Tag Archive | "Star Games"

Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter_

Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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Negro League Widow Passes Away

HiltonSmithLouise Smith, widow of Hilton Smith, has passed away at the age of 98 years old.

Hilton Smith is a hall of fame pitcher famous for his time in Negro League Baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs.  During his playing career, according to the Hall Of Fame, he was credited with 20 wins in each of his 12 seasons with the Monarchs.

Possibly best known for his relief appearances behind the great Satchel Paige, Smith pitched in six consecutive “East-West All Star Games” from 1937-1942.  He was considered by many to be the best pitcher in black baseball but was largely overlooked due to his quiet demeanor, a stark contrast to that of Paige’s.

Hilton hurled a no-hitter in 1937 and according to many sources did not lose a single competition in 1938.  During the winter of 1946, he pitched the Vargas team in the Venezuelan league to the championship.  The following March, he would pitch for the Vargas team in an exhibition game in Venezuela against the New York Yankees.  He would allow one hit over five innings and be credited with the win in a 4-3 ballgame.

Smith would decline an offer from the Brooklyn Dodgers as baseball’s color barrier came crashing down, eventually retiring in 1948.  He would go on to teach, coach, and eventually become a scout for the Chicago Cubs.  He passed away in 1983 and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2001 by the Veteran’s Committee.

Louise Humphrey would marry Hilton Smith in 1934.  The couple would have two children during their marriage.  During an interview for the 2005 Oral History film, Louise would recount how she turned down Hilton’s marriage proposal at first because she did not want to marry a ballplayer.  Ultimately, she identified that he was a professional man and was rewarded with being able to see areas of the world she never thought possible.

From the “Did You Know” section of his Baseball Hall Of Fame Bio:

Hilton Smith advised Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson to sign Jackie Robinson to a contract with the powerhouse Negro American League club?

According the the Negro League Baseball Museum, Louise visited the museum for “one last tour” earlier this week.

You can visit the Negro League Baseball Museum’s website by clicking this link.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Cooperstown Choices: Mike Piazza

With the Hall Of Fame election announcement coming on January 9, 2013, it is time to review the ballot, go over the names, and decide who belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

There are twenty four men on the ballot for the first time this year and we will take a look at each one individually prior to official announcements. You can find all of the profiles in the I-70 Baseball Exclusives: Cooperstown Choices 2013 menu at the top of the page.

In this article, we take a look at Mike Piazza


Mike Piazza
One of the most prolific hitting catchers of all time, Piazza hits the ballot after a 16 year career.  During that career, he would appear in 12 All Star games and win 10 Silver Slugger Awards and the Rookie Of The Year Award in 1993.

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1992 LAD 21 69 5 16 3 0 1 7 0 4 12 .232 .284 .319 .603 72
1993 LAD 149 547 81 174 24 2 35 112 3 46 86 .318 .370 .561 .932 153
1994 LAD 107 405 64 129 18 0 24 92 1 33 65 .319 .370 .541 .910 140
1995 LAD 112 434 82 150 17 0 32 93 1 39 80 .346 .400 .606 1.006 172
1996 LAD 148 547 87 184 16 0 36 105 0 81 93 .336 .422 .563 .985 166
1997 LAD 152 556 104 201 32 1 40 124 5 69 77 .362 .431 .638 1.070 185
1998 TOT 151 561 88 184 38 1 32 111 1 58 80 .328 .390 .570 .960 152
1998 LAD 37 149 20 42 5 0 9 30 0 11 27 .282 .329 .497 .826 119
1998 FLA 5 18 1 5 0 1 0 5 0 0 0 .278 .263 .389 .652 74
1998 NYM 109 394 67 137 33 0 23 76 1 47 53 .348 .417 .607 1.024 167
1999 NYM 141 534 100 162 25 0 40 124 2 51 70 .303 .361 .575 .936 135
2000 NYM 136 482 90 156 26 0 38 113 4 58 69 .324 .398 .614 1.012 155
2001 NYM 141 503 81 151 29 0 36 94 0 67 87 .300 .384 .573 .957 148
2002 NYM 135 478 69 134 23 2 33 98 0 57 82 .280 .359 .544 .903 138
2003 NYM 68 234 37 67 13 0 11 34 0 35 40 .286 .377 .483 .860 126
2004 NYM 129 455 47 121 21 0 20 54 0 68 78 .266 .362 .444 .806 109
2005 NYM 113 398 41 100 23 0 19 62 0 41 67 .251 .326 .452 .778 104
2006 SDP 126 399 39 113 19 1 22 68 0 34 66 .283 .342 .501 .843 122
2007 OAK 83 309 33 85 17 1 8 44 0 18 61 .275 .313 .414 .727 95
16 Yrs 1912 6911 1048 2127 344 8 427 1335 17 759 1113 .308 .377 .545 .922 143
162 Game Avg. 162 586 89 180 29 1 36 113 1 64 94 .308 .377 .545 .922 143
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
NYM (8 yrs) 972 3478 532 1028 193 2 220 655 7 424 546 .296 .373 .542 .915 136
LAD (7 yrs) 726 2707 443 896 115 3 177 563 10 283 440 .331 .394 .572 .966 160
OAK (1 yr) 83 309 33 85 17 1 8 44 0 18 61 .275 .313 .414 .727 95
SDP (1 yr) 126 399 39 113 19 1 22 68 0 34 66 .283 .342 .501 .843 122
FLA (1 yr) 5 18 1 5 0 1 0 5 0 0 0 .278 .263 .389 .652 74
NL (15 yrs) 1829 6602 1015 2042 327 7 419 1291 17 741 1052 .309 .379 .551 .931 145
AL (1 yr) 83 309 33 85 17 1 8 44 0 18 61 .275 .313 .414 .727 95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2012.

