1985 Donruss #297 Willie Wilson - what a great photo, showing Wilson's eyes locked on the incoming pitch as he's about to lay down a drag bunt

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:

Rk Player WAR/pos From To
1 George Brett 84.0 1973 1993
2 Amos Otis 41.2 1970 1983
3 Willie Wilson 40.1 1976 1990
4 Frank White 31.1 1973 1990
5 Hal McRae 24.8 1973 1987
6 Carlos Beltran 23.1 1998 2004
7 Mike Sweeney 20.7 1995 2007
8 John Mayberry 19.2 1972 1977
9 Freddie Patek 18.1 1971 1979
10 David DeJesus 16.6 2003 2010
11 Kevin Seitzer 16.4 1986 1991
12 Johnny Damon 15.9 1995 2000
13 Darrell Porter 15.8 1977 1980
14 Joe Randa 12.5 1995 2004
15 Mike Macfarlane 11.8 1987 1998
16 Alex Gordon 11.8 2007 2012
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2012.

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?

1991 Fleer #572

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+.

1988 Donruss #220

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.

1983 Topps #136

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:

Rk Player WAR From To
1 Kevin Appier 45.0 1989 2004
2 Bret Saberhagen 38.8 1984 1991
3 Mark Gubicza 35.5 1984 1996
4 Zack Greinke 24.8 2004 2010
5 Dan Quisenberry 24.6 1979 1988
6 Dennis Leonard 23.3 1974 1986
7 Charlie Leibrandt 21.5 1984 1989
8 Jeff Montgomery 19.9 1988 1999
9 Paul Splittorff 19.5 1970 1984
10 Larry Gura 16.7 1976 1985
11 Steve Busby 15.1 1972 1980
12 Tom Gordon 14.7 1988 1995
13 Al Fitzmorris 14.2 1969 1976
14 David Cone 13.4 1986 1994
15 Dick Drago 12.3 1969 1973
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2012.

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:

1990 Topps #661 -

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:

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