Joel's MLB Franchise Top 10: Kansas City Royals
Now the 10th installment in my series running down who I feel are the ten best players in the history of each MLB franchise. The Royals were up next.
Throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the Royals were among baseball's best teams, and they had a lot of good players during that span.
That said, this list is made up of mostly players from that stretch; however, there have been some solid players in the past 20 years as well that toiled on some well below average teams.
This, like any list, is obviously open to interpretation and I look forward to hearing how your lists would differ from mine. Let the debate begin.
SP Dennis Leonard: 144-106, 3.70 ERA , 1323 Ks
SP Paul Splittorff: 166-143, 3.81 ERA, 1057 Ks
SP Zack Greinke: 50-53, 3.73 ERA, 750 Ks, 2009 Cy Young
SP Steve Busby: 70-54, 3.72 ERA, 659 Ks, 2x All-Star
SP Charlie Leibrandt: 76-61, 3.60 ERA, 618 Ks
SP Mark Gubicza: 132-135, 3.91 ERA, 1366 Ks, 2x All-Star
SP David Cone: 27-19, 3.29 ERA, 344 Ks, 1994 Cy Young
SP Larry Gura: 111-78, 3.72 ERA, 633 Ks, 1x All-Star
RP Joakim Soria: 89 Saves, 2.09 ERA, 1x All-Star
C Darrell Porter: .271 BA, 61 HR, 301 RBI, 3x All-Star
C Mike Macfarlane: .256 BA, 103 HR, 398 RBI
1B John Mayberry: .261 BA, 143 HR, 552 RBI
1B Steve Balboni: .230 BA, 119 HR, 318 RBI
3B Joe Randa: .288 BA, 86 HR, 533 RBI
3B Kevin Seitzer: .294 BA, 33 HR, 265 RBI, 1x All-Star
SS Freddie Patek: 336 SB, 3x All-Star
OF Carlos Beltran: .287 BA, 123 HR, 516 RBI, 164 SB, ROY
OF Bo Jackson: .250 BA, 109 HR, 313 RBI, 1x All-Star
OF Lou Pinella: .286 BA, 45 HR, 348 RBI, 1969 Rookie of The Year
OF Danny Tartabull: .290 BA, 124 HR, 425 RBI, 1x All-Star
OF Johnny Damon: .292 BA, 156 SB
No. 10: Willie Wilson (1976-1990)
H: 1968 (fourth)
RBI: 509 (ninth)
R: 1060 (third)
SB: 612 (first)
2x Silver Slugger
1x Gold Glove
Wilson had a very long career, but he was in his prime as a member of the Royals, and from 1979-1984, he was one of the game's best lead off hitters.
Over that span, he averaged a .310 BA, and hit over .300 five times, winning a batting title in 1982 when he hit .332 and also had an AL high 15 triples.
He also had at least 30 steals in every season during that stretch, and he led the league in steals in 1979 with a whopping 83 thefts.
However, his best season may have been 1980, when he had AL highs with 230 hits, 15 triples, and 133 runs and he finished fourth in MVP voting.
His 668 steals are 12th best all-time, and he is hands down the best lead off hitter in Royals history, and deserving of a spot on this list.
No. 9: Jeff Montgomery (1988-1999)
Appearances: 686 (first)
Saves: 304 (first)
ERA: 3.20 (third)
ERA+: 137 (second)
WHIP: 1.233 (third)
Ks: 720 (eighth)
K/9: 7.6 (second)
1x Rolaids Relief Pitcher
Montgomery took over as the Royals closer in 1989, and he went on to post double digit saves in 11 straight seasons until his retirement.
From 1991-1993, he had over 30 saves each year, but his best season came in 1993, when he led the American League with 45 saves, won the Rolaids Relief Man Award, and finished 13th in MVP voting.
His 304 saves are 19th all-time, and easily the most ever by a Royals closer. While his ERA was a bit high most years, he was dominant in his prime, and deserving of a spot on this list.
No. 8: Amos Otis (1970-1983)
H: 1977 (third)
HR: 193 (third)
RBI: 992 (third)
R: 1074 (second)
SB: 340 (second)
3x Gold Glove
Otis was truly a dual threat player in his time in Kansas City, as he had 10 seasons in which he had double digit HR and SB, but speed was his biggest asset.
He had over 20 steals eight times, leading the league once in 1971 with a career high 52, and he did it while hitting in the third spot in the lineup.
He had a pair of seasons in which he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting. In the 1973 season, he posted a line of .300 BA, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 13 SB and finished third in MVP voting.
Then, in 1978, he had a line of .298 BA, 22 HR, 96 RBI, 32 SB and he finished fourth in the voting, and he went on to produce solid numbers until the age of 35.
Otis was the definition of a player who did a lot of things well—but nothing great—but he was an asset to the Royals, and a big reason why they won the division in 1976.
No. 7: Dan Quisenberry (1979-1988)
Appearances: 573 (second)
Saves: 238 (second)
ERA: 2.55 (first)
ERA+: 160 (first)
WHIP: 1.150 (second)
5x Rolaids Relief Pitcher
Quisenberry is easily one of the most dominant relievers of the 1980s, and from 1980-1985, he was the best.
Over that six year stretch, he led the league in saves five times, and finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times and top 10 in MVP voting four times.
His best season came in 1983, when he had a career high 45 saves, to go along with a 1.94 ERA, as he gave up just 30 runs in 139 innings.
While his submarine delivery and outgoing personality endeared him to fans, that is far from the reason he is on this list, as he was among the best closers in baseball history.
No. 6: Hal McRae (1973-1987)
BA: .290 (sixth)
SLG: .454 (tenth)
H: 1924 (fifth)
HR: 169 (fourth)
RBI: 1012 (second)
R: 873 (fifth)
SB: 105 (tenth)
1x Silver Slugger
It is safe to say that McRae is among the most complete designated hitters of all time, as he was far more than just a powerful bat.
That is not to say he was not a good power hitter, but he also stole double digit bases six times.
During his 15 seasons with the Royals, McRae posted some stellar seasons, but his best season by far was the 1982 season. He posted a line of .308 BA, 27 HR, 133 RBI, while leading the league in RBI as well as doubles (46) while finishing fourth in MVP voting.
Not only was McRae as great player, but he also went on to manage to the team from 1991-1994 and a 286-277 record.
No. 5: Kevin Appier (1989-1999, 2003-2004)
Wins: 115 (fourth)
Losses: 92: (fourth)
Win Percentage: .556 (ninth)
ERA: 3.49 (seventh)
ERA+: 130 (fourth)
WHIP: 1.250 (sixth)
Ks: 1458 (first)
K/9: 7.1 (fifth)
The most impressive part about Appier's numbers are the fact that from 1990-1997 he had a winning percentage of .582, while the Royals in that same stretch had a winning percentage of just .480. More times that not Appier had to do it himself in order to get the win.
And win he did, going 12-8 in his rookie season, and finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. That would be the first of six seasons in which Appier topped double digits in wins.
His best season, by far, came in 1993, as he went 18-8, 2.56 ERA, 186 Ks, leading the AL in ERA and posting a 179 ERA+ en route to a third place Cy Young finish.
Appier truly was a great pitcher, and had he pitched for a better team, his numbers would have been amazing. As it is, he is still one of the best Royals pitchers of all time.
No. 4: Frank White (1973-1990)
H: 2006 (second)
HR: 160 (fifth)
RBI: 886 (fourth)
R: 912 (fourth)
SB: 178 (fifth)
1x Silver Slugger
8x Gold Glove
Despite the low batting average, White was still among the best hitting second basemen of the 1980s, and his defense more than made up for any offensive shortcomings he may have had.
He won six straight Gold Gloves from 1977-1982, and his stellar defense was rewarded with four All-Star trips during that span.
He also seemed to find his power stroke later in his career, and starting in 1982 at the age of 31, he hit double digit home runs six straight years, including over 20 twice. He even won a Silver Slugger Award in 1986 after hitting .272 BA, 22 HR, 84 RBI.
White was the ideal second basemen in an era where more emphasis was put on defense than offense at the position, and after spending all 18 years of his career in Kansas City, he is deserving of a spot high on this list.
No. 3: Mike Sweeney (1995-2007)
BA: .299 (third)
OBP: .369 (seventh)
SLG: .492 (third)
H: 1398 (sixth)
HR: 197 (second)
RBI: 837 (fifth)
R: 700 (sixth)
It is easy to forget how good Sweeney was because he was playing for some horrible Royals teams, but he was among the league's best hitters from 1999-2005.
During that span, Sweeney topped 20 HR six times, 100 RBI twice, and hit over .300 five times, while making five All-Star appearances in the process.
His best season was the 2000 season, as he had a line of .333 BA, 29 HR, 144 RBI and he set career highs in HR, RBI, and Hits (206).
He made a run at the batting title in 2002, as he hit .340 and finished second to Manny Ramirez,who hit .349.
Had he played on better teams, Sweeney would have posted far better run production numbers, but nonetheless, he was one of the most consistent hitters in Royals history and deserves his high ranking on this list.
No. 2: Bret Saberhagen (1984-1991)
Wins: 110 (sixth)
Losses: 78 (fifth)
Win Percentage: .585 (fourth)
ERA: 3.21 (fourth)
ERA+: 128 (fifth)
WHIP: 1.134 (first)
Ks: 1093 (fourth)
K/9: 5.9 (eighth)
2x Cy Young
Saberhagen was among the most dominant pitchers of the 1980s, and he was a huge part of the Royals 1985 World Series run.
In 1985, as a 21-year-old in just his second season in the majors, he was the ace of the staff and a fantastic regular season line of 20-6, 2.87 ERA, 158 Ks earned him the AL Cy Young Award.
As good a season as that was, he was even better in the World Series. He won both of his starts, pitched a pair of complete games and gave up just one run. That performance earned him the World Series MVP, and cemented himself among the games best pitchers.
Saberhagen followed that up with three straight decent seasons, before having easily the best season of his career in 1989.
With a line of 23-6, 2.16 ERA, 193 Ks, he ran away with the Cy Young, as he led the AL in wins, ERA, ERA+ (180), CG (12), IP (262.1), and WHIP (0.961), marking one of the best single season performances of the past 30 years.
While his Royals career spanned only eight years, his dominance as well as his role in the team's World Series run, earn him the number two spot on this list.
No. 1: George Brett (1973-1993)
BA: .305 (second)
OBP: .369 (eighth)
SLG: .487 (fourth)
H: 3154 (first)
HR: 317 (first)
RBI: 1595 (first)
R: 1583 (first)
SB: 201 (fourth)
3x Silver Slugger
1x Gold Glove
Hall of Fame
Brett is arguably the best third baseman of all time, and one of the best hitters to ever play the game.
He hit over .300 11 times in his career, winning three batting titles in the process, and hitting an incredible .390 in 1980 on his way to the AL MVP Award.
Along with being a terrific contact hitter, Brett also had over 300 HR and 200 SB in his career, to go along with 665 doubles. This is good for sixth best all time.
Aside from his impressive regular season stats, Brett also had a career postseason line of .337 BA, 10 HR, 23 RBI in 43 games, as he stepped his game up when it mattered the most.
Brett may well be the best third basemen to ever play the game this side of Mike Schmidt, and he is easily the best player Royals player of all time.