By In Baseball

The Royals: A history of power

You probably know this, but the Kansas City Royals single season home run record is 36, and Steve Balboni set it almost 30 years ago. It’s always fun to list off the team-by-team home run single season home run leaders. Find your team!

Giants, 73 (Barry Bonds 2001)
Cardinals, 70 (Mark McGwire 1998)

Cubs, 66 (Sammy Sosa 1998)
Yankees, 61 (Roger Maris 1961)

Phillies, 58 (Ryan Howard 2006)
Athletics 58 (Jimmie Foxx 1932)
Tigers, 58 (Hank Greenberg 1938)
Diamondbacks, 57 (Luis Gonzalez 2001)
Rangers, 57 (Alex Rodriguez 2002)
Mariners, 56 (Ken Griffey 1998)
Blue Jays, 54 (Jose Bautista 2010)
Pirates, 54 (Ralph Kiner 1949)
Red Sox, 54 (David Ortiz 2006)
Orioles, 53 (Chris Davis 2013)
Indians, 52 (Jim Thome 2002)
Reds, 52 (George Foster 1977)
Braves, 51 (Andruw Jones 2005)
Brewers, 50 (Prince Fielder 2007)
Padres, 50 (Greg Vaughn 1998)

Dodgers, 49 (Shawn Green 2001)
Rockies, 49 (Larry Walker 1997, Todd Helton 2001)
Twins, 49 (Harmon Killebrew 1964, 1969)
White Sox, 49 (Albert Belle 1998)
Angels, 48 (Troy Glaus 2000)
Astros, 47 (Jeff Bagwell 2000)
Nationals/Les Expos, 46 (Alfonso Soriano 2006)
Rays, 46 (Carlos Pena 2007)
Marlins, 42 (Gary Sheffield 1996)
Mets, 41 (Carlos Beltran 2006, Todd Hundley 1996)

Royals, 36 (Steve Balboni, 1985)

OK before going any further let’s break all this up into a couple of fun categories. For instance, I found this breakdown pretty interesting.

Team’s season home run record holders:
In the Hall of Fame: 4
Out of the Hall of Fame: 26

Now, admittedly this is slanted because so many of the team home run records were set recently — more than two-thirds of them have been set in the last 20 years. So the Hall of Fame cases of most players have not even been heard yet. Ken Griffey will certainly be elected his first year on the ballot so that would make five of 30. Jeff Bagwell will go in sooner or later, I think Jim Thome will get elected at some point, maybe Barry Bonds will too. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz all have varying degrees of steroid stain which is why they are not coasting into the Hall even with traditional Hall of Fame numbers. It’s still unclear how we will look at steroids users in, say, 10 or 20 years.

Still, facts are facts and right now about one tenth of all the team home run leaders are in the Hall — just seems kind of odd.

Here’s another fun one, here are the years when the team home run records were set:

1932: 1
1938: 1
1949: 1
1961: 1
1964: 1
1977: 1
1985: 1
1996: 1
1998: 5
2000: 2
2001: 4
2002: 2
2005: 1
2006: 4
2007: 2
2010: 1
2013: 1

As you can see, only seven team home run records survive from pre-1996. Six of the seven are impressive home run seasons set by impressive players. Jimmie Foxx smashed 58 in 1932 and Hank Greenberg smashed 58 in 1938. Ralph Kiner’s 54 homer season from 1949 is still Pittsburgh’s record. Of course, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 remains the Yankees record. Harmon Killebrew twice hit 49 homers in the 1960s, when pitching reigned. And the Reds’ record is George Foster’s rather jolting 52-homer season of 1977 — it is the only 50-plus homer season in the 1970s or 1980s. You can see why those records have lasted.

And then there is … the Balboni record, which at this point has to be considered one of the eight wonders of the baseball world. Steve Balboni, you probably know, was a minor-league power legend in the Yankees organization; he hit 32 homers in 83 games for Class AAA Columbus in 1982 and 27 more in 84 games in 1983. The Yankees still did not take him seriously as a prospect. Nobody really did. He was big and slow, he struck out a bazillion times back when that was a deal-breaker for most general managers and he couldn’t really play a position. He looked to be in the line of such minor league royalty at Jack Baker and Joe Lis and Jim Fuller and Adrian Garrett and Bill McNulty and other legendary minor league sluggers who you probably have never heard of.

