In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I've decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We've created a 30-day series making an all-time team for each MLB club. We're breaking down one team each day throughout April, and that journey continues today in Kansas City.
As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I'm making a Baseball Stars team for each. That's right, the old-school Nintendo video game "Baseball Stars," which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squad.
Up next are the Kansas City Royals, who first started playing in 1969. They had a long playoff drought, but also have four pennants and two World Series titles. Here's the Royals' all-time lineup.
Shout-outs go to John Wathan and Mike Macfarlane, but we have two strong candidates here in Darrell Porter and Salvador Perez. Porter might have had the strongest season in 1979, but I love the work Perez did with the last Royals' renaissance. He was the leader of the team from behind the plate. The steady -- and overworked -- hand during their success in 2014 and 2015.
Man, this is a tough one. Willie Aikens and Steve Balboni did some vintage work that merits a name drop, but I have a firm top three here. John Mayberry (six years), Eric Hosmer (seven) and Mike Sweeney (13). Sweeney is obviously going to own the counting stats with so many more games, but he was on mostly bad and forgettable teams. Hosmer was there for 2014-15. Mayberry was on two playoff teams, too. Let's look at a rate basis with the Royals only.
Sweeney: .299/.369/.492, 120 OPS+, 2.9 WAR/650PA
Mayberry: .261/.374/.448, 132 OPS+, 3.6 WAR/650PA
Hosmer: .284/.342/.439, 111 OPS+, 2.3 WAR/650PA
Over on Fangraphs' WAR, Mayberry had the top three WAR seasons at first with the Royals. I'll take him. I like the on-base chops.
Sorry Whit Merrifield. The pick here is easy. It's franchise legend Frank White.
I'm sure some would want me to pick Alcides Escobar but he hit .259/.292/.344 (73 OPS+) with the Royals and while he played good defense, it wasn't all-time great and that's what I'd need to get past that woeful offense. Of course, the Royals' history with shortstops isn't great. The highest WAR season is Jay Bell but he only played with the Royals for one year. The career WAR leader is Freddie Patek and he hit just .241/.309/.321 (78 OPS+). There were short runs from guys like Kurt Stillwell, U.L. Washington and Angel Berroa. I tried to cheat but Merrifield, Kevin Seitzer or Mike Moustakas never started a game at short. Eh, forget it. We'll just go with Escobar.
Moustakas and Seitzer get our apologies here, but there's only one answer worth considering. George Brett.
It's too bad I can't throw some outfielder at shortstop, because it's loaded out here. David DeJesus and Johnny Damon both spent time here and in center. It comes down to two, though, here in left field. Alex Gordon and Hal McRae. McRae spent a whopping 15 years with the Royals, hitting .293/.356/.458 (125 OPS+). He finished fourth in MVP voting twice. Gordon has been there 13 years by now, though. He's hit .258/.339/.413 (103 OPS+). Thanks to being an incredible defender, though, Gordon sits fourth in career WAR for the Royals while McRae is sixth. Then again, it's a video game and I want offense -- especially after the shortstop situation -- and that's an awfully big gap. I've got to go with McRae.
Damon and DeJesus warrant mention here, but they aren't going to win. We have a stellar four at the top here in Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, Lorenzo Cain and Carlos Beltran. I told you the outfield was loaded. Otis played 13 seasons there to Cain and Beltran's seven while Wilson has 15. So let's again look at the rate stats.
Otis: .280/.347/.433, 118 OPS+, 3.7 WAR/650PA
Beltran: .287/.352/.483, 111 OPS+, 4.6 WAR/650PA
Cain: .289/.342/.421, 106 OS+, 5.5 WAR/650PA
Wilson: .289/.329/.382, 95 OPS+, 3.8 WAR/650PA
Man, that's close. Keep in mind what defense does to WAR and we are focused on getting offense. I'll go with Beltran due to the huge lead in slugging percentage.
Jorge Soler is making a run at this thing if he keeps doing what he did last year, but we've got options with more track record. Danny Tartabull had a powerful run in the last '80s. Al Cowens had some quality seasons to start his career. Jermaine Dye had two really strong seasons. I'm gonna go with Tartabull. In his five years, he hit .290/.376/.518 (144 OPS+) with a 162-game average of 31 homers and 105 RBI.
Who is the best hitter left? Looking at all the rate stats and considering time spent here, it's probably Mike Sweeney.
This is actually going to be pretty easy. Dennis Leonard did some great work in the late '70s, but he misses the cut behind the four best pitchers in Royals history. Kevin Appier, Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and Zack Greinke. Further apologies to Danny Jackson and Charlie Leibrandt.
The franchise has been rich with relief talent for a long time. Jeff Montgomery holds their saves record with 304 and is all over the leaderboard. Remember prime Joakim Soria? How about the law firm of HDH (Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland)? Superb.
The pick wasn't too difficult, though. It's Dan Quisenberry, the franchise leader in ERA by a half run. He also sits atop the ERA+ leaderboard by a nice margin (160 to Montgomery's 138). He finished second in Cy Young voting twice, third twice and fifth once. And he finished three games of the 1985 World Series, getting the win and final out of the famous (notorious?) Game 6.
Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup.
- Carlos, CF
- Brett, 3B
- Danny, RF
- Hal, LF
- John M, 1B
- Mike S, DH
- Sal, C
- Frank, 2B
- Esky, SS
SP: Bret, Kevin, Zack, Mark G
For the bench, we'll go with (Darrell) Porter, (Eric) Hosmer, LoCain (Lorenzo Cain). I lean toward the championship team of 2015 with those two picks, I admit and leaving off Wilson and Otis is incredibly tough, not to mention Gordon from said title team.
Oh yeah, there's one more spot. Let's just call him, "Bo."
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your own team (@MattSnyderCBS).