Why He Should Get In
The numbers our outstanding, especially for a catcher.  His position may, in fact, be his saving grace.  While his defense was sub-par for his entire career, his offensive numbers show him to be one of the best hitters to play his position of all time.  While his totals for home runs, runs batted in, and hits are not overly impressive on their own, the fact that he compiled the majority of them while being a backstop keeps him in the discussion.

Why He Should Not Get In
His numbers, as stated above, are not outstanding if he were anywhere else on the field.  That being said, most people feel that he had no business being a catcher for as log as he was, given his lack of ability at that position.  Being a great offensive star at a position generally only works if you were a defensive star at that position as well.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cooperstown Choices 2013, I-70 Baseball ExclusivesComments (0)

Ozzie’s Shadow

In sports, music, and entertainment, legends come along every so often that need only a first name. The Babe, Pele, Madonna (or Lady Gaga’s mom as many of my friends commented during the Super Bowl), Usher, Prince, P Diddy/Daddy/Dandy or whatever the latest name is. If we are talking about basketball and I say “MJ”, you immediately know who I am referring to. If we are talking music, and I say “MJ” you know immediately who I mean.

In sports, those one-name figures cast a shadow so large that it takes a long time before it feels right to watch anyone else play “their” position on “their” team. I was flipping through the channels just the other day, and stopped on the Chicago Bulls game for just a few minutes. Derrick Rose is one of the NBA’s best players, no question about it. For me, it still just does not feel right watching a Bulls superstar not named Michael, even though he has not worn a Bulls jersey since 1996.

In Cardinal Nation, there is a larger-than-life player that also walked away from the game in 1996. He also needs only one name to be remembered; of course I am talking about Ozzie. Ozzie (Smith) was Rookie of the Year in 1978, won an astounding 13-straight Gold Gloves from 1980-1992, played in 15 All-Star Games, was runner-up MVP in 1987 despite not hitting one home run, and was eventually voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In what I consider the most telling stat, Ozzie led the team in WAR (wins above replacement) each season from 1983-1995 (check out Derek Goold’s piece for a great read on this). No other Cardinal has led the team in WAR that many consecutive seasons.

*Quick sidenote: Just as a means of showing the effect of inflation and free-agency on the game, Ozzie made $31.5M during his 15 seasons with the Cardinals.

More than incredible stats, he was the face of the Whiteyball era, and provided 15 years of excellent shortstop play that has not been matched since. He was the back-flip to start the game. He was the guy that kept you glued to the TV not knowing just what he might do next. It still does not feel quite right to me watching anyone else play shortstop for the Cardinals. It takes time to fill the shoes of the legend…actually that is not correct…it takes time to be OK with them not being filled. Ozzie’s shadow still looms large.

This article will look briefly at Ozzie’s career, the shortstops since Ozzie, and what we can reasonably expect from the shortstop position this season with Rafael Furcal as the starter.

During Ozzie’s 15 years with the Cardinals, he had 1944 hits, 644 RBIs, 433 SBs, and a .272 BA. He was the perfect offensive spark during the Whiteyball era of manufacuring runs. Let’s take 1995 and 1996 (age 40 and 41 seasons) out of the equation for a minute and look at average production between 1982-1994.

During those years Ozzie averaged the following line per season:

Ozzie Smith 1982-1994

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

521      72     25    4      2        49      32    64   .273

While these are good offensive numbers, he would not be a Hall-of-Famer simply based on this offensive production alone.

Average WAR 1982-94: 4.42      Total WAR 1982-94: 57.5

WAR by Season

1982: 4.0   1983: 3.0   1984: 4.4   1985: 5.7   1986: 5.3   1987: 7.1   1988: 5.5   1989: 6.3   1990: 2.8   1991: 4.7   1992: 4.3

1993: 2.5   1994: 1.9

WAR factors in defensive play (runs saved above replacement level), and Ozzie’s D was a huge factor in his outstanding WAR levels during his Cardinal years. Only once since he retired has a Cardinal shortstop (Edgar Renteria 2003) had a season WAR higher than Ozzie’s average WAR as a Cardinal. No Cardinal shortstop has topped his season total of 7.1 in 1987. That is impressive.

Here are the season averages for shortstops post-Ozzie. If they were the primary starter all year, only their stats will be measured. If multiple players started a significant number of games, their numbers will be combined for the year(s) being measured. All stat lines are an average per season of the year(s) measured.

Royce Clayton 1997

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

576     75      39    5      9         61     30   33   .266

WAR: 2.6

Royce Clayton, Luis Ordaz, David Howard 1998

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

546      83      25    2      6        49     21    64   .214

WAR: -1.5

Edgar Renteria 1999-2004

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

560      83      35    2     12      75      25   51   .290

Average WAR 1999-2004: 3.0      Total WAR 1999-2004: 18

WAR by Season

1999: 1.4   2000: 2.2   2001: 1.2   2002: 4.2   2003: 6.5   2004: 2.5

David Eckstein 2005-2006

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

565      79      22    4     5         42     9      43    .293

Average WAR 2005-2006: 3.2      Total WAR 2005-2006: 6.4

WAR by Season

2005: 4.2   2006: 2.2

David Eckstein, Brendan Ryan 2007

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

614      88      32     0     7        43      17   39   .302

WAR: 3.2

Cesar Izturis, Brendan Ryan 2008

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

611       80     19     3      1        34      31   45    .264

WAR: 1.8

Brendan Ryan, Julio Lugo, Tyler Greene 2009

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

646       88     33     11    7       57     23   45    .277

WAR: 3.9

Brendan Ryan, Tyler Greene 2010

AB        R       2B    3B   HR    RBI    SB   BB   Avg

543     64     24     3      3         46     22   46    .223

WAR: 1.4

Ryan Theriot, Nick Punto, Daniel Descalso, Rafael Furcal 2011

2011 saw each of these four guys start at shortstop at some point. Everyone but Descalso saw significant playing time at another infield position so short of going through 162 box scores, there is no easy way to split out production from shortstop position for 162 games. For the sake of this article, we will look at the WAR totals for each of the four players that manned the position at some point

Theriot 2011 WAR: 0.00    NIck Punto 2011 WAR: 1.5   Descalso 2011 WAR: 1.2   Furcal 2011 WAR: 1.4

The numbers above show the Cardinals have not received anywhere near the production at shortstop they had during the Ozzie years. Save a couple of Renteria’s seasons and one of Eckstein’s, the Cardinals shortstops have produced at average to below-average levels.

Cardinal fans hope that changes in 2012. Reversing that trend falls on the shoulders of Rafael Furcal. He will have the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop this season, and gives the Cardinals a prototypical leader hitter they have not had in a number of years.