The Yankees traded him to the Royals for Duane Dewey and Mike Armstrong. Well, the Royals desperately needed power. They always have. The year the Royals got him, they gave him 500 or so plate appearances and Balboni did what Balboni does. He struck out 139 times, he hit .244, he played first base to a near draw and he mashed 28 home runs. The Royals were so excited about those home runs (Frank White was second on the team with 17) that in 1985, they gave Balboni more plate appearances. In return, he gave them more Balboni: A .243 batting average, a .307 on-base percentage, a league-leading 166 strikeouts, pretty ghastly defense at first base. But he mashed those 36 home runs, a team record. And the Royals won their only World Series.

Balboni’s record could have been broken a couple of times through the years, most prominently in 1995 by Gary Gaetti. If you don’t remember Gaetti playing with the Royals, you are not alone. Gaetti had a fine career in Minnesota, then they signed him to a big and rather disastrous big-money deal in California. I know, the Angels making a dubious big-money signing … I’m shocked too. The Angels paid more than $5 million to dump Gaetti in 1993. when he was hitting .180, and the Royals scooped him up, endured a couple of mediocre seasons and then watched him have one last glorious season when he hit 35 home runs in 1995 (just after the Royals moved in the fences … most on that in a minute). That season was shortened by the strike … if it had not, a 36-year-old Gary Gaetti would be the Royals home run record holder. I’m not sure that would be a lot better aesthetically.

How astonishing is it that the Royals home run record is 36? Well there are countless ways to look at it. Here’s one: The New York Yankees have had FORTY ONE players hit 37 or more home runs in a season. The Chicago Cubs have had 27. Jim Lemon, Tony Batista, Gus Zernial and Phil Nevin have all hit 37 homers in a season. Rafael Palmeiro did it TEN TIMES. David Kingman did it three.

So, I think it’s fair to say that the Kansas City Royals home run record is one of the more astonishing in sports. From 1998 to 2007 — the Selig Power Hour Decade — 157 players hit 37-plus home runs. More than 15 per season. Obviously no Royals player was even on that list. But even more remarkably, in that absurd stretch when baseballs were flying out like planes in Atlanta, the Royals had TWO PLAYERS who hit even THIRTY homers: Dean Palmer hit 34 in 1998 and Jermaine Dye hit 33 in 2000.

Yes, that’s right. The Royals have not had a 30-home run hitter since 2000.

You should know: The lack of power began as a point of pride or Kansas City Royals baseball. A little history: In 1969, the Royals entered as an expansion team, and at first they played in Municipal Stadium, a classic old neighborhood stadium where you parked your car at your own risk. The stadium itself was fairly nondescript; Municipal was not really a hitters or pitchers park. At different times, Kansas City Athletics crackpot owner Charlie Finley had tried to make it a home run park but he was never too successful. In the Royals first year first year, a veteran former catcher named Ed Kirkpatrick led the team with 14 home runs.

The next year, the Royals had their first legitimate power hitter — Bob Oliver — and he hit 27 home runs. That was the team record until 1975. Just as a side note, you probably know this, but Bob Oliver is the father of the longtime, longtime, longtime reliever Darren Oliver. I find this staggering because Darren Oliver pitched in the big leagues for roughly 439 years; I sort of expected his father to be Methuselah. *

*I should note — I am seven years older than Darren Oliver which means that, yes it’s just about time to send off for that AARP card and head to the 3 p.m. dinner buffet.

In 1973, the Royals moved into brand new and revolutionary Royals Stadium — and unlike Municipal this was a ballpark with its own bold and brash personality. Royals Stadium was kind of spacey, kind of high-tech, it had fountains in the outfield and far-off fences and springy artificial turf that would make baseballs bounce like super balls and conducted heat so that on summer days the turf felt roughly like the surface of the sun. These quirks actually helped shape those terrific Royals in the early years. They built fast teams that ran the bases aggressively and chased down EVERYTHING in the outfield. They were contenders on that turf for the next dozen years.*

*One of the great ironies of Royals baseball is that all these years of turf their groundskeeper was the legendary George Toma, who has prepared every Super Bowl field and is known as the King of Grass. George worked that turf but, sheesh, it’s a bit like having Picasso as your house painter.

