In a more positive bit of news, the Royals opened up their Royals Hall of Fame voting process for the upcoming year, and there are six Royals alumni on the ballot eligible for enshrinement (they must reach that 75 percent cutoff to be enshrined).
I have talked about Royals Hall of Fame voting before on this blog, and I am always in the mindset of having “more” guys in a team-specific Hall of Fame (and even in the general Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame as well).
I am glad to see some guys back on the ballot after missing out on enshrinement last year, specifically Carlos Beltran, Billy Butler, Johnny Damon, and Yordano Ventura. This is the first appearance on the ballot for both Jason Vargas and Ned Yost.
So here are some of my general thoughts about the Royals Hall of Fame, who got (and didn’t get) my vote, and why.
Yost Should Get in On First Try (While Vargas Will Fail to Stay on the Ballot)
I think Royals fans will for sure see an enshrinement voted in, as Yost should be a shoo-in after leading the Royals to two MLB pennants and a World Series title.
The only other manager in Royals history who has a World Series title is Dick Howser, and not only is he a member of the Royals Hall of Fame but his number is also retired as well. Only George Brett and Frank White are the other Royals alumni in club history who have had their numbers retired.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see on Yost’s enshrinement day that his No. 3 is also up there with Brett’s No. 5, White’s No. 20, and Howser’s No. 10.
While the end of his career certainly was a bit of a downer, there is no question that Yost is one of the, if not most, successful managers in the history of the Kansas City Royals franchise. His number deserves to be retired, along with Alex Gordon’s No. 4, which should be coming up in the next year or two.
As for Vargas, I was actually kind of surprised by his career with the Royals, which was disjointed due to Tommy John surgery which put him out for most of the 2015 season. However, Vargas was an All-Star in 2017, and a major contributor on the 2014 squad that won a pennant in 2014 (he posted a 3.71 ERA in 187 innings pitched). I also forgot about how well-loved he was in Kansas City, especially during that solid 2017 when he pretty much carried the Royals rotation during that 80-82 season.
While Vargas certainly had his moments in KC, I am not sure if he’ll get 10 percent of the votes to stay on the ballot, as I am not sure he’s quite “Royals Hall of Fame” worthy.
Not being an active part of that 2015 squad particularly hurts his candidacy, and this will probably be his only year on the ballot.
Butler and Damon Should Miss Out Again As Well
I actually have written extensive pieces about the Royals’ HOF candidacies of both Butler and Damon before on this blog. And here are brief summaries of their individual cases, and why they probably won’t get enshrinement this year or ever.
Damon is a much easier case than Butler. While Damon was extremely talented, and his overall output looks much better in retrospect, how things ended in Kansas City is still tough to stomach. Basically, Damon refused a pretty lengthy extension, which essentially forced the Royals to trade Damon to Oakland in order to get something of value before he eventually left the organization. The deal did net the Royals Mark Teahen, who was good but never quite matched Damon in terms of the caliber of player. Because of that, and the fact that Damon is so associated with the Red Sox and Yankees as a baseball player, I feel like he misses out on the Royals’ HOF enshrinement.
Butler is a tougher deal. After all, Butler was not only an All-Star in 2012, when Kauffman Stadium hosted the All-Star Game, but he also was a key part of that 2014 squad that won an AL Pennant. He was mostly known for a key hit in the AL Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics that brought the Royals back in the game in the bottom of the eighth inning.
What hurts Butler though is how his tenure ended in Kansas City after the 2014 postseason run.
At the time, Butler was declining as a player and looking for an extension. The Royals opted to not bring him back, with the A’s coming in and offering a three-year, $30 million deal to swoop him out of Kansas City. While the deal ended up being the right decision for the Royals (Kendrys Morales ended up being a great replacement), Butler’s departure also opened up the lid on stories of him not being a great “clubhouse” guy and caring more about “stats” than winning.
Butler’s legacy has gotten better in retirement, as he actually attended a 50th-anniversary recognition at the K, which showed that he had buried the hatchet with the Royals and Kansas City after a less-than-amicable departure.
I hope Butler can stay on the ballot for at least one more year, for he’s gained a lot of momentum, and I think Royals fans appreciate him for who he was (which was a lovable slugger on a bad team), and not who he wasn’t (which was a franchise-altering player), especially prior to 2014. But I think he misses enshrinement again, and due to the three-vote limit of the ballot, I didn’t vote for him either.
Beltran and Venture Should Be Enshrined (And For More Than On-Field Reasons)
According to the Royals’ Hall of Fame website, Beltran earned 65.6 percent of votes last year, which means he needs less than 10 percent more votes to earn a spot in the Royals Hall of Fame. Ventura has a much further way to go, as he only got 21.9 percent of the votes. For Ventura though, that was nearly an eight percent increase from 2019, his first time on the ballot, which means that Yordano is gaining steam among Royals fans.
In terms of Beltran, he’s 14th all-time in Royals bWAR with a 24.8 mark, according to Baseball-Reference. He’s ahead of Mike Sweeney and John Mayberry, who are other position players in the Royals Hall of Fame currently. Beltran also won Rookie of the Year honors in 1999, earned Top-10 MVP honors in 2003, and was an All-Star in 2004, though he was traded to Houston in the middle of the year. If the Royals had handled things better earlier in his career, it’s possible that Beltran could have had a couple of more seasons in Kansas City.
As for Ventura, he didn’t have as long a career, as he only produced a career 7.7 bWAR in 94 career games. But he won two pennants with the Royals, a World Series title, and was such an iconic figure for Royals fans from 2014-2016 (and iconic in NOT a good way with opposing fans to boot).
I don’t think there was a player in Royals history, Brett included, who had as many fights with opposing hitters as Ventura. And yet, while it is easy for Royals fans to remember Ventura for his “take no prisoners” demeanor, it shouldn’t be forgotten with the Kansas City faithful how Ventura had barely started his career, and seemed to be on the cusp of really becoming the true “ace” of the Royals rotation for years to come.
There’s no question that Ventura’s passing changed the trajectory of the Royals, especially on the pitching end of things.
But another reason why Beltran and Ventura both deserve enshrinement is pertinent to a big issue with the Royals franchise and organization as a whole: the Royals lack diversity, especially of the Latino variety, in the Royals Hall of Fame.
Yes, there are a number of African-American players in the Royals Hall of Fame, but the only Latino is Cookie Rojas, who played on some of the very first Royals teams. While Kansas or Missouri is not California, Florida, or Texas in terms of Hispanic and Latino population, it has grown rapidly over the past few decades, and that is particularly evident in the number of Latino ballplayers who have joined the organization in that timespan as well. Beltran was kind of the first one who “jump-started” the homegrown Latino player movement within the Royals organization, and Ventura was one of the first ones beyond Salvy to be so embraced by Hispanic and Latino baseball fans in Kansas City.
In fact, I would argue that Ventura was MORE popular with Hispanics/Latinos in Kansas City from 2014 to 2016 because of his fiery demeanor, which was more endearing to that fanbase than the more “happy-go-lucky” demeanor of Salvy. I know that’s a polarizing take, but I think it’s not surprising that the Royals player’s silhouette on the Raised Royal mural on the Westside (a heavily Mexican-American neighborhood traditionally) by the Boulevard Brewery is one of Yordano.
I know Royals fans will not immediately identify Beltran as a Royal when thinking about his career (he resonates more with the Mets and even Cardinals) or think Ventura played long enough.
That being said, they were important figures for the Royals baseball and KC Hispanic/Latino community, especially during a time period when both communities were trying to gain footing and respect again in the KC Metro area.
And that should put these two important Latino Royals alumni over the top in the Hall-of-Fame voting process (at least in my opinion anyways).
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