Tag Archive | "Highs And Lows"

Spring stats: starters scuffle in the desert

2011 saw the Royals’ top hitting prospects take a step forward, while many of their pitching prospects took a step sideways, down or out.

Spring training saw a similar result, as many of the position players the Royals are banking on flourished, while pitching remained the big question mark.

As of Friday, the games count. But the results from spring training are worth some analysis as the Royals head north with high aspirations.

The Royals’ opening day starter, Bruce Chen, probably deserves a pass this spring. He’s been through this countless times, and he wasn’t pitching to win a spot in the rotation. He was doing what he needs to do to be ready for the season.

Courtesy of Minda Haas

That said, Chen was not good in Arizona. He surrendered 37 hits in 22 innings, including an alarming six homers. Opponents batted .378 against him, and his ERA was an unsightly 9.41.

Another lock to start, Luke Hochevar hopes to put his roller-coaster highs and lows behind him. He was very solid in spring, surrendering just a 2.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Best of all, he allowed just one homer in 19 innings pitched.

The stud of the spring was undoubtedly Luis Mendoza. I predicted back in late February that Mendoza could provide the surprise boost the Royals pitching staff needs. The 28-year-old righty got credit for four wins in the spring. Opponents could barely scratch out a hit against him – 11 in 16 innings. His ERA was just 0.54 and his WHIP was 0.84.

If Mendoza was the stud of the spring, then Mike Montgomery was the dud. While KC had a list of about 8 guys who were seriously in contention for rotation slots, the door would certainly have been held open for the 22-year-old Montgomery. But Montgomery flubbed the opportunity and manager Ned Yost was noticeably disappointed in the big lefty. I wrote last week about why Montgomery might be headed in the wrong direction (link).

Not far behind Montgomery was second-year candidate Danny Duffy. The Royals stood by Duffy during his painful learning experience in year one. But this spring, he looked no less lost than in 2011. He struggled his way to an 8.31 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP.

Duffy was terrible, and his main competition, Felipe Paulino, was equally bad. Paulino will start the season rehabbing an injury, most likely in Omaha, and he’ll have to earn a return to KC after posting a 7.71 spring ERA.

Horrifyingly, Duffy and Paulino were not the worst pitchers in Surprise (aside from Chen). That honor goes to Jonathan Sanchez, who got bombed this spring after coming over from San Francisco, supposedly to give the Royals an “ace.”

Sanchez gave up 17 hits and 13 runs in just 11.1 innings. His 2.03 WHIP led all Royals with more than 10 innings pitched. He was even worse in the exhibition game in San Diego, where he allowed two home runs in just two innings.

Last year’s All Star rep Aaron Crow made the switch to the rotation, made one start, then switched back after Joakim Soria blew out his arm. Crow was solid, allowing opponents to bat just .238 in the split role. He looks comfortable back in the bullpen and will look to put to rest fears that he was a half-season wonder.

Crow’s fellow closers, Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland were equally solid in Arizona. Likely bullpen mates Tim Collins, Louis Coleman were ok as well.

Two other pleasant revelations were relievers Kelvin Herrera and Jose Mijares. Herrera has been lights-out at every level, and he was no less dominant in Surprise. He struck out 15 hitters in 13 innings, and his ERA was just 1.38. He gave up just five walks and no homers. I expected him to start the season in Omaha, but the Royals found they just couldn’t leave him behind.

Mijares also will start the year in KC after posting a 0.82 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in Arizona. He struck out just six in 11 innings, but hopefully will continue to lock down left-handed hitters in the big leagues.

One guy KC appeared ready to give up on made a solid case for himself in Arizona – Sean O’Sullivan. The big righty allowed opponents to bat just .268 against him, and his WHIP was a an impressive 1.13. He’ll start the season in Omaha, but hopefully will prove a reliable insurance plan as both a starter and reliever if needed in KC.

The relievers performed about as well as expected in Arizona. Crow shifted to the pen when Soria was lost, and Herrera and Mijares should make the bullpen collection dynamite.