Home runs were not part of the winning formula at Royals Stadium. The Royals DID have one a true power hitter, my friend John Mayberry, who mashed 34 home runs in 1975. In another ballpark, Mayberry almost certainly would have hit 40-plus … of the 34 he hit, 23 were on the road. Two years later, after he recovered from an injury, he hit 23 homers, 17 on the road. People just didn’t hit home runs in Kansas City.

It didn’t matter though, not for the Royals. Everyone else could try for home runs. The Royals had their own style. They played fast, played loose, they stole bases, they hit doubles and triples, they slapped bouncers over the infielders hit and sent grounders that skidded and luged between defenders all the way to the wall. They drove power teams like the Red Sox and Orioles nuts. From 1976 to 1985, the Royals won the American League West seven times (counting the strike season), won two pennants, won a World Series. They never finished Top 5 in the American League in home runs and were usually not even in the Top 10.

Royals from 1976-1985:

1976: 65 homers (11th)
1977: 146 homers (6th)
1978: 98 homers (11th)
1979: 116 homers (11th)
1980: 115 homers (9th)
1981: 61 homers (10th)
1982: 132 homers (10th)
1983: 109 homers (12th)
1984: 117 homers (12th)
1985: 154 homers (8th)

The Royals led the league in triples six times during that stretch, and more than once led the league in doubles, stolen bases, hits and batting average. That Royals fit the stadium where they played, and they won, and it was beautiful. Pitching. Defense. Speed. Who the heck needed power? Kansas City grew used to a style of play.

In 1986, though, things took a bad turn for the Royals on many different fronts. Great teams get old, and even smart baseball people almost never see it coming. It happened to the Royals in 1986. Hal McRae turned 40. George Brett and Frank White entered the decline phase of their careers which was pretty easily predicted, but Willie Wilson and Lonnie Smith, who were younger, entered their decline phase too.

To give you an idea of the freefall: The Royals stole 185 bases in 1980 when they went to the World Series. In 1986, they stole 97 bases and finished 10 games below .500. Stolen bases were not the reason they won or lost, but that drop does give a hint about a vibrant team becoming stale. The Royals could not play Royals baseball anymore. So, they started to focus on power. And they were lousy at it. In late 1986, they traded for Danny Tartabull who is actually the only Kansas City Royals player to hit 30-plus homers more than once (!). They also drafted Bo Jackson, who is his own story.

But Royals Stadium was still a canyon, and the Royals never finished better than 10th in home runs in the league from 1986 to 1994. So the power thing wasn’t working either.

Then, middle of the 1990s, the Royals had a bright idea. I kid, of course. The Royals did not have bright ideas in the 1990s. They did not have an owner, they did not have a direction, they just had a few well-intentioned people with Charlie Brown clouds over their heads and a knack for doing things that SOUNDED reasonably logical in the moment but were, in fact, New Coke level fiascos. In 1995, the Royals made the decision to replace the turf with grass. OK. Sounds reasonable. The park would look prettier. They also decided to move in the fences about 10 feet and lower them from 12 feet to 9 feet. OK. Sounds reasonable. The Royals could hit a few more home runs.

The grass decision did make the ballpark much prettier though it made the place much more conventional; and the Royals would find they did not have a prayer in a conventional war.

More, moving in of the fences turned out to be an unequivocal disaster. They apparently did not consider that moving in the fences would also make it easier for OTHER TEAMS to hit more home runs. In fact, as it turned out, moving in the fences would ONLY make it easier for other teams to hit more home runs.

Here’s a fun timeline: In 1993, the Royals allowed only 105 home runs — fewest in the American League.

In 1995, the Royals moved in the fences. They promptly allowed 37 more home runs than they had in 1993. Meanwhile they actually hit five fewer home runs than in 1993, this even with Gary Gaetti’s near record season. Turn back! Abandon ship!

No. Not the Royals. In 1996, they allowed 26 more home runs than they had in 1995.

