375/.490/.725…an incredible performance.
Let’s turn to pitchers:
Appier is one of the most underrated players of the last 20 years. He’s the second most valuable player the franchise has ever had. Pretty much all of the team’s really notable pitchers are on the list above, but there’s one other guy worth mentioning:
The late Dick Howser led the team to its only championship in 1985, as well as a second-half turnaround in 1981 and another playoff appearance in 1984. He stepped down due only to illness, and who knows what the late-80’s, early 90’s Royals would have done had Howser still been there.
This is going to be one of the toughest votes so far, I think. Please choose 4: