The Royals announced Tuesday that fans can vote for the team’s Hall of Fame. The fan portion of the balloting equals three votes for each of the the top three vote-getters of the seven players eligible. Since the vote includes living members of the Hall of Fame, some Royals front office staff, team associates who have worked there for longer than 15 years, select members of the Kansas City chapter of the Baseball Writers of America, and select KC electronic media members*, three votes isn’t a huge number. But it’s still a good chunk, so let’s consider our possibilities here.
*If you’re wondering, no, I am not a voter in this category. But I’m not ashamed to say it would be pretty amazing.
Here are my thoughts on the candidates, in order of preference:
Forget the Royals’ Hall of Fame. Beltran has a case for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and a good chunk of that career came in Kansas City. Key stats include 24.8 bWAR in seven seasons (seventh all-time for Royals position players), a .483 slugging percentage (tied for fourth-highest in team history), and top 10 stats in runs scored, triples and stolen bases, with top-15 stats in batting average, hits, and home runs. Throw in a Rookie of the Year award and Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field, and you have a tremendous player. Putting him in the team HOF won’t change the fact the old, cheap Royals traded him over a reported $1 million difference in contract extension talks, but it would make me feel a little better about it. And whatever you think of Beltran’s role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, to me that shouldn’t affect the memory of him as a Royal.
I believe Bill James pointed out that good teams focus on what a player can do, while bad teams focus on what a player can’t do. I don’t know that the Royals did that with Butler, but a lot of fans did. Butler had the misfortune of being one of the better players on some bad teams, then missing out on the ride all the way to the top, as he left as a free agent after the 2014 World Series. The common complaints about Butler were that he couldn’t run and couldn’t play defense. Those are both true, but they overlook that, from 2007-2014, Butler appeared to be put on Earth to hit line drives. Butler compiled a .295/.359/.449 line for the Royals, and ranks fourth in team history in batting average, eighth in hits and total bases, seventh in doubles, and 10th in home runs. Plus, he gave us a great moment in team history with #BooCano (Royals fans had his back on that night!), and I want to see the words “Country Breakfast” on a Hall of Fame plaque.
Like Beltran, another multi-talented outfielder who came up with the Royals, played well, and then departed as a free agent, bound for more money and fame. Damon wasn’t quite as good as Beltran (as Beltran’s 24.8-17.3 advantage in bWAR attests) but he was still very good. That 17.3 is good for 14th-best among position players in franchise history. Damon also is in the top 10 in batting average, triples, and stolen bases. And he is 15th in on-base percentage and 17th in slugging percentage, showing that he was an offensive threat. Defensively, Damon was not sensational, but neither was he a liability overall. The circumstances of his departure from Kansas City (as usual for the Royals in that era, there was some public squabbling about money) might put a slight damper on his case, but he belongs in the team Hall of Fame in my mind.
This is a tough one for me. I have no doubt that if Yordano were still with us, he would be fashioning a case that would ensure his enshrinement someday. But of course, if you look solely at his career numbers, they are short on the counting stats and not sensational on the rate stats. We were really only blessed with his presence for three seasons. Is that enough? Honestly, when I first started considering this, I leaned toward no. A few hours later, I have changed my mind. I remember his absolute fearlessness on the mound, his tremendous talent, and I think those should be honored. Also, I believe teams should lean towards a “big” Hall of Fame. It’s hard to remove the emotional aspect of this vote, but if he had suffered a career-ending arm injury after 2016, I think I would come down on the same side of the question as I do here.
For me, the line between a yes and no vote lies between Ventura and Guthrie. While Guthrie was a solid pitcher for the Royals and a vital part of the 2014 team especially, it’s hard to make a case for including him in the Hall. He is in the team’s top 10 in exactly two categories all time: batters hit by pitch and walks per nine innings. Bonus points for the “These O’s Ain’t Royal” T-shirt during the 2014 ALCS, though.
Still the only #1 overall draft choice in team history, Hochevar did just what we all hoped he would do when his name was called at the start of the 2006 draft: he was the winning pitcher in a World Series-clinching game for the Royals. In between those two highlights, though, he was a frustrating pitcher with a career 5.44 ERA as a starter. The Royals finally converted him to a relief role, and he was pretty dang good at it, with a 1.92 ERA in 70 ⅓ innings in 2013. Then he got hurt. He returned as part of the Bullpen of Doom in 2015, which is how he came to be on the mound for the 10th inning of Game Five in the Series. Two scoreless innings and Kansas City’s five-run outburst later, and he picked up the win in relief. Hochevar would have one more solid partial season as a reliever before getting hurt again in July 2016, which wound up being the end of his career.
Davies was just as frustrating a starting pitcher as Hochevar. Maybe more so. Looking back, I think the Royals kept running him out there simply because they didn’t have anyone better in Dayton Moore’s first few years as general manager. I guess when Davies posted a 6.66 ERA in his 11 starts for the Royals in 2007, we should have known what was in store.
So there you have it. My ballot is Beltran, Butler, Damon, and Ventura. And I would also encourage the Veterans Committee to get Bo Jackson and Darrell Porter in the team Hall of Fame next year.