In 1997: Ten more. In 1998: 10 more. In 1999: six more. You keeping track here? In 2000, the Royals had their season of magical curveball hanging They allowed 37 more home runs on top of all that for a grand total of 239 home runs. Only one team in baseball history, 1996 Detroit Tigers, has ever allowed more.

Meanwhile, their own home runs, as you already guessed, barely went up at all. The Royals tried to pick up home run hitters — they had Dean Palmer there for a year, Chili Davis was around, they brought in Jeff King for a while. And they had a long series of prospective power hitters work through their system — Mike Sweeney was, by far, the most successful of these though he never quite developed into even a 30-home run guy.

Others not as successful included:
— Craig Paquette (“Ball explodes off his bat!” manager Bob Boone gushed).
— Mark Quinn (who hit two home runs in his major league debut and then walked so rarely they once set off fireworks when he did get a free pass).
— Joe Vitiello (who once hit a 550-plus foot home run in spring training).
— Kit Pellow (who hit more than 300 career minor league homers and four in the big leagues).
— Bob Hamelin (the Hammer, who slugged .599 as a rookie and won the Rookie of the Year award then hit .235 and slugged .420 the rest of his career)
— Dee Brown (a former football player, who flashed great power in the minors but hit just 14 total in the big leagues)
— Many more!

After 2004, the Royals finally figured out that the short fence idea wasn’t working — hey, it only took about 10 years — and now Kauffman Stadium is back to having the biggest outfield and being perhaps the toughest home run park in the American League. And what chance do they have now of breaking Balboni’s record? The home run prospects kept on flaming out. Chris Lubanski was a 6-foot-3 outfielder who had unlimited power — our good pal, scout Art Stewart, told us we would “remember this day” when Lubanski signed and came up to take some batting practice — but he barely made it to Class AAA. The Royals drafted Brett Eibner — oh were they excited about getting Brett Eibner — a five-tool force from Arkansas. Power. Power. Power. He’s in minor league purgatory. It’s too early to make that same call about local hero Bubba Starling — one of the greatest Kansas City high school athletes ever — but at last check he was hitting about .150 in Class A ball so he’s looking pretty shaky.

Even the Royals’ relative success stories just have not become power hitters. Billy Butler was supposed to develop into a poor man’s Miguel Cabrera kind of slugger: He’s a good hitter. But he topped out at 29 home runs even that power seems gone now. Alex Gordon was supposed to develop into a slugger. Never happened.

Eric Hosmer, the Royals talked about him having light-tower power. Great phrase. He’s established himself as the everyday first baseman and he hit .300 last year. But seventeen games so far this year, he has as many home runs as I have. Third baseman Mike Moustakas hit something like 5,000 home runs his senior year of high school. He does lead the Royals in home runs this year. He has hit two.

The Royals have six home runs all year. At this point, they’re just hoping to break Balboni’s record as a team.

And you have to wonder: Why can’t the Royals catch a break on this home run thing? Other teams catch breaks. Why couldn’t the Royals have drafted Ryan Howard in the fifth round or selected Edwin Encarnacion off waivers or stuck with Jose Bautista (they are one of many teams to have Baustista) or lucked into a Chris Davis or Carlos Pena season? Why?

The answer, I guess, is that there is no answer. They are the Royals. The Balboni abides. In time, the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay. But the Steve Balboni record of 36 home runs is here to stay.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

61 Responses to The Royals: A history of power

  1. Jake Winship says:

    I realize it is a typo, but I love the phrase “Balboni did was Balboni does”. It seems to fit, somehow.

  2. David R says:

    Joe- there are 4 home run leaders in the hall, not 3- kiner, Killebrew, Foxx and Greenberg!! Great piece as always!!!!

  3. BS says:

    “the balboni abides” is a great line.

  4. Fun fact: in that insane 1998 season, the Minnesota Twins’ leader in home runs had… 21, from Matt freaking Lawton. Ron Coomer was 2nd on the team with 15.

  5. In the 6th-to-last graf, (“After 2004…), I assume you meant “…WORST home run park…”.

  6. jim louis says:

    Joe, you say: “(Balboni, in 1985): struck out 139 times, hit .244, played first base to a near draw and mashed 28 home runs.”

    If Royals fans like myself could wave a magic wand and make it so that Billy Butler’s 2014 numbers matched Balboni’s of ’85, we’d do it in a second. Butler, now, swings like a singles hitter. With his SLOW* speed, his ability to make contact seems less important.

    * Is there anyway to accurately figure out who ran to first base quicker, ’85 Balboni or ’14 Butler. I think it’d be a dead heat.

    • jim louis says:

      Oops….I copied the wrong quote. Joe, you said, “in 1985, they gave Balboni more plate appearances. In return, he gave them more Balboni: A .243 batting average, a .307 on-base percentage, a league-leading 166 strikeouts, pretty ghastly defense at first base. But he mashed those 36 home runs, a team record.”

      If Butler made it his goal to hit more home runs, I think Butler COULD match the above numbers. He’s a GOOD contact hitter and seems driven to hit the ball hard.

  7. Tom says:

    I know, the Angels making a dubious big-money signing … I’m shocked too. — Words hurt, Joe. Especially with Gary flippin Gaetti who complained on his way out of town that he didn’t exactly get a fair shot.

  8. KY Tom says:

    Just goes to show the Royals were not juicing cheaters like the rest of baseball. 😉

  9. jeff slate says:

    You’re a superb writer. But I got Ryan Howard at 58, not 59 homers in 2006.

  10. Adam says:

    I am curious as to what place in the order each team’s record holder predominantly batted during their record season. IIRC, Brett was 3rd, and White was cleanup the year Balboni hit 36. Was he batting 5th and how many others weren’t batting 3rd or 4th.

  11. Jay says:

    Can we get a copy of the Bo Jackson article without signing up with some web site I have never heard of?

  12. Jake Bucsko says:

    Don’t forget about minor league power legend “Swing Away” Merrill Hess. To this day he holds five minor league home run records. What most people don’t know is that he also holds the strikeout record. He has more strikeouts than than any two players in the minors. “It just felt wrong not to swing,” Hess was quoted as saying.

  13. Bill Caffrey says:

    One of my favorite facts about the Royals record (indirectly) is that the team with second-lowest record on the list, the Mets, have still equaled or bettered the Royals record 16 times through 7 different players.

    And of course, the Mets record is shared by former Royal, Carlos Beltran (who did it only 140 games). Beltran had 39 going into September and seemed a lock to shatter the record, but only managed 2 in the final month (perhaps he missed time in September).

  14. David says:

    Also, look at the relative quality of players to hold the HR record for each team. Here are those same 32 (because there were two teams with ties for the leader) players, ranked by WAR (baseball-reference version; all the usual caveats about WAR, etc., * denotes active players):

    Barry Bonds, 162.4
    Alex Rodriguez, 116.0

    Jimmie Foxx, 96.4

    Ken Griffey, 83.6

    Jeff Bagwell, 79.6
    Jim Thome, 72.9
    Larry Walker, 72.6

    Carlos Beltran, 68.2
    Andruw Jones, 62.8
    Mark McGwire, 62.0
    Todd Helton, 61.5
    Harmon Killebrew, 60.3
    Gary Sheffield, 60.2

    Sammy Sosa, 58.4
    Hank Greenberg, 57.5
    Luis Gonzalez, 51.5

    Ralph Kiner, 49.3
    David Ortiz, 44.9*
    George Foster, 43.9
    Albert Belle, 40.0

    Roger Maris, 38.2
    Troy Glaus, 37.9
    Shawn Green, 34.5
    Greg Vaughn, 30.7

    Alfonso Soriano, 28.7*
    Carlos Pena, 25.5
    Jose Bautista, 23.4*
    Prince Fielder, 23.1*

    Ryan Howard, 18.9*
    Todd Hundley, 10.8

    Chris Davis, 7.4*

    Steve Balboni, 0.9

    Yikes. While some less-great players have been setting team HR records recently, all of them have been better overall players than Balboni.

    • Jake Bucsko says:

      Kind of stunned at that number for Ryan Howard. Just looked up his reference page, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even in his MVP year, .315/.425/.659 with 58 HRs and 149 RBI, led league in total bases, his WAR was only 5.2. Seems counter intuitive. Part of the reason is that he’s a defensive apocalypse, but 19 WAR is just so low. For the last four seasons, not even counting this one, he’s basically been replacement level. And through it all his salary keeps rising…3 years and $75 million still left on that deal, $85 million if you count the buyout they’ll almost certainly give him after the 2016 season. Yikes.

      • Patrick Bohn says:

        Yeah, the HR/RBI totals masked other issues. In 2008, for example, his OBP was below the league average, and he’s never added anything on the bases—even taken away. But when you put up 48/146, a whole lot of people will not care.

      • Ryan Howard: .271/.361/.545 315 HRs 18.9 WAR, 11 yrs
        Adam Dunn: .238/.367/.495 443 HRs, 16.9 WAR, 14 yrs

        Howard is a little better than Dunn, primarily because he has more non HR hits, which impacts the difference in BA and Slugging. But other than that, when you think of Ryan Howard, you should think of him as a black Adam Dunn.

  15. Mike Schutt says:

    “The Balboni abides.” – great line Joe

  16. White was NOT second, in ’85. Brett was, and he hit 30 (although two were inside the park).

  17. David Sharek says:

    Butler has a shot at 36….GIDP.

  18. TWolf says:

    I know its a different franchise, but the holder of the Kansas City record for home runs in a season is Bob Cerv. He hit 38 in 1958 for the KC Athletics. He did this despite playing a month with his jaw wired shut, on a liquid diet, due to a home plate collision with Detroit catcher Red Wilson.

    Cerv’s great season is one of the few good memories that us old timers have about the Arnold Johnson Athletics. Cerv actually beat out Ted Williams for the starting LF birth in he 1958 All Star game. Williams had hit .388 the previous year.

    The distances to the fences in old Municipal Stadium were reasonable. If my memory is correct they were 330 ft down the LF line, 375 ft to left center, 421 ft. to CF, 387 ft. to right center, and 353 down the right field line. However, the prevailing winds to left field made the stadium an easy mark for most hitters, especially the opponents of the A’s

    The 1957 KC Athletics did something that is hard to imagine now. They led the American League with 166 home runs, 13 more than the second place Red Sox. They also led the league in surrendering home runs with 153. The amazing thing about the 1957 Athletics is that despite leading the AL with 166 home runs, they were easily last in scoring runs. This was because their on-base-average was .297, far below the .318 of the next worse team, the Washington Senators.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Bill James told a story in one of his old abstracts about Charlie Finley trying to move the fences in at Municipal Stadium. When the league would not let him move them where he wanted to, he painted a line in the outfield, and when the ball was hit in the air past that line the announcer would say “That would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium”. Apparently there was a game in which the A’s took a huge beat down and the other team hit a bunch of real home runs. I don’t remember whether it was after a consecutive home run barrage or in the last inning, but the other team was hitting fly outs beyond the line and the announcer was making the announcement as instructed each time. The next game, the line was gone.

  19. Andrew W. says:

    Joe, every single time you write the phrase “You probably know this,” you follow it up with something I did not know.

  20. AlbaNate says:

    “Grass King”? I always thought that George Toma was “The Sod God.”

  21. Steve says:

    It is perhaps an adjunct to this topic something I noticed many years ago (like the last time I got the print edition of the baseball encyclopedia) that Rusty Staub was in the top ten career home runs for four teams – the Astros, Expos, Mets and Tigers. Reggie was in the top ten for the A’s, Yanks, Angels, and maybe Orioles.

    I wonder how true that type of stat is now, now that some teams have been around longer and other teams have been created.

  22. wogggs says:

    One interesting thing here is that the Royals apparently do not hit home runs on the road, either. Even with a lousy home run park in KC, half the games are still played on the road. You’d think in all this time one of the alleged home run hitters the Royals have had would have managed 25 on the road, even if at home he could only get to 12.

  23. Frank Owens says:

    I think the names (PED suspects and non suspects) on this list and the years the records were set clearly show that the baseballs and the postage stamp sized strike zone of the “steroids” era clearly had as much, and probably more, effect than PED’s ever did.

