It’s amazing that I have reached 200 posts on this blog. Granted, so much of that was due to COVID giving me a lot more time to write, but this blog has definitely outlasted many other web sites I have started since I began blogging during my sophomore year of college (shoutout to my old Blogger days). Thus, I wanted to do something to celebrate the 200th post on this blog, much like I did when I wrote post 100 earlier this year.
And thus, I decided to create and list my own “All-Time” Royals lineup, which corresponds well with Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium today, July 31st. (Also the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola! I went to a Jesuit high school and two Jesuit colleges, so that’s why I’m mentioning this.) Now, as a FYI, this is a Royals lineup of my “favorite” Royals players. It could consist of some of the best Royals in history, but I could also pass over “better” players in favor of ones that mean more to me sentimentally. Case in point: I know Amos Otis is one of the best Royals outfielders in history (he’s third in Royals history when it comes to career WAR). But he won’t be in my lineup.
Anyways, that’s an outline of my process for this lineup. For everyone who has read and followed this blog over the past year, thank you. Thank you for helping me be a better Royals fan. And I’m particularly thankful to the great Royals blogs out there such as Royals Review, Kings of Kauffman, Royals Farm Report, Royals Academy, KC Kingdom, Bleeding Royal Blue, UL’s Toothpick, Royals Blue, Royals Twitter and Royals Reddit. All those blogs can be found on the sidebar of this post. Thanks to them for helping me become a better Royals fan as well.
So, without further delay, let’s take a look at “The Royals Reporter All-Time Royals” lineup.
Catcher: Salvador Perez
This is a no-brainer. The heart and soul of the current Royals, he’s 18th all-time in Royals history when it comes to WAR. No other catcher in Royals history can touch him when it comes to longevity as well as offensive production, and considering he has been a six-time All-Star, it seems like a no-brainer that Salvy will have his number retired at Kauffman Stadium when he finishes his baseball career. In addition to being one of the most productive and longest-tenured Royals players since they began winning again in 2013, Salvy has also been one of the most charismatic Royals players on and off the field. During the 2015 run, the day before they were set to play the Houston Astros in the ALDS, I saw Salvy and his entourage buying pizza rolls at the Sunfresh in Westport. And he basically stopped and took pictures with any fan who asked. It was awesome and something that endeared me to him as a Royals fan (in addition to his immense love for pizza rolls). Furthermore, Salvy was also responsible for one of the greatest hits in one of the greatest games in Royals postseason history, as evidenced below:
First Baseman: Mike Sweeney
This was another easy one for me, though I know some may think that since I’m more of a “recent” Royals fan in comparison to others out there on the Web, I would choose Eric Hosmer for this spot. While Hosmer has the playoff success and the moments, he was probably my least favorite player of that core bunch. He was far too inconsistent from year to year, and I think the Royals lucked out by him signing with San Diego for an astronomical amount. Sweeney on the other hand was the model of consistency for the Royals during a tough era: he was a five-time All-Star and ranks 15th in Royals history when it comes to career WAR. Sweeney has always seemed like a good dude, as I know he has given back and done baseball camps in the Kansas City area since he retired, and the Royals have kept him included in the organization as a thanks for all the rough years he endured. He was also a favorite of mine in MVP Baseball 2004, as the combo of him and Ken Harvey at 1B and DH made for a potent combo during my Royals “franchise mode” plays.
Second Baseman: Frank White
I have written about White before on this blog and how his legacy as a Royal is a complicated one. Though I never had the benefit of getting to watch White play in person or on TV, it was hard for me to put any other second baseman here considering his legacy. The more I have read about him, the more I have grown to appreciate White, both as a player as well as a person, even though his most recent stretch in politics has rubbed many Jackson County residents the wrong way. As a player, there may be no better infielder in Royals history than White, as he won eight gold gloves, which included six straight from 1977-1982. White also appeared in the All-Star game five times and won a silver slugger award in 1986 at the age of 35. White currently ranks 8th all-time in Royals history in WAR, and is one of only two players in the Royals’ 52-year history to have his number retired by the Royals.
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
This is my first “off the chart” pick for my “All-Time Royals” lineup. Escobar in his eight-year career with the Royals accumulated an 8.6 WAR, which puts him nowhere close to the Royals Top 24 list (Freddie Patek is a much better player on a WAR basis as he accumulated a 21.5 WAR and ranks 21st in Royals All-Time WAR). Furthermore, Escobar’s career entered a slow decent after the World Series title, as he went from a 2.7 WAR in 2014 to a 1.0 WAR in 2015 to a 0.7 WAR in 2016 to -0.7 WAR in 2017 to a -1.6 WAR in 2018, the latter is final season with the Royals and in MLB (he played in triple-A Charlotte last year and is currently playing in Japan). Escobar though had his flashes of glory as a Royal, and as I kept coming back to this position, Escobar just kept sticking out to me as my favorite. Even though he ultimately was an unspectacular player who probably was loved a bit too much by manager Ned Yost, he did provide a good glove, some decent speed on the basepaths, and some memorable moments on the field, especially in the postseason, with his inside-the-park Game 1 home run in the World Series against the Mets being the biggest.
Third Baseman: George Brett
I really didn’t grow up during Brett’s prime years, but I did catch the tail of Brett’s career as a kid during the early 90’s. However, though Mike Moustakas was my favorite Royals of that 2013-2017 run, I couldn’t put him over Brett, who is “Mr. Royal” through and through. He ranks No. 1 All-Time in Royals history when it comes to WAR and by a big margin too, as his 88.6 WAR is 41.6 wins higher than the second-best Royal, Kevin Appier. Brett is also the only Royal in franchise history to be inducted as a Royal (there are a few others who played with the Royals like Gaylord Perry and Harmon Killebrew who played for the Royals but were inducted as members of others teams). Furthermore, I also remembered meeting him as a kid in Spokane, Washington when his brother used to own the Spokane Indians, a former short-season affiliate for the Royals in the 90’s. It definitely stuck out to me and endeared me to him, even though I didn’t get to see much of his career. And lastly, the “Pine Tar” game is one of the most legendary moments in baseball, and even I remember seeing highlights of that as a kid and loving Brett for his monumental outburst.
Left Field: Alex Gordon
There’s no question that if Brett was “Mr. Royal” of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, then Gordo has been “Mr. Royal” of the 2010’s. The longest-tenured current Royal, Gordo has been with the Royals for 14 seasons, first debuting in 2007 as a third-baseman. There’s no question Gordo faced monumental pressure when he was drafted by the Royals second overall in the 2005 MLB Draft: he was a Midwest guy from Lincoln, Nebraska who played for the Cornhuskers and grew up a Royals fan. He was supposed to be the next Brett and save the franchise which was going through a terrible stretch after Ewing Kauffman died in 1993. And though Gordo never lived up to the “next Brett” hype, he had an amazing career in which he made three All-Star games, earned seven gold gloves (and counting), and has posted a WAR of 35, which is 7th all-time and only 3 wins behind Mark Gubicza. Who knows how many seasons Gordo has left, but hopefully he’ll finish his career out in Kansas City, a story we do not see often in baseball these days. And in addition to his stellar career, no one will ever forget Gordo’s timely homer in game 1 of the World Series that tied the game and helped the Royals beat the Mets in extra innings:
Center Field: Willie Wilson
Much like White, I never had the pleasure of watching Wilson during his glory years. But as I have studied up on Wilson, his story continues to fascinates me as one of the greatest African-American players in Royals history. Wilson was the quintessential “Royals Way” player: he had a great ability to make contact, he was a demon on the basepaths (he averaged 50 stolen bases a year over his 19-year career), and he also possessed a great glove as well. Currently, Wilson ranks 4th in Royals history in WAR, and while I was tempted to put Lorenzo Cain in this spot, I had to give it to Wilson, who was the LoCain of his era. Furthermore, Wilson had an amazing comeback story, as he plead guilty to cocaine use after the 1983 season along with teammates Wille Mays Aikens, Vida Blue, and Jerry Martin. Wilson was originally suspended for the 1984 season by commissioner Bowie Kuhn, but he won an appeal and was able to return in May of that season. Despite the shadow cast on him from that legal incident, Wilson overcame that stigma on the field, with an incredible 1985 postseason, as he hit .310 in the ALCS against the Blue Jays and .367 against the Cardinals in the World Series. Today, Wilson is a public speaker who talks about the dangers of drug addiction, and is a model of what an athlete can do to not only overcome demons personally, but to help others overcome theirs as well.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
Beltran mostly played center field during his time with the Royals, but I felt like I had to include him on this list. No Royal fascinated me more during his prime, and honestly, he was one of few players I tried to emulate in more ways than one. Beltran was the epitome of a five tool player, and I remember being entranced by his play during his early 2000’s seasons with the Royals, especially his 2003 campaign in which he helped the Royals achieve an 83-79 record, their first winning season since the 1994 strike-shortened season. Beltran ranks 13th in Royals history in terms of WAR, and not only won the Rookie of the Year award in 1999, but also was a nine-time All-Star over his 20-year MLB career. For other baseball fans, Beltran will be mostly known as a Met, Astro or even Cardinal. But he holds a special place in Royals fans’ hearts, mine included.
