The Kansas City Royals as a franchise have gone through memorable streaks of success and of mediocrity, but through it all they’ve had their fair share of excellent players who have contributed to teams of all levels of overall competitiveness. While only one player in the Hall of Fame went in as a Royal, many talented players both retired and still in the league have played with the franchise, making many solid candidates for a Mount Rushmore of Royals. It is especially interesting to consider who is deserving of such an honor given the balance of players who are more memorable for their high level performance and those whose charisma brought personality and fun to the Royals. I have considered both of these factors, balancing the skill of a player with his personality and his importance as a face of the franchise. So, without further ado, here is my Mount Rushmore of the Royals:
This should come as a surprise to nobody. Brett is the best player ever to wear a Royals uniform, a fantastic hitter who represented the Royals in 13 straight All Star games, won an MVP and finished top 3 in MVP voting in 3 other seasons. Brett played his entire career as a Royal and contributed to the franchise’s first World Series title in 1985. If you want to take a more analytical approach, it only takes one look at Brett’s .305/.369/.487 slash line and 88.7 WAR over 21 seasons to understand why he’s a Hall of Famer and forever fan favorite in Kansas City. Brett has just about every box checked on the list of notable accomplishments for an MLB career, and is one of a select few players who has had a season hitting over .300 in 3 different decades. Moreover, Brett has cemented himself as a Royal to a greater extent with his passion for the team. This was evident when he played the game through his fervor on the field (take the pine tar incident, for example) as well as following his retirement: he could be seen at every game of the 2014-15 playoffs in Kansas City. All things considered, Brett is arguably the most iconic Royal of all time, and a shoo-in on the Royal Rushmore.
While a case can be made for many Royals pitchers as the most impactful the franchise has seen, Saberhagen has cemented himself as an all-time Royals great. He makes the mount due to the era in which he pitched, as he was the Cy Young winner and World Series MVP at just 21 years old when the Royals won it all in 1985. Saberhagen won 2 Cy Young awards in his 8 years with the Royals, accumulating 40.9 bWAR in those seasons with his highest ERA in any one season being 4.15. While he was a vital piece of the 1985 championship Royals, his best season came in 1989, when he led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched, and WHIP en route to a 23-6 record and the second Cy Young award of his career. Saberhagen wasn’t the most consistent for the Royals, and didn’t make the Hall of Fame, but he was an ace quality pitcher who played a fundamental role in their first championship, and for this he will always be remembered as a Royal.
Otis played 14 years with the Royals, including their 5 postseason runs in 6 years between 1976 and 1981. He compiled 44.8 bWAR, third all time with the franchise, went to 5 All Star Games, won 3 Gold Gloves, and finished top 10 in MVP voting 4 times with the Royals. Otis was very good with the Royals for a long time, and while he didn’t play for the championship team of 1985, he was among the best players on Royals teams that continually contended in the late 70s and early 80s, establishing a culture of winning for the 1985 team. While Otis may not be the most memorable Royal ever, he was among the best, and will forever have an important role in the history of the franchise.
Jackson, unlike the others on this list, is not included for his playing so much as the icon that he was on the Royals and in the sports world. Jackson is the most talented two sport athlete in history, and saw success both on the football field and on the diamond. In his 5 years with the Royals, Jackson accumulated 7 WAR. While he was not terribly valuable, he represented the franchise in 1 All Star game and countless highlights, including his outfield catch running on the wall and him breaking a bat over his helmet following a groundout.
Gordon and Cain go up with Perez as representatives of the most recent championship, and it is very difficult to choose just one player as an icon of the team. It’s hard to say which had the biggest individual impact: Cain led the team in WAR through the season, Wade Davis played a vital role as a shutdown reliever, Gordon hit a game-tying home run to allow the Royals to win game 1 of the 2015 World Series, and Eric Hosmer had the biggest moment of the season with his dash home to tie game 5 and lead to the Royals clinching the series in extra innings. Cain and Gordon, however, transcended the 2015 season, with Gordon being one of the first pieces of the championship team to arrive in the majors and provide hope to the Royals fanbase in the midst of a drought, and Cain being arguably the best player on the team through their competitive years, contributing especially with stellar outfield defense. While the entire team is iconic to the franchise as a whole, Gordon and Cain will perhaps be remembered most fondly.
These pitchers had very similar roles with the Royals, and it’s difficult to identify which was more important to the team. Appier spent 13 of his 16 MLB seasons in Kansas City, beginning and ending his career with the club. He compiled 47.2 WAR with the Royals, putting him second all time with the team, and was a solid, consistent pitcher throughout the 90s. Like Appier, Greinke came up through the Royals system, spending his first 7 seasons in Kansas City and winning a Cy Young award in his stellar 2009 campaign. Greinke also gets remembrance for the trade that sent him to Milwaukee, which brought back Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, as well as pieces which helped the Royals acquire James Shields and Wade Davis, all of whom were vital to their playoff runs in recent years. While neither of these pitchers played for a competitive Royals team, they were very good for many years with the team and will be remembered as such.
For a franchise that recently had a bullpen for the ages with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, Quisenberry was perhaps the most valuable reliever to the franchise as a whole considering how good he was for many seasons with the team. He finished top 3 in Cy Young voting for four straight years, including the team’s 1985 championship season, despite being a reliever. He had 25.5 WAR in 10 seasons with the Royals, a considerably high total for a relief pitcher. While the Royals have seen their fair share of dominant relievers, Quisenberry has been the most reliable, and he wins for best delivery and best mustache.
Finally, the fourth member of Royals Mount Rushmore…
While Perez has the most incomplete on-field resume of those on the Mount, he makes the Mount Rushmore for his charismatic style of play and his place among the Royals community more so than for his contributions in the game itself. Perez mainly contributes offensively with home run power rather than consistently getting on base, but is known more for his defensive play. In his early years in the league, Perez was dangerous for runners attempting to steal bases, and while he has seen some regression, Perez still accumulates defensive value at a high rate and has won 5 gold gloves in the last 6 seasons. However, Perez will be remembered more for his energy and love for the Royals. As a part of the team which brought the franchise’s first playoff berth in 29 years, and a year later its first title in 30, Perez assumed a notorious role on the team as the bearer of water cooler dumps upon being the MVP of a given game, affectionately called “Salvy Splashes” by the Royals and their fanbase. Salvy is one of the few players remaining on the Royals from their championship squad, and if for no reasons other than his personality and his role on that 2015 team, Perez will always be remembered as an all-time great Royal.
Disagree with my choices? Let me know on Twitter @ruhdolph