But the rotation candidates, other than Hochevar, performed worse than was imaginable. Were it not for the incredible work by Mendoza, the spring would be a complete failure for the starters.

Only time will tell if Mendoza is as good, and Sanchez is as bad, as the numbers from Surprise would say they are.

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Holland Expects To Lead Improved Pen

Minus the venerable veteran Joakim Soria, the Kansas City Royals bullpen had to have felt about like a college pitching staff last season. The primary contributors ranged in age from 21 to 25.

Whether by choice or by default, the Royals stocked their bullpen with rookies and rolled the dice last season. The results were mixed, but the experience gained gives KC much to be excited about going into 2012.

Greg Holland was the most effective setup man of the bunch.

“It was just a lot of fun,” Holland said of being part of such a young bullpen. “I think with being a young team we have a lot of camaraderie that I don’t know if a lot of other teams have.”

Holland leads a group of relievers, including Crow, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Blake Wood and Nate Adcock, who were barely old enough to buy a beer to celebrate victories last season. He said the group’s experience winning together at the minor league level could help them be successful in KC.

“We’ve been through highs and lows, all the way from the time we were drafted to being on the same (minor league) teams all the way up to the major league season.

“We’re young, but we expect to win,” Holland said at a recent Royals caravan stop. “I think being young, we’re ready to go out there and raise the bar.”

And no young reliever is generating more enthusiasm than Holland. While Aaron Crow got the most publicity and the all-star invitation, Holland quietly impressed those who know pitching best.

None other than Jeff Montgomery, media analyst and former Royals all-star, is singing Holland’s praises.

“He certainly has proven to himself, and to his teammates and to the organization, that he has the stuff to do whatever they want him to do as a major league pitcher,” Montgomery said recently, stating that Holland has all the makings of a big league closer.

A rocky big league baptism in 2010 forced Holland to begin last season in Omaha, but a promotion wasn’t long in coming.

While the other rookies ran hot and cold, Holland was consistent and effective from the moment he was promoted in May. In 60 innings, Holland surrendered just a .933 WHIP and struck out 74. His 1.80 ERA was by far the best of any Royal with more than 15 innings pitched.

Strikeouts have always been a part of Holland’s game. Unfortunately, so have control issues. Holland credits his ability to get ahead of hitters for the improvement.

“I got my first call-up in 2010, and my problem was not getting ahead in counts,” Holland said. “I was falling behind and then having to be too predictable. You know, 2-0 fastballs are a lot easier to hit than 0-2 fastballs.

“I knew, and the coaches knew, and the front office knew, that I had the stuff to be good. It was just how long is it going to take me to figure out how to get ahead. I really worked on it and got better at it and was able to do it for pretty much the whole year.”

Holland said he might have had more success than his bullpen mates because he learned to control his thoughts on the mound.

“I don’t have it all figured out, but I know I was able to control myself,” Holland said. “When things start going bad, it’s always better to give up one run than two runs. And you’re going to give up runs. So you’ve got to stay calm so that you don’t compound those mistakes.

“You see guys get amped up in those situations and then you walk a guy and that leads to an extra run. Being able to control your emotions helps a lot.”

Montgomery points to mechanics when describing Holland’s closer-type stuff.

“Everything he throws is going downhill,” Montgomery said. “Whether it’s from the arm angle or if its from the velocity, or the lack of, and the movement of the baseball, if things are going down, you have a chance to get hitters out. And that’s what I saw from Greg Holland from day one last year.

“He reminds me a lot of myself, because he’s a guy who wasn’t a high draft choice, wasn’t a guy who was expected to be closer someday. But he’s got the stuff to do it.”

Taken in the 10th round as a 21-year-old out of Western Carolina University, Holland needed four-plus years of development in the minors to get him ready to succeed in the big leagues at age 26.

Montgomery, also a former collegian, was drafted in the 9th round and didn’t become a full-time big leaguer until he was 26.

