Tag Archive | "Mendy Lopez"

Hispanic Heritage in KC: All-Time Hispanic Team

In a by-gone era, there was a bit of a perception from the outside looking in that the Kansas City Royals were a franchise opposed to minorities.

Black pitchers were essentially unheard of in Kansas City. But John Mayberry, Hal McRae, Frank White and Amos Otis, prominent black position players in the 1970s, more than made up for it.

Hispanics, on the other hand, played almost no role with the Royals for decades. Tracing the history of Mexican-born and Latin-born Royals makes for a short story.

So to make a Royals All-Star team of Hispanic players is difficult. But in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth a try.

The first problem was what to do with new members of the team Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. Perez is already the greatest Hispanic catcher in team history. He has virtually no competition. But he’s not even played a full season in KC.

So for the sake of the exercise, the team will exclude current players who haven’t played at least two seasons for the Royals. And to keep it simple, the team will only include players born outside of the U.S.

Catcher: Perez will own this spot in no time. But the Royals first All Star was Puerto Rican Ellie Rodriguez. Someone had to make the All-Star Team in 1969. Why not a guy who hit just .236 with 2 homers in that inaugural season?

He gets the sentimental nod over Dominican Miguel Olivo, who hit 35 homers and had 106 RBIs while sharing the catching duties for two seasons. Olivo was probably a lot better than Rodriguez, but he never could unseat John Buck, which tells you something.

1B: Wow. Almost no options here at all. Tempting as it is to go with Orlando Cepeda based on his Cooperstown credentials, the truth is the Puerto Rican slugger did nothing in 33 games in KC, and played strictly DH.

The nod goes to… Mendy Lopez. The Dominican played a handful of games at firstbase in 2003, when he hit .277 with 3 homers.

2B: Lots of choices here, including some decent contributors like Jose Lind, Jose Offerman and Carlos Febles. But one of the most beloved Royals ever was Cuban Cookie Rojas. The diminutive, bespectacled Rojas made four trips to the All-Star Game for KC.

SS: The one position where the Royals have employed tons of Hispanics is shortstop. Alcides Escobar will claim this honor after this season. But before that there was a host of nightmarish options to choose from: Yuniesky Betancourt? Neifi Perez? Angel Berroa? Angel Salazar? Onix Concepcion?

I’ll go with Puerto Rican Rey Sanchez because he hit .294, .273, and .303 in his three seasons in KC.

3B: Two options here, which seem basically interchangeable. I’ll go with a tie: Dominican Wilson Betemit and Venezuelan Alberto Callaspo, who both hit reasonably while in KC.

Outfield: Not a lot of options here, surprisingly, so the choices are obvious. Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran is arguably the second greatest Royal in history, and has a chance to go into Cooperstown wearing a Royals cap.

Mexican Jorge Orta played four solid seasons and was a key contributor on the 1985 World Series champs. In that series, he reached first base safely (wink) on the most important play in team history.

And the third outfielder is Melky Cabrera, who rejuvenated his career in 2011. The Dominican hit .305, socked 18 homers, collected 201 hits and played solid defense in his one year in KC. Busted for PEDs in 2012, we may never know how legit those stats were, but it was a darn good season.

DH: Like it or not, Dominican Jose Guillen claims this spot. He belted 45 homers as one of the only power sources in the KC lineup from 2008 to 2010.

Starting Pitchers:

1), Hipolito Pichardo, Dominican Republic: 42-39, 4.48 ERA, 67 starts. Not many pitchers have a plus .500 win percentage recently. Pichardo has more wins than Luke Hochevar in half as many starts.

2) Bruce Chen, Panama: 35-32, 4.59 ERA. One rotten season (1-6, 5.78 ERA in 2009) sullies his otherwise solid numbers.

3) Luis Aquino, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic pitcher to play a significant role, from 1988-92, Aquino made 55 starts over five seasons. His career mark is 22-19. He pitched in 114 games in KC.

4) Runelvys Hernandez, Dominican Republic: Hernandez was given every opportunity to succeed. But on some teams that had almost no other option, he still wore out his welcome. Hernandez posted a 25-33 mark in 78 starts before eating his way into early retirement.

5) The options are so bleak, Hernandez makes the rotation, but no one else is worthy of consideration. (Jose Rosado and D.J. Carasco are ineligible because they were born in the U.S.)

Relief Pitchers:

1) Joakim Soria, Mexico: Without a doubt the greatest Hispanic pitcher in Royals history. Soria’s160 career saves rank third in team history, and only arm injuries keep him from being one of the best relievers of his era.

2) Roberto Hernandez, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic closer in team history. Hernandez notched 54 saves in two seasons, but was never really welcome in KC.

If minorities were discriminated against in some form or fashion in KC, hopefully that day has passed. Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar are getting every opportunity today, as Joakim Soria was before he was knocked out by an arm injury. The Royals have made more effort to sign Latin talent in the past few years, so hopefully more Hispanic players will bolster the current youth movement.