While Furcal will certainly not be Ozzie this year (age 34 season), he does provide hope for good, consistent play that is long overdue at shortstop. If he can stay healthy and approach career norms, he could give the Cardinals better production at the position than they have since 2003. Going back to Furcal’s rookie season of 2000, he has posted the following WAR totals in seasons where he has been healthy:

2000: 3.6   2002: 2.1   2003: 4.9   2004: 2.6   2005: 5.9   2006: 3.0   2007:  1.3   2009: 2.4   2010:  3.8  

A return to 2010 production would exceed the average of the Renteria, Eckstein, and Clayton years. A return to 2005 production, while very unlikely at age 34, would be the best season for a Cardinal shortstop since 2003 and 1989 before that.

Ozzie’s shadow still looms large over the Cardinal shortstop position. He was a once-in-a-generation shortstop. We may never see another like him wear the birds on the bat. But there is hope at shortstop for the 2012 season. There is also a kid by the name of Ryan Jackson that will be at Memphis this year. He is pretty darn good, and will have his chance to be the shortstop of the future. Ozzie’s shoes can never be filled. Furcal and Jackson, however, could be a significant upgrade over what the Cardinals have seen for the last 15 seasons.

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Optimism Is Well Placed For Royals Fans

Hi. You don’t know me or anything about me. But if you’re reading this column, I’m pretty sure I know plenty about you.

You are obviously a Kansas City Royals fan, and are for the first time in a very, very, very, very long time, feeling legitimate optimism for the upcoming season. However, for the better part of the last 20 years, you have endured year after year of baseball misery. You have cursed every player, manager, pitching coach, general manager, owner, trainer, and groundscrew captain that has passed through the orgainization during this time, using your entire repertoire of colorful language many times over. You have watched Scott Elarton, Brian Anderson, Runelvys Hernandez, and Jose Lima trot out to the mound to start Opening Day, and nearly been forced into regurgitation over it. You allowed yourself to get excited about the arrival of washed up, non-roided versions of Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. You watched the All-Star games and cringed when Mark Redman and Ken Harveywere announced as the Royals’ representatives.

And as you know, this doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what you have endured being a Royals fan. Yet for some reason, you have continued to come back. Oh, I know, you have considered walking away many times. There are so many other things to focus your energy on in the summertime. You are sick of being laughed at and dismissed by fans of other teams. But your hope is that your loyalty would be rewarded eventually. You say that when the Royals finally do win again, the celebration will be unlike any other that anyone has ever seen (of course, nobody reading this has likely seen the Cubs win the World Series). Could that eventually be now? You are optimistic, but we will forgive you for guarding your optimism with an armed militia. You know you have been burned before, but you also know that now just feels different. Actually, it doesn’t just feel different, you are sure it is different. But you’re trying not to talk about it, because you remember when you argued with your friend who is a Cardinals fan, that OF COURSE Reggie Sanders was the missing piece in the Royals lineup. Or that one time, when you got into it with someone in the bar, saying ABSOLUTELY Calvin Pickering has what it takes to hit big league pitching. Haven’t you seen what that guy has done in AAA??

The difference this year, of course, is that you, as a Royals fan, don’t have to argue on behalf of your team anymore. The national media, and people in other baseball towns are hip to what’s going on with the Royals. They are the ones drooling over Eric Hosmer as being “can’t miss” and Mike Moustakas having terrifying power. They are saying Alcides Escobar may be the best shortstop in baseball and Salvador Perez might be the next Pudge Rodriguez. And now it is you that is either keeping quiet, or even taking the other side… reminding everyone that people spoke of Alex Gordon when he came up the same way they speak of Eric Hosmer today. And, you also say, while it is possible that Escobar could be a perennial Gold Glove winner, he could also regress into the second coming of Angel Berroa. As a Royals fan, you are now trained to think that way.

In just over 3 months, the time for talking will be over. You and I will get to know each other much better throughout this time, and together, we will watch the story of Project 2012 unfold. Will it be another self-depricating comedy? Or a dramatic thriller with a joyous ending? Who knows? Maybe in 3 months the time for talking will be over…or maybe the time for talking could finally have arrived.

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Hall of Famer Likes New Direction in KC

Photo courtesy of Minda Haas

Jeff Montgomery held his tongue long enough. For 10 years he quietly watched as the Royals lost nearly 1000 games. He was gone, but not forgotten. He was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2003. But he contented himself with raising four children and observing his former team’s losing ways from afar.

During the post-Jeff Montgomery decade of 2000 to 2009, the Royals won 672 games, lost 948, had one winning season, and posted a “winning” percentage of .414.

In 2010, however, the former relief pitcher decided it was time to start talking again. He began providing pre and post-game commentary for the Royals’ TV broadcasts, first on a trial basis, and now full-time going into 2011.

Montgomery played 12 seasons with KC, notching 304 saves and playing in three All-Star games. He spoke about his playing career and his new broadcasting venture in a previous article on I-70baseball.com.

Like the average Royals’ fan, Montgomery suffered through the promises of “rebuilding” and “youth movements” with very little to show when it was all over. But as he moves into a new phase of his career, he believes the Royals are moving into a new phase of their history as well, one in which things are finally being done the right way.

“It’s been a very frustrating period,” Montgomery said recently. “I think the most difficult part is that there have been on-again, off-again movements toward rebuilding the organization. The Royals fans have been given promises that we’re going to go young and we’re going to build. The problem with that is that it’s a very time consuming process.”

Montgomery will be watching first-hand as the Royals attempt to transition the top-rated farm system in baseball into a competitive major league team. Under the direction of Dayton Moore, the team is working to develop a home-grown cast that can matriculate together to the big leagues.

At the time of Montgomery’s retirement in 1999, the Royals were launching a youth-movement that appeared headed for success. In 2000 the lineup consisted of Mike Sweeney (26 years old), Carlos Febles (24), Mark Quinn (26) Carlos Beltran (23), Jermaine Dye (26) and Johnny Damon (26). Salary demands forced the Royals to part with a few of those key pieces, but yet the team amazingly succeeded in 2003 to post 83 wins, narrowly missing the playoffs. That success proved to be fool’s gold, Montgomery said, causing the team to lose sight of its long-range plan.

“You know, in 2003, the Royals had a winning record – the only time in about 16 or 17 seasons that that’s happened. But after that, going into the 2004 season, they kind of got off track. They brought in Juan Gonzalez and traded for Benito Santiago, and tried to win again. And everybody expected that, and it was a huge disappointment. And as a result of that, it kind of threw that plan off track again.”

Montgomery believes that Moore’s approach – to stockpile quality pitchers in the minor leagues and to eschew quick free-agent fixes – will be successful.

“In 2006, when Dayton Moore came in, he was essentially given the time and the flexibility to start from scratch, focusing primarily on pitching,” said Montgomery. “As Dayton put it, pitching is the currency of baseball. We’re going to add arms to the organization at the minor league level, at the major league level. We’re going to build around pitching, just like when he was involved in the rebirth of the Atlanta Braves going back a couple of decades ago.”

When Moore signed on with the Braves in 1994 as a scout, the team was enjoying the fruits of the labor of developing Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. The current Royals boast a handful of talented pitchers in the minor leagues that Montgomery envisions developing into quality major leaguers.

As many of the Royals’ prize prospects have climbed to the Double A and Triple A levels of the system, Montgomery believes fans won’t have to wait much longer.

“I think right now the organization is about 80 to 85% through that process, but they are not going to defer, and try to bring in guys that are going to get them off that track,” he said. “They are so close. I’ve compared it to running a marathon. They are about 25 miles into their marathon race and they’ve just got a little bit to go. There’s no guarantee they’re going to finish this race, but they’re getting close. And there’s no reason to get off course now.”

Montgomery knows this is same song, umpteenth verse to long-suffering KC fans. But he believes this time it’s different.

“The difference I think now is that there is not just one or two guys in the minor leagues that everyone is banking on. If you go back over the years, there was Zack Greinke who everyone said was going to be a standout pitcher, which he turned out to be. There was Alex Gordon, the college player of the year, who everyone expected to become the next George Brett. So far that has not occurred.
But the difference again now is that there are literally dozens of players. The organization is very rich in young talent both from a pitching standpoint and from an offensive standpoint. There are going to be some busts along the way. Some of those guys are not going to work out. They’re going to become injured or they’re not going to play to the level everyone expects them to.

“But if you’ve got such a large amount of players who have all got such a high level of expectations, some percentage is going to hit, and you don’t have to have all of them. You’ve got a deep enough system now, that even if only a fraction of them hit, you’re going to be ok.”

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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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