Designated Hitter: Jorge Soler
I know. Soler hasn’t been on the Royals long. I’m sure people would claim that Billy Butler, Jermaine Dye, or Hal McRae* (shout out to reader for pointing McRae out; I didn’t have him listed originally, which is sacrilegious) would be more worthy of the DH spot. However, no current Royals engages my interest like Soler. I literally stop what I do to listen or watch his at-bats. I pour into his metrics and box scores like no other current Royal. And when I wrote my first SABR piece (which has yet to be published), I made sure to focus on Soler and him breaking the Royals and Cuban-born player single-season home run records. I am not sure how long Soler will be on the Royals, but he is my favorite player currently on the Royals and will be even if he fails to live up to his tremendous season last year.
Starting Pitcher: Kevin Appier
I thought about Zack Greinke in this spot, who I enjoyed during his Royals tenure and has become well-loved again after a weird exit initially. However, I had to go with Appier, a pitcher who is just synonymous with the Royals of the 90’s. I remember as a kid trying to replicate his glove in the air pitching motion back in Little League to varying degrees of success. And while Appier had some cultural significance for me personally, he also was a really good pitcher: he is second in career WAR in Royals history, and he also accumulated 115 wins in his 13 seasons in Kansas City. What’s most surprising about Appier is that he’s the epitome of the “being good, not great, but durable” label. He only made the All-Star team once (1995). He never won 20 games. He never won a Cy Young award. And yet, Appier carved out a pretty decent career, which spanned 16 seasons overall, with additional stops in New York (Mets), Oakland, and Anaheim. Maybe Appier wasn’t quite the pitcher that Greinke or Dennis Leonard or Bret Saberhagen or Mark Gubicza was. But, as a Royal, Appier had a lot of long-term impact, and I think that often gets forgotten and under-appreciated in Royals fan lore.
Relief Pitcher: Dan Quisenberry
This was another tough one. There have been a lot of great closer in Royals history, especially recently. However, for as good as some have been, they also have their share of flaws. Wade Davis is certainly most loved with recent Royals fans, but he had a limited tenure as Royals closer, as he really didn’t take over the spot until after Greg Holland went down with injury at the end of the 2015 season (and he only pitched as Royals closer for one more season after that). Holland was also stellar, but injury affected him 2015, and he was only really effective in 2013 and 2014. Joakim Soria was a success story as a Royals Rule 5 pick, but he closed out games during a pretty lackluster Royals era. Jeff Montgomery leads the Royals in saves, but much like Soria, his teams didn’t have any impact in the postseason (he never pitched in the playoffs). And thus, I had to go with Quisenberry, who pretty much molded the “modern day” closer we see today. Quisenberry is 12th all-time in WAR in Royals history, and he was also a key component to the 1980 pennant team, and 1985 World Series-champion squad. In an era where pitchers were expected to go nine, Quisenberry proved that relief pitchers could have tremendous value, and he captured Royals’ fans’ attention with his solid late-inning performances, as well as wonky pitching style. While I didn’t get to see Quisenberry pitch in person or on TV, his impact on Royals baseball is well-noted and it would have felt sacrilegious to have anyone other than him on this list in this spot.