But as can be seen by this “All-Star Team,” the number of Hispanic stars in KC’s history is shockingly small. Not much history to celebrate in National Hispanic Heritage Month.

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Winter Worries

Kansas City Royals fans are excited for the coming baseball season. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have any kind of baseball back, or they think the Royals have a legitimate shot at winning games during the 2012 season. Like most either-or situations the truth is most likely in the middle. I’m excited too, and I have been since the end of the regular season.

I have not been this excited during a Royals off-season since the winter of 2003-2004. Remember that? I do, and it has me slightly worried. The Royals finished the 2003 Season 83-79. While the 2003 Royals faded down the stretch, and dropping their last three to White Sox there was lot to be excited about that fall. The Royals had a collection of young guys. Angel Berrora was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year. He flashed some leather in the field, and was surprise at the plate. Surely Berrora would get better during the off-season? Ken Harvey had a good first half of the season and became an All-Star. Even though he faded during the second half of 2003, surely he would figure some things out and get better? Mike MacDougal would learn some control. Jose Lima had eliminated his demons and was back to being a productive starter. Mike Sweeney will get healthy over the winter. Runelvys Hernandez, Brian Anderson, Jeremy Affeldt, DJ Carrasco, Jimmy Gobble, would all come back in 2004 and be better. Because that’s what young ball players do. They get better. They don’t ever regress? Do they?

Not only was the current roster going to improve but Allard Baird signed veteran free agents Benito Santiago and Juan Gonzales. Zack Greinke was waiting in the minors. Some national media prognosticators even picked the 2004 Royals to win the division! The Royals future was bright, and the Royals fans had to wear shades to even look at it. How could anything go wrong?

You're looking at the best moment of the Royals 2004 Season.

The 2004 Off-Season concluded with one of the most exciting Opening Day’s in franchise history with Mendy Lopez hitting a home run off Damaso Marte in the bottom of the 9th. I was at that game, and it’s one of my favorite Royals memories. The Royals march to October was underway. I went to two more games that opening week. The Royals finished up the opening home stand 4-2. Of Course, we don’t need Paul Harvey to tell us what happened to Ken Harvey and learn the rest of this story. The Royals only won three more games the rest of April, finishing 7-14. This included a six game losing streak. May got even weirder with Tony Pena fleeing the country and the wheels officially coming off the wagon. Thus began even darker days for the franchise and it’s fans, and truthfully I don’t know if we’ve ever fully recovered.

This season does look promising. But years, and years of disappointment have dulled my optimist’s blade a little. After all, the 2003 Royals won twelve more games than the 2011 Royals. I claim to not be a very big statistics person. But one statistic that came to my attention during the 2003 season was the Pythagorean Win-Loss Formula. You use total runs scored and total runs allowed for a team to determine what a team’s record should be. The 2003 Royals had a better record than their Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 83-79. In other words, the 2003 Royals were lucky. Any team that got to play the 2003 Tigers 19 times was lucky. The 2011 Royals Pythagorean W-L: 78-84. Their actual W-L was 71-91. The 2011 Royals were more unlucky than the 2003 Royals were lucky. This tells me that last season’s Royals weren’t all that far off from being a .500 team.

Knowing that last season’s team was better than perceived sort of eases my mind. However, a lot of assumptions on 2012 being a good season for the Royals are dependent on the same things that made us think 2004 was going to be a good season. Youth taking a step forward, no major regressions from the established roster, and new additions being as advertised or better. I’ve been this excited before only to see the worst team in franchise history trotted onto the field. There are always a lot of ifs for a baseball team this time of year. Too many times the answer to those ifs has been wrong for the Royals. That’s what has me worried. If this group of players doesn’t turn things around for the organization the only thing we’ll have to look forward to is another GM and another process. For once it would be fun to be excited about the Royals, and not worry that the wheels might fall off. Of course, like a lot of Royals fans problems only consistent winning will take care of that.

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Happy Holidays! (Opening Day Style)

Happy Holidays everybody! No, this article isn’t a retread. It is indeed the last week of March and its OPENING DAY!

That’s the greatest holiday of the year. I cannot wait for March 31st! It’s the greatest day of the year. The minute college football ends, I begin to get ready for baseball and March Madness is the appetizer of the great summer feast! So I am always giddy for opening day and I wondered if it was as great for others and my twitter friends came to bat.

Clinton Corley (@clintoninc) had this to say:

@KCRoyalman perhaps the only day of yr where optimism is at its highest & u can feel it inside the stadium. A Fresh Start, Hope SPRINGS
Clinton Corley

Fresh start! Let’s do this! Everyone is undefeated and could do great things! For others it takes people back to their childhood.

Ty and Jay of @sotwpodcast had memories of their mom:

@KCRoyalman I'm w/@jfishsports. Mom took us out of school w/us fully decked out in Royals gear. We were fooling no one, lol.

