Tuesday, March 26, 2013
March 26- Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals expanded into the American League during the summer of 1969. I hardly doubt Bryan Adams had the Royals in mind when he wrote the tune of the same name; then again, Bryan Adams is Canadian, and not only that he was also born in 1959. What the hell did he know about the life of a high schooler in the “Summer of ‘69”? Wow! I got really off topic. Anyway, from 1969-1994 the Royals donned the same royal blue cap with a white “KC” logo affixed to the front panels. Tonight, I will not be talking about that cap. Instead, I’ll be discussing the first alternate cap in the history of the Royals franchise. This one…
From 1995-1999 the Royals primarily wore this cap on the road to pair with their grey jerseys and pantaloons. Throughout that five-year stretch the Royals planned under managers Bob Boone and Tony Muser. Boone was one of those guys who was a hell of a player on the field, but questionable as a manager. During his three year run the team’s best finish came in 1995, his first year as a manager in Major League Baseball, when the team finished in second place in the newly revamped AL Central. Even though the team finished in second place they still finished with a record of 70-74 to give a win percentage of .486, the highest of Boone’s career. Muser proved to be equally as depressing of a manager; never getting the team higher than third place in the AL Central and never attaining a win percentage better than .475. But, while these Royals teams couldn’t compete with the rest of the top tier talent throughout the league, they did however have a lot of up-and-coming young talent making their breaks in the Big Leagues over those five years.
For my markings I decided to go with an old school player and a fresh-faced rookie. I think you’ll agree that while one is a bit unorthodox, he was just one of those guys that never really got his due. So tonight, I have to hook him up.
#17- The first really interesting thing about this guy is that he originally wore #55 from 1989-1995 only to change it to #17 for his last few years with the club (1996-1999). Because the #17 fit within the time period of the cap’s use I decided to mark it using that number. The other reason I marked it with #17 is because this player’s fortune turned for the worst not too long after he made the decision.
Kevin Appier was the ninth overall draft pick in the 1987 amateur draft out of Fresno State. He made his debut in 1989, but made his rookie campaign in 1990 at which he went 12-8 as a starter with a 2.76 ERA and 127 strikeouts. His performance on the season was good enough for a third place finish for the AL Rookie of the Year award. In 1991 and 1992 Appier went 28-18 while in 1993 he had the best season of his career going 18-8 with a League best 2.56 ERA and a third place finish in the AL Cy Young voting. 1994 proved to be a mediocre year as he went 7-6 while in 1995 he went 15-10 with a 3.89 ERA and a trip to his first and only All-Star Game.
In 1996 everything seemed to change for Appier, but he still managed to have a decent season with a 14-11 record, a 3.62 ERA and a career best 207 strikeouts. If you go back and really crunch the data I have laid out you will see that in a seven-year time frame Appier never had a sub-.500 record. And for a guy pitching for the Royals during those days it was kind of unheard of, and yes, this is even taking Brett Saberhagen’s stats into consideration as his worse year was the year of Appier’s Rookie of the Year campaign in 1990, and Saberhagen’s final year with the Royals was in 1991. But that’s all stuff that will be talked about down the road.
Before the start of the 1997 season Appier signed a long-term deal with the Royals as they promised him they would become more competitive. The reality is that Appier could have signed with anyone. As I mentioned above, with his numbers and with that team he could have been veritable force with any other ball club. Unfortunately for Appier the 1997 season proved to be one of his worst as he went 9-13; however, things took an even bigger turn when he had to have surgery for a torn labrum during the 1998 season. Appier came back strong in 1999, but the rest of the team played sub-par. Appier asked for a trade and ended up getting his wish before the trade deadline. In short, that’s the story of how Kevin Appier joined the Oakland Athletics.
All kidding aside, Appier has gone down as probably one of the most underrated pitchers of all time. I’m not saying Hall of Fame worthy, I’m merely saying underrated. After the Royals Appier spent a year-and-a-half with the A’s, one year with the New York Mets in 2001 before they traded him to the Anaheim Angels for Mo Vaughn in 2002 and in 2003 was traded back to the Royals for what turned out to be the final two years of his career. During his run in the Show Appier went 169-137 with a 3.74 ERA and 1994 strikeouts. Honestly, that’s like Top-100 starting pitchers of all-time numbers right there.
#36- This is another one of those interesting moments when the changing of a kersey number came off as more confusing, but it “helped” out in the long run. Carlos Beltran was a second round draft pick by the Royals out of Puerto Rico in the 1995 amateur draft. He made his debut during the 1998 season, but made his splash in 1999 when he went .293/22/108 which won him the AL Rookie of the Year award, a feat that only four players in Royals history have accomplished. Lou Piniella, Bob Hamelin and Angel Berroa were the other three. However, as quickly as this hat faded into obscurity at the end of that season, so did the #36 when he opted for #15 for the rest of his Royals, Houston Astros, Mets and San Francisco Giants career. The only other major accomplishment that Beltran obtained in Kansas City was a trip to the All-Star Game during the 2004 season, at which he was traded to the Astros shortly thereafter.
Beltran’s career was exponentially better after leaving Kansas City as he made six more All-Star appearances between the Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals (wearing #3) and won three Gold Gloves with the Mets from 2006-2008. Beltran is also won of eight players to hit at least 300 home runs and steal at least 300 bases. Who are the other seven? Go back and read my Arizona Diamondbacks piece from January 14 for the answer.