    • Yeah…. It was the wide strike zone. The one that critics say put Maddux and Glavine in the HOF. So, that strike zone can’t help and hurt pitchers at the same time. Nice try though.

  24. murr2825 says:

    How about a column on Charlie O. Finley? Love to see your take on THAT guy.

  25. KHAZAD says:

    The fun thing about recent years is that no Royal has even gotten close. In the 13 full seasons since Jermaine Dye hit 33 in 2000, there have been 364 player seasons of 30 or more home runs, and the Royals of course have zero.

    While the home runs are fun to talk about, the more frustrating thing to me is perennial lack of walks. At least with the home runs you kind of have a park factor (though not in the years the fences were in), but the last Royal to have 80 walks in a season was Jose Offerman in 1998. There have been 356 player seasons of 80 or more walks since, none by a Royal.

    As an team, the last time the Royals finished in the top half of the AL in walks as a team was 1989, so they have been in the bottom half for 24 straight seasons. They were in the bottom 3 14 of those seasons, and were the 4th or 5th worst team in 7 more. The closest they have come to the top half was finishing 8th out of 14 in 2002.

    I guess the walks bother me more because it has nothing to do with park factors, but of course, the last time the Royals were in the top half of the AL in home runs was 1977.

  26. Harvey Hecht says:

    Bob Cerv!!! A name to be revered for old KC fans. Later while he was serving his time in NY, SI in its WS preview judged as an outfielder (no DH), “he is deadly in a five foot radius”

  27. David Cohen says:

    Prediction: This came about because he was researching Jimmie Foxx for No. 45.

  28. Brad says:

    Great article Joe. A couple of things come to mind. With the team home run records, I count seven known juicers, and they may be two more suspects. Tainted records.
    Second, part of the Royals power problem relates to abysmal scouting and drafting. You don’t lose as much as they have the last twenty years without being really, really bad at both. For example, Ryan Howard. Played college ball in Springfield, couple hours south of KC. They somehow missed him. Ian Kinsler, though no power hitter, played at Mizzouri. Missed him too. And most famously, Albert Pujols, who lived a couple miles north of royals stadium. Missed him twice, once in high school and once in junior college. Seems pretty sad that a team can’t even scout and draft the best players in their immediate area, except for Bubba, who is looking more and more like a colossal bust. Like I said, abysmal scouting and drafting. The Balboni will continue to abide for a long time.
    One more on Balboni. He was the rare hitter who could make contact while “stepping in the bucket”. That always amazed me.

    • KHAZAD says:

      7 “known” juicers? What, known inside the resources of innuendo and your opinion?

      • Brad says:

        Bonds, McGuire and Sosa – #1-3, L. Gonzalez, A Roid, Big Papi and G. Vaughn. Seven, that have been publicly acknowledged .
        I was under the impression that those players were fairly well known juicers. I don’t see much innuendo there, unless of course all those investigative reports and failed drug tests were wrong.

        • KHAZAD says:

          Actually, you got 3 out of 7. Gonzales tested positive for amphetamines, after his MLB career was over. If you are going to count amphetamine use as tainted, you can throw out Hank Aaron’s home run record along with Bonds’ , as he is an admitted user. Some of the others were only on a “leaked” list of 104 players “procured” by the New York Times. They have all denied it and Major League Baseball has disavowed the list and said that there were less positive tests for steroid use than names on the list.

          They may have all used, but it is innuendo and opinion. Steroids were not tested for in the MLB prior to 2004, and there was no punishment for steroid use, and that is Bud Selig’s legacy.

          If you really consider all 7 of those guys “known” then you are really no better than someone involved in the Salem witch trials. I would hate to see the standard of evidence you use for the other “suspects” if this is your standard for known.

          • Azure Ray says:

            McGwire and A-Roid admitted to juicing. Bonds and Sheffield both were Balco creations and were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Troy Glaus was also (I believe) in the Mitchell Report. I’m positive that Greg Vaughn’s name has been linked to PEDs, as well. Papi tested positive and has the Giambi-esque body and spike in stats as further evidence of using. Sosa and Belle – if nothing else – had corked bats. I don’t think it takes much imagination to realize that Sosa and Belle were also almost certainly juicers.

