When scouring Major League Baseball’s record book, you begin to notice that for every amazing feat accomplished over the history of the sport, there is one representing a not-so-remarkable achievement.
For every Nolan Ryan, there is Reggie Jackson; both strikeout kings, but for all the wrong reasons.
For every Cy Young, there is…well, Cy Young—the career leader in wins and losses by a pitcher.
And for every Barry Bonds—or Roger Maris, for the purist in you—there is Steve Balboni.
Yes, there is a parallel between Bonds and Balboni.
Bonds holds the MLB single-season record for home runs with the 73 he hit back in 2001 for the San Francisco Giants (obviously a Giants’ team record as well). Conversely, Balboni’s name is etched in Kansas City Royals’ lore having hit 36 during their World Series championship year of 1985.
To put this into perspective, you could double Balboni’s total from 1985 and still be one shy of the number of balls Bonds sent over the fence during his historic 2001 season.
Other than those synonymous with futility, there might not be a more inexcusable record in all of professional sports.
The Royals are the only current team to not have a single player hit at least 40 home runs in a season, including the relative new kids on the block the Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays.
It isn’t that Royals' fans loathe that Balboni himself owns the mark. It is the paltry number that has been positioned next to his name for the past 27 years that they take exception to.
When looking back on Royals’ history, there honestly hasn’t been a player capable of knocking Balboni’s feat from the pole position.
Some will throw out names like George Brett, Mike Sweeney, John Mayberry, Jermaine Dye or even Gary Gaetti (the closest of the bunch with 35 in 1995). But if these players were capable of hitting that many home runs, they would have. They had their stabs at it, and Balboni’s 36 is still standing.
It is hard to tell if any of the current Royals have it in them to thump Balboni’s record off its pedestal—it’s been there so long, it’s probably grown roots by now. But the fact that all the other franchises in MLB were able to endure recent power surges makes 36 home runs laughable.
If Brady Anderson was able to discover a way to hit 50 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles in 1996, then the…wait, I will stop there.
No I won't. Brady. Freaking. Anderson hit 50 home runs.
Why haven’t the Royals been able to bash with the big boys? Is it the dimensions of Kauffman Stadium? Is it just not their way of doing business and they are content with it? Or are the baseball gods blanketing an infinite dark cloud over the franchise for being so terrible since Balboni set the mark?
Who knows why, but one thing is for certain: Royals’ fans will be camped at the edge of their seats for every Billy Butler at bat for the rest of the season.
He has an outside shot at Balboni’s mark. And if the baseball gods get caught sleeping, Butler might be able to sneak in a power surge to catch him.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!