For others its all about the memories of certain athletes. Mike Foos (@revive85kc) remembers

In 99 I interviewed Miles Prentice at 7 am inside the stadium. It was still dark and completely lit. Owners dnied his bid to buy @KCRoyalman
Michael James Foos

Miles Prentice was turned away of course as David Glass bought the Royals. Since then Prentice has also had unsuccessful attempts to buy Brewers and Reds.

Shane England of @footballranch recalled

@KCRoyalman Oh, BEST memory. Obviously its Mendy Lopez. 8 drunken friends jumping up and down like game 7 of the WS. That's Royals baseball
The Shaniac w/ KC

For those of you who dont know Lopez, who was a career journeyman, hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer against the White Sox in the bottom of the 9th for a 9-7 win on opening day 2004. Those late rallies happened a couple of different opening days too.

For some, the memories aren’t being at the K but the strong memories of just being home such as Adam McGregor (@admcgregor3) recalls:

@KCRoyalman sitting in my living room before track practice in college and watching the #royals rally back in the 9th inning to win
A.D. McGregor
@KCRoyalman those late rallies happened a couple of different opening days too.
A.D. McGregor

Opening day should be a national holiday or at least a state holiday for a great baseball state like Missouri. March 31st marks the greatest day of the year and a day that everyone reading this blog is excited for, ready for and can not wait for the festivities.

Happy opening day everyone! If you are at the K shoot me a message on twitter @kcroyalman and I will stop by! I can’t wait to see you all on the greatest day of the year. May it turn out well for both the Cards and Royals and playoffs for both! Hey we can dream! Thats whats great about opening day!

KCRoyalman can be found Monday Nights with Bill Ivie here on I70baseball on the I70 Baseball Radio show from 10p-11p and Sundays from 7p-8p at the www.royalmanreport.com. Podcast Downloads available for both shows!

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Juntos Podemos! The Unforgettable Opening Day of 2004

April 5, 2004: The stadium is positively electric. Fans chant, whoop and holler as they exit the stadium like it’s college football game day. High fives for everyone who passes by.

The spiraling ramps bubble with the kind of glee found on Bourbon Street. The cause for such elation?

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Royals just won their opening day game on two dramatic home runs in the bottom of the ninth. After trailing 7 to 3 going to bat for the last time, Mendy Lopez tied the game with a three-run blast. And then with movie-quality drama, Carlos Beltran launched a two-run homer to finish it off.

The Royals are going to be contenders once again.

After all, we came oh so close to making the playoffs last year. And we’re a lot better this year than last year. We’ve got Juan Gonzales to rake home runs and a veteran catcher in Benito Santiago to shepherd our up-and-coming pitching staff. We’ve got the Rookie-of-the-Year at shortstop in Angel Berroa, plus Mike Sweeney, Ken Harvey, Joe Randa… this is a team that’s built to make a playoff run.

Well… that didn’t quite turn out as planned.

But that was an opening day to remember.

I’ve taken in quite a few opening day games. There’s nothing like it, as far as the Royals are concerned. The team is still mathematically in contention, and for one afternoon, the stadium is packed with people.

In talking to the people actually in the stadium on opening day, however, you learn that most of them aren’t exactly there because they’re enthusiastic about the team. They are there because they got free tickets from work, or because it’s a tradition to come out one time a year, drink beer and enjoy the spring afternoon away from the office, or because they just like to be where the action is.

Not many folks in the stands really care about the Royals success or failure. But on that day in 2004, we were all believers. When I say it was like a college football atmosphere, I mean it. We were passionate, hanging on every pitch.

Of all the games I’ve seen in Kaufman, I’d say that was possibly the most exciting one.

Funny as it sounds now, we really did have high hopes for that team. We’d finished the 2003 season still believing like Tony Pena even after faltering down the stretch to finish at 83-79. It was the most exciting season in about a decade. Why couldn’t we improve upon it?

“Juntos Podemos!” was the battle cry for 2004. Unfortunately, it would seem Gonzales and Santiago didn’t understand that in English that means “Together we can!” They weren’t a part of anything but the disabled list for most of the year.

Berroa wasn’t terrible… yet. But he was well on his way. Three of our best hitters – Sweeney, Randa and Harvey – all finished with the exact same batting average: .287. They each battled injuries, as did just about everyone else.

The losses started mounting immediately following the opening day thriller.

With a record of 28-41, the plug was pulled on this team on June 24. After getting blasted 12-3 by Detroit, the Royals shipped off their best player, Carlos Beltran, for prospects that would prove to be the building blocks for the terrible teams of the rest of the decade.

That team won just 58 and lost 104. There have been some awful teams in KC since then, but possibly none as bad as that one. And certainly none as disappointing.

But for that one glorious afternoon, the exit ramps rocked with chants of “Let’s go Royals” and it was great to be a fan on opening day.

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