Montgomery spent a couple of years in the set up role before amassing 304 saves as a closer. Holland may well be on a similar career path. He saved four games last year, while also notching five wins in relief.

Holland so impressed the league that his name has come up in trade rumors this winter. But to this point, the Royals seem determined to hold onto him.

With Soria and newcomer Jonathan Broxton the likely candidates to close games this season, Holland’s role remains to be seen. But he says he doesn’t mind that KC added Broxton to the mix.

“He’s an all-star, and he’s proven he can close, so that was a really big move,” Holland said. “I feel like we’ve got four or five guys down there who are legitimate closers.”

Holland believes his bullpen mates will be more than just a year older this season. He foresees dramatic progress as a whole.

“We expect to do better than last year. If everyone stays healthy, you’ve got Broxton and Soria who are all-star caliber closers. And then Crow who was an all-star last year. Timmy (Collins) had some walk issues, but has electric stuff. We’ve all seen that. I think we have a really good chance of being a top-notch bullpen.”

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United Cardinal Bloggers Release “Happy Flight”

The United Cardinal Bloggers are proud to announce that their second season review publication in as many years is now available for download.
Happy Flight: The Story of the 2011 Cardinals details the incredible season that the St. Louis squad had last year.  Highlighted by photography from Erika Lynn and laid out in beautiful full color by Jon Doble, Happy Flight brings you the highs and lows of the ’11 season, recaps the amazing postseason run, and includes features on Tony La Russa and Lance Berkman, among others.  Inside the pages you will find the writing of 15 different Cardinal bloggers, from sites such as I70 BaseballPitchers Hit EighthAaron Miles’ Fastball and Future Redbirds.  Happy Flight clocks in at 93 pages, chock full of Redbird goodness that you’ll enjoy reading time and again.
You can download your copy at this link.  Options for purchasing a printed version and a Kindle version will be released later.
Founded in the fall of 2007, the United Cardinal Bloggers are the only known formalized team-centered blogging community in Major League Baseball.  Members participate in various projects throughout the year as well as being a resource for other members.  You can find out more about the UCB at their official site, www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com.

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One Last Look Back: Top Five Cardinal Stories

Today, we will take one last look back at 2011.

The season was full of ups and downs, ins and outs, and highs and lows for the St. Louis Cardinals. A season that took a turn for the worse before a single pitch was thrown ended up at the pinnacle of the sport. Over the course of the season, there were some major stories, moments, and thoughts that captured the audience.

Today, as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers December project, take a look back and what were the top five stories from the 2011 calendar year in St. Louis.

Number Five: The Return Of The Puma
or The Death of Fat Elvis
The signing of Lance Berkman happened in 2010, but the arrival of a slimmer, healthier and more determined Puma showed up at Spring Training. The “Fat Elvis” nickname no longer seemed to apply and Berkman quickly set forth into erasing any thought that he was a broken down player that could not produce.

Berkman quickly made a difference in the clubhouse and on the field, establishing strange rituals for the rookies while on the road and tearing up opposing pitching between the chalk lines. Berkman would find himself in the All Star Game and in the Most Valuable Player discussion to the tune of a seventh place finish in the voting. When it came to discussions of Come Back Player awards, he walked away with the award hands-down.

Number Four: Colby Rasmus Sent North
or How The Cardinals Built A Winner In One Deal
As the non-waiver trade deadline approached, the Cardinals felt they needed to make a few improvements to make a run at the division or playoffs. In the midst of shopping for a rotation upgrade, an additional arm or two for the bullpen and some bench help, the relationship between Colby Rasmus and Tony LaRussa flared up as a problem once again. This time, action was taken, and in one fell swoop, John Mozeliak answered the Cardinals issues.

Colby Rasmus was shipped to Toronto along with Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters in exchange for Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski. Jackson would shore up the rotation, adding Kyle McClellan to the bullpen along with veteran Dotel and young Rzepczynski. Patterson would add some depth to the bench, though he would be overshadowed by youngsters already in the Cardinals system.

The trade gave the Cardinals the pieces they needed to make the run down the stretch and a brighter future. Though they gave up some pieces, Jackson and Dotel will yield them draft picks in the upcoming amateur draft and Rzepczynski projects to be a part of the Cardinals’ future for a considerable amount of time.

Number Three: Adam Wainwright Goes Down
or The Team Loses An Ace Before A Single Pitch Is Thrown
2011 looked promising for the Cardinals as Spring Training came closer and then Adam Wainwright left the practice field with some discomfort. Early news came from all involved stating a fear of the worst. The worst was confirmed and the Cardinals found themselves minus the best pitcher on the staff.

Adam took to the internet, writing blogs about his progress and his faith during one of the toughest times in his life or career. His faith was inspiring, his presence with the team as a supporter was surprising, and his smile never seemed to fade. The Cardinals proved that the sum is greater than value of the parts and Wainwright proved that life is bigger than baseball.

Number Two: Albert Pujols Breaks St. Louis Fans’ Hearts
or Further Proof That Six Is Greater Than Five
The subject of our number five story was quoted during his own contract negotiations as saying “It is always about the money”. No one wanted to believe that Albert Pujols would feel the same way. But, at the end of the day, whether it was a desire to earn more money or if it was the feeling that more money was what respect was all about, Albert Pujols left the Cardinals.

Albert had been quoted as saying that he wanted to stay with the Cardinals, claiming he wanted to “be like Stan The Man”. His departure based on money reminded the city just how special Stan Musial truly is and reminded mathematics everywhere that six is greater than five.

Number One: What A Team, What A Ride
or Wow, Did That Just Happen
A 2011 season that was surrounded by contract concerns and injuries ended in a fashion that no one could predict. The team was far to behind in the standings to make the playoffs. Then they were matched up against far too good of an opponent to make it past the Division Series. Then the Brewers were too strong at home to lose the League Championship Series. Down to their last strike in the World Series. Unlikely heroes, unlikely stories, and a historic run reached the pinnacle as the team put their eleventh championship banner in the rafters.

The subplot was the delivery from the booth of Joe Buck. The use of his father’s call as David Freese sent a ball out of the park in walk off fashion at the end of game six, a slow and perfectly delivered “We will see you…tomorrow night” followed by the now instant classic “What a team, what a ride” at the conclusion of game seven, Joe Buck captured an audience of fans and delivered.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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2011 Royals’ Awards

Another year is in the books for the Kansas City Royals.

They had ups and downs, highs and lows, and many, many growing pains.

2011 was judged a success from many within the organization, and more outside of the organization. Having a record of 71-91 isn’t normally looked at as a good thing. However, the progress made by the young players on this squad is more than anyone could have hoped for at the beginning of the year.

With that being said, it’s time to hand out some awards:

Best Player
The award for Best Player isn’t an easy one to give out for the 2011 Royals. Several players had stellar seasons, especially the top 5 hitters in the Royals lineup (Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and Jeff Franceour). Each of those players had at least 18 Homeruns, 78 RBI’s, a .285 average, and a .799 On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS). With the exception of Hosmer, who was called up a month into the season, they all had at least 44 doubles.

At the end of the day, I have to give the award to Alex Gordon. He said he was going to “dominate” after the 2010 season, and he did not disappoint.

Gordon put up career highs in HR’s (23), Doubles (45), RBI’s (87), Runs Scored (101), and Batting Average (.303). He did all of this from the leadoff position for most of the year, which was a brand new spot for him in the batting order.

Not only did Gordon have a career year with his bat, he also got it done with his glove. This was the first full season of playing Left Field for Gordon in his career, but you would have never known with how smoothly he did it.

He recorded an MLB-best 20 outfield assists, which also set the Royals’ franchise record. He only committed 3 errors all season and his .991 fielding percentage was tops for American League Left Fielders.

Overall, Gordon’s numbers on both offense and defense were too much to ignore when selecting the Royals’ Best Player. He should also be considered for a Gold Glove this year and perhaps the A.L. Comeback Player of the year.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Hosmer 3)Butler 4)Cabrera 5)Francoeur

Best Pitcher
A lot of people will surely disagree with my choice for the Best Pitcher on the 2011 Royals: Luke Hochevar.

Of course, Bruce Chen was the fan favorite and had the Royals’ best win total (12) and ERA (3.77) among starting pitchers. He also battled injuries early in the season. Joakim Soria had a decent year notching 28 but he also had 7 blown saves. Aaron Crow was the Royals’ representative at the All-Star Game, but faded after the break. Greg Holland turned out to be the best bullpen arm and was the guy who the Royals used as their “fireman” throughout the season. However, I had to go with Hochevar for a couple different reasons.

Hochevar’s numbers weren’t anything special, but his Post-All Star Break numbers showed that he finally figured something out. He improved greatly throughout the season and gave Royals fans a look at a good Number 3 (maybe a Number 2) starter in the rotation.

Before the break, Hochevar went 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA. After the break, he was 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA. His numbers in all aspects were much better after the break and he rarely had the “big inning” that fans were accustomed to seeing at the beginning of the year. Also, he lasted 6 innings or more 11 times in his 12 starts post-break.

When Ned Yost gave Hochevar the ball for Opening Day, he showed a ton of confidence in the 27-(now 28)-year-old. He wanted Hoch to be the leader of the rotation and, in my mind, he was for the entire year. If you wanted somebody to give you the absolute best chance to win, with the best “stuff,” it had to be Hochevar.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Chen 3)Holland 4)Felipe Paulino 5)Soria

Rookie of the Year
I’m going to go ahead and rename this one as “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.” Obviously, Hosmer wins this award for the Royals. Hands-down. No vote needed. He is one of the top candidates to win A.L. Rookie of the year, and should in the minds of every Royals fan out there.

Hosmer’s final numbers look like this: 19 HR’s, 27 Doubles, 78 RBI’s, 66 Runs Scored, 11 Stolen Bases, .293 Batting Average, and .799 (OPS).

Stud. Absolute stud. Everybody knows about him and how good he his, so let’s get to the “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.”

For this award, I have to go with Greg Holland.

There were a lot of good choices for this award just like all the others. Mike Moustakas’ last couple months were what fans were ready to see when he was called up in early June. His power finally came around in the last month of the season, but it wasn’t quite enough to give him this award.

Aaron Crow’s ridiculous start to the season was overshadowed by his struggles after the All-Star break. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman were good, but inconsistent throughout the season. Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez made an instant impact when they were called up, but they didn’t play enough to solidify themselves as candidates for this award. (Although Perez’s offense and defense were much better than expected).

In the end, it had to be Greg Holland. If there was one pitcher you had to pick to get one out this year, it would have to be Holland. When any other young bullpen arm would come into the game, most fans had to be at least a little nervous that run might be given up. Not with Holland. I felt more comfortable every time he was on the mound than any other reliever.

He finished with a 1.80 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. If he can keep this up next year, he could become an even more important of the pitching staff.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Moustakas 3)Crow 4)Perez 5)Giavotella

Play of the Year

Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur. Right?

When you think of the Royals’ top plays this year, you think of Francoeur. His cannon of an arm was second to none in the Majors this year.

However, with all of Frenchy’s awesome defensive plays, Alcides Escobar has been greatly overshadowed. Maybe it’s because we were spoiled all year by Escobar’s unreal defensive prowess. Maybe it’s because of Frenchy’s constant smile that makes him look like a 10-year-old playing in Little League.

Those two guys would be the main attraction in the Royals Top 10 plays of the year.

For the best of the best, I have to give this award to FrencHy Gunning down Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers at 3rd base on August 7th. On this play,l Francoeur had to run to his left, field a base hit, square up his body towards 3rd and make the throw. He did all of those things and the throw was on a line right to Mike Moustakas’ glove. The Royals were up 4 to 3 and instead of having runners at 1st and 3rd with one out, the Tigers then had a runner at 1st with two outs. Unreal.

Honorable Mentions:

2)Alcides Escobar’s diving stop and throw on former Royal Alberto Callaspo on June 1st. Escobar robbed Callaspo with a dive deep in the hole between 3rd and short. He got up, made the throw, and Hosmer made an incredible scoop on a double hop. The score was 0-0 in the top of the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded.

3)Francoeur makes the rare 9-3 putout against the A’s on September 7th.

4)Francoeur robs Dustin Ackley of a homerun on September 9th. Frenchy climbed the wall, and made the catch with his back towards homeplate.

5)Giavotella to Escobar to Hosmer for the double play against the A’s on September 5th. Gio dove to his left, caught the ball on one hop, threw it to Escobar who caught it bare handed, and made the throw to hosmer for the 4-6-3 double play.

Game of the Year
Again, there are a ton of choices for this award. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like the Royals’ first 20 wins came on walk-offs. During the middle of the year, the team was struggling but still fighting back to win games. At the end of the year, the Royals had their 2012 lineup in full effect and showed flashes of greatness.

My Game of the Year Award goes to Royals vs. Rays on July 23rd 2011.

The Royals fought back from a 2-0 and 4-2 deficit to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings.

This game was Mike Moustakas’ breakout game as he went 2-3 with a double and 3 of the Royals’ 5 RBI’s.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, the Royals were facing Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth pitched for the Royals the previous two years and was not loved by fans, to say the least. Down to their last out, the Royals had Alex Gordon coming up to the plate with Alcides Escobar on 1st. Gordon doubled to deep right center to score Escobar and hand Farnsworth his 4th blown save. It was really nice for fans to watch Farnsworth melt down like he did so many times for the Royals.

Then came the top of the 10th. Aaron Crow came in, walked two batters, and was pulled from the game. Soria came in and gave up a single to load the bases. With no outs, everyone in Kauffman Stadium was nervous about what would happen next.

Soria, who was shaky all season, got a comebacker and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. The score was still 4-4 going into the bottom of the 10th.

With Mike Aviles on first base, Eric Hosmer smacked a double to deep left center. Aviles got on his horse and scored all the way from first.

This game was the game of the year because of:

A)Rallying back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits

B)Alex Gordon with the game-tying double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against Kyle Farnsworth

C)Soria getting out of a no-out bases-loaded jam

D)Hosmer with the walk-off double in extras

Honorable Mentions:

2) Royals 2, Angels 0 June 1st

Butler with a walk-off HR, Escobar saves the game with his glove in the 8th

3) Royals 7, White Sox 6 September 16th

Bullpen blows 3-run lead, Hosmer walk-off double

4) Royals 2, Twins 1 July 15th

Hosmer game-winning 2-run HR in the top of the 9th

5) Royals 3, Red Sox 1 (F/14) July 25th

Great pitching all night from 6 Royals pitchers, Mike Aviles with the botched squeeze bunt over Adrian Gonzalez’s head to score Hosmer in the 14th

That does it for this year’s awards. Each one of these was difficult to pick and an argument can be made for each pick.

The best thing about these awards is that there were so many great players, plays, and games this year. In past years, awards would be much easier to hand out because of the lack of talent and passion that has plagued the Royals before.

2011 was the start to a new era in Royals baseball. The entire organization has taken a step forward so look forward to next year’s awards being even tougher to pick.

Please share your thoughts and let us know who your awards would go to.

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Royals History: Boys In Blue Have Sizzled, Fizzled In All-Star Games

Joakim Soria

Closer Joakim Soria will represent the Royals tonight in the 2010 Midsummer Classic.

Joakim Soria will represent the Kansas City Royals in the 81st edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game today, the only representative from the team in this year’s game.

In recent years the Royals have become notorious for sending one lonely, league-mandated representative to the Midsummer Classic every year. You’d have to go back to 2003 to find two Royals in the All-Star Game (it was Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal, by the way). How long ago was that? The Montreal Expos were still in the league. The last Royal to be selected as a starter in the All-Star Game was Jermaine Dye in 2000.

But to judge the Royals’ All-Star history on the past decade alone would be to overlook some truly amazing moments in team history.

Here are some of the highs and lows for the Royals during the team’s 41-year history.

FIRST ALL STAR

Quick, name the first-ever Royals All-Star representative.

Go ahead.

Still waiting.

It was Ellie Rodriguez. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, true Royals fans, don’t feel ashamed. Rodriguez, a catcher, was only a Royal for two seasons, including the inaugural 1969 season after he was taken from the Yankees in the expansion draft.

Ellie Rodriguez was the first All-Star in Royals history.

Rodriguez was an All-Star a couple years later for the Milwaukee Brewers, and he built a respectable Major League career over nine years and five different teams. And although he didn’t play in that 1969 game, he will always hold the distinction as the Kansas City Royals’ first All-Star.

AMOS TAKES CONTROL

Ellie Rodriguez may have been the team’s first All-Star, but Amos Otis quickly became the Royals’ first superstar. He picked up where Rodriguez left off and served as the Royals’ sole representative in the 1970 game.

It was the first of five appearances by the speedy center fielder, including a starting appearance in 1973.

Speaking of that 1973 game…

ROYALS PLAY HOST

Royals Stadium was the venue for the 44th All-Star Game in 1973. The Royals had three representatives in the game – Otis, John Mayberry (both starters) and Cookie Rojas – but the game will be remembered for the non-Royals on the field that day. A whopping 15 future Hall of Famers took part, including Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays in his final All-Star appearance. The National League won the game 7-1.

THE BEGINNING OF AN ERA

George Brett appeared in 13 All-Star Games, more than any other Royals player in history.

In 1976, young Royals slugger George Brett was elected to his very first All-Star Game as the starting third basemen for the American League.

Over the next decade, no other American League player started an All-Star Game at third base.

Over the course of his 10 All-Star starts, George Brett established himself as a legend in the game and the greatest Royals player of all time.

He also tacked on three more All-Star Games to the end of the streak as a reserve, making for 13 straight appearances in the Midsummer Classic.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

In the early 1980s, the Kansas City Royals were among the cream of the baseball crop, arguably the most respected organization in baseball at the time. Their success during the regular season and the playoffs in the ‘80s followed through to the All-Star Game.

The pinnacle came in 1982, when the Royals had an all-time high five representatives in the game: Brett (a starter), Frank White, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson and Dan Quisenberry. The team had more starters than any other in baseball that season.

BRETT NOT ALONE

Unlike the Royals All-Stars of the 2000s, George Brett was hardly ever the solitary Royal in the dugout for the American League – only twice during his 13-year stretch was he the team’s sole representative.

Other frequent faces for the Royals in the All-Star Game were White (five appearances, including one start), McRae (three appearances), Quisenberry (three) and Darrel Porter (three for the Royals, four total).

Another high point for the organization came in 1979, when the Royals’ three representatives (Brett, White and Porter) were all elected as starters for the American League.

PITCHERS TAKE CENTER STAGE

Brett’s next-to-last All-Star Game in 1987 was the first for young Bret Saberhagen. That year, he became the first and only Royals pitcher to start an All-Star Game, and three years later he became the first of two Royals to pick up a win in the game (Jose Rosado was the winning pitcher in the 1997 game).

After Saberhagen’s emergence, Royals pitchers were frequently spotlighted in the All-Star Game. Before 1987, only three Royals pitchers – Quisenberry, Steve Busby and Larry Gura – appeared in All-Star Games. Mark Gubicza was an All-Star in 1988 and ’89 and in the 90′s, Jeff Montgomery, David Cone, Kevin Appier and the aforementioned Saberhagen and Rosado donned Royals uniforms in the game.

HOME RUN POWER

As Brett faded from greatness, Royals fans thrust their hopes upon a new star: Bo Jackson. Although injuries shortened Jackson’s two-sport career, for a while the Royals outfielder was the hottest player in the game.

During the 1989 All-Star Game, he was positively sizzling.

Jackson was the lead-off hitter for the American League in the bottom of the first inning and on the second pitch, he blasted a moonshot home run to deep center field.

Jackson went on to win the All-Star MVP award that season, the only Royal ever to do so, and not only did he dazzle the baseball world, he also impressed the former President:

Bo Jackson’s 1989 All Star Game Home Run

Jackson also competed in the Home Run Derby that year. The only other Royal to participate in the contest was Danny Tartabull in 1991.

BOYS IN BLUE HIT NEW LOWS

Over the last 20 years – from 1990 to now – the Royals have had just the one league-mandated All-Star representative 18 times.

Mike Sweeney became an All-Star Game staple in the early 2000s (five appearances, including four in a row). But other players from those teams struggled to break through. Even though the team featured a lot of young talent, none of the budding stars like Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon ever became All-Stars for the Royals.

One Royals All-Star selection was so controversial that he almost changed the nature of the game itself and along the way, the Royals reached one of their lowest points as an organization.

In 2006, the Royals were bumbling through their third 100-loss season in a row. The team’s All-Star representative that year was pitcher Mark Redman. At the All-Star Break, Redman’s stats were a pedestrian 5-4 record and an obnoxious 5.49 earned-run average.

Columnists, bloggers, and fans across the country were outraged that Redman was considered an “All-Star,” and many of them called for the end of the decades-old rule that one player from each team must be selected.

FOCUS BACK ON PITCHING

In the late 2000′s, as the Royals have shown slight improvement, so too have the team’s All-Stars. Since 2007 the team’s representatives have been Gil Meche, Joakim Soria (twice) and Zack Greinke.

As this young team continues to improve, it will do so through pitching. Greinke and Soria should be a major part of that improvement.

HOSTS AGAIN IN 2012

The Royals will once again host the All-Star Game in 2012, this time in newly-renovated Kauffman Stadium.

By 2012, can the Royals muster more than one representative?

If the team keeps improving, by that time the Kansas City Royals could be at the center of the stage in more ways than one.

*****

ROYALS’ ALL STAR REPRESENTATIVES

Below is a comprehensive list of the Royals’ All-Stars throughout the years:

1969: Ellie Rodriguez. 1970: Amos Otis. 1971: Otis, Cookie Rojas. 1972: Rojas, Otis, Lou Piniella, Richie Scheinblum. 1973: Otis, John Mayberry, Rojas. 1974: Steve Busby, Mayberry, Rojas. 1975: Busby, McRae. 1976: George Brett, McRae, Otis. 1977: Brett. 1978: Brett, Fred Patek, Frank White, Darrel Porter. 1979: Brett, White, Porter. 1980: Brett, Larry Gura, Porter. 1981: Brett, White. 1982: Brett, Dan Quisenberry, White, McRae, Willie Wilson. 1983: Brett, Quisenberry, Wilson. 1984: Brett, Quisenberry. 1985: Brett. 1986: Brett, White. 1987: Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Seitzer. 1988: Brett, Kurt Stillwell, Mark Gubicza. 1989: Bo Jackson, Gubicza. 1990: Saberhagen. 1991: Danny Tartabull. 1992: Jeff Montgomery. 1993: Montgomery. 1994: David Cone. 1995: Kevin Appier. 1996: Montgomery. 1997: Jose Rosado. 1998: Dean Palmer. 1999: Rosado. 2000: Jermaine Dye, Mike Sweeney. 2001: Sweeney. 2002: Sweeney. 2003: Sweeney, Mike MacDougal. 2004: Ken Harvey. 2005: Sweeney. 2006: Mark Redman. 2007: Gil Meche. 2008: Joakim Soria. 2009: Zack Greinke. 2010: Soria.

NOTES: Royals skipper Dick Howser was the AL Manager in 1986; in 2008, Royals outfielder Jose Guillen was one of five players on a fan ballot for the final AL roster spot, losing to Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria.

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