            And then there’s Luis Gonzalez, who had the same number of homers in ONE year (57 in 2001) than in his previous best two homer years (26 in 1999 and 31 in 2000) combined! What’s more is that Gonzalez turned 33 years old in 2001, so he was hardly a young player maturing/growing into his game. This guy had 10+ years of putting up mediocre homer numbers and then whammo he injects himself into the DBacks history books.

            But if you want to ignore common sense and basic logic and reasoning, Khazad, then have I got some beachfront property in Kansas to sell you! Don’t worry, if you can’t afford it, I’m sure your African Lottery winnings will help you buy it!

          • KHAZAD says:

            Greg Vaughn has been linked to steroids- by rumor and innuendo. Luis Gonzales has apparently been linked by your opinion of his stats. Papi was listed on an unconfirmed list of 104 players released by the NY times 6 years after the fact that the MLB claimed was not accurate.

            Like many steroid crazies, you blur the line between what is known and what you believe. They are not the same thing.

            They may have ALL used steroids, including people that you did not mention. I happen to think steroids were even more prevalent in the 1990s and early 2000s than anyone thinks, but you can’t judge by stats or even by body size (alot of actual known steroid users were light hitting middle infielders who were not that big)

            The thing is, prior to 2004, I don’t give a shit. Baseball asked for this. Steroids had been talked about since the late 1980s, and many fans were waiting for bans, testing and punishment to be brought up by the commissioners in every collective bargaining agreement since. Selig preferred to nod and wink at it until it became inconvenient for him to do so, then pled ignorance of the long standing problem and became a crusader after the fact, and most of the world bought it.

            In most of these years, it wasn’t banned, there was no punishment, chicks and other fans (and probably yourself, as well) were digging the long ball, and Selig was happy as a clam because it was going down exactly the way he wanted it to.

            Between that and the tiny strike zone (which Selig was also a fan of) those records are not tainted, they are just indications of the nature of the game as it was played during that era. It was game full of various PEDs that were not banned or tested for, and a strike zone which required pitchers to throw the ball down the middle (and throwing it harder, as they were on PEDs as well) and that led to the most offensive and power heavy era in the game’s history.

            Spending all your time trying to point fingers at those who you decide are guilty (while there are surely people you think of as “clean” who are just as dirty, or even dirtier) is a waste of time. The records are there. They are not going away. It is a part of history- not the history of a just a few players you can shake your finger at, and say “shame on you” – but the history of the game itself.

      • Azure Ray says:

        Oh and Todd Hundley was another known juicer mentioned in the Mitchell Report. I knew we had forgotten one. And that’s assuming that Jose Bautista hasn’t been juicing, which I think anyone with even half a brain can deduce that he has.

        Braun was framed! lol

        • Brad says:

          Well I’m glad that someone (Azure Ray – cool handle, btw) see’s my point of view. From personal experience I do not believe speed helps you hit hr’s but am 100% certain that roids do and that is what taints the records. For one men’s softball season I took creatine and lifted. Come spring I was smashing balls out of the park much to the surprise of my teammates who had never seen this kind if power come from my scrawny body in the previous ten seasons. Steroids are far more powerful than creatine. Steroids can turn a forty HR guy like Bonds or McGuire into a seventy HR monster. Would Bonds have hit 73 at his advanced age without roids? No. I stick with my earlier comment, seven of the record holders are known steroid users.

  29. ed says:

    How is it possible that this piece got written and no one has yet mentioned The Curse?

  30. Brent says:

    Thisi s probably the proper time to point out that Cleopatra lived closer to our time than she did to the building of the pyramids. And that T-Rex also lived closer to our time that it did to living with Stegosauras.

    And 41 or even 49 is a heck of a lot closer to 36 than either one is to 73.

  31. LuisLozada says:

    I have two everyday Royals players on my fantasy team. There goes any hope of doing well on the HR category…

  32. bryanc says:

    If they don’t trade Beltran in ’04 he might have broken the record. For the record, I would rather have had Beltran break the record and left in free agency than getting several years out of Teahan/Buck

  33. John Dawson says:

    Two words. David Glass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *