We've ranked the Top 100 Royals according to Win Shares, with some minor modifications.
We'll start the series with #100 - Jay Bell.
Jay Bell's career with the Royals lasted exactly one season, but that season was so great, he warrants a place on the 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time. If you're wondering how many Win Shares it took to make this list, Jay Bell compiled 21 Win Shares in his one season in Kansas City. His stint in Kansas City was so brief, I couldn't even find a picture of him in a Royals uniform. Even without photographic evidence, I'm still pretty sure Jay Bell played for the Royals.
Bell was acquired in six player trade along with 1B Jeff King in a Pirates salary dump for a trio of minor league Jeffs - Granger, Wallace, and Martin - as well as Joe Randa. The trade was controversial because everyone in baseball regarded it as highway robbery. Cleveland General Manager John Hart claimed he had made a much better offer for Bell, but Pirates GM Cam Bonifay would not accept it. "It was unbelievable.... We can't seem to do business with those folks," said Hart. It turned out that Cam Bonifay wasn't being obstinate, he was just a moron.
Randa was a serviceable player for one year in Pittsburgh and of course went on to a successful career upon rejoining the Royals, but the rest never did anything. Bell had an outstanding season for the Royals, one of the best of his career up to that point, and King had two solid seasons with the Royals before deciding that playing with the Royals was more agonizing than not playing at all.
The Royals were coming off a last place season, but they had won 75 games, just 13 games back of the Wild Card. They picked up Chili Davis for a broke down Mark Gubicza, and dealt Michael Tucker for Jermaine Dye. For one off-season, Herk Robinson actually seemed like a competent general manager. Unfortunately, the team way underperformed in comparison to their Pythagorean W-L, and won just 67 games.
Bell's career was an interesting evolution. By the time he was a regular in Pittsburgh, he was with his third organization, having already been involved in trades for Bert Blyleven and Felix Fermin. When he was in Pittsburgh playing for the perennially contending Pirates, he was an amazing bunter, laying down 69 sacrifice hits over the 1990-1991 seasons. He wasn't known as much of a home run hitter, although his double totals were decent for a shortstop.
When he arrived in Kansas City for his contract year, he had his first twenty home run season , drove in 92 runs and slugged .462 at age 31. It was easily the best season ever by a Royals shortstop. In fact, his 1997 season was one of just three seasons by a Royals shortstop to post an OPS+ over 100. The others were UL Washington in 1982 and Kurt Stillwell in 1988.
This landed him a five year $34 million deal with Arizona. He went nuts in 1999 and slugged 38 home runs, but couldn't match that number in the next three seasons combined. Jay did get to score the game winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. He retired in 2003 after hitting .181 in 72 games with the Mets. He was the bench coach for the Diamondbacks last season, but retired to spend more time with his family.
Jay wore glasses and seemed to live up to his librarian looks. There are a quite a few spectacle wearing players I can recall from the 1980s - Tom Henke, Kent Tekulve, Pat Sheridan, heck even Reggie Jackson wore glasses. Who wears glasses today?
Five Fun Facts About Jay Bell
- Bell only spent one season with the Royals, coming to Kansas City on December 13, 1996 in a trade that sent Jeff Granger, Joe Randa, Jeff Wallace and Jeff Martin to Pittsburgh. The Royals got Bell and Jeff King. Its hard to say who "won" that trade: the Pirates got younger, but not better with all those young Royal prospect-types, while King and Bell produced mixed results that ultimately did nothing for the Royals either. King managed to hit 28 homers in his first season with the Royals (2nd on the team to Chili Davis) a number only rarely bested in Royals history. Still, King was out of baseball within three years... There's something chilling about thinking about an old trade like this; it disrupted the lives of a few familes, was probably vaguely interesting at the time and greeted as a sign of future progress, only nothing really became of it and it was utterly forgettable.
- However, in that one season in KC, Bell hit .291/.368/.461 with 21 HRs, 28 doubles and 3 triples. Thats nice production for a guy who played in 149 games as a short stop. It also represented a nice bounceback season for Bell, who had struggled in both '96 and '95 and was merely average in '94.
- In 1999 Jay Bell hit 38 homers for the D'Backs. His previous career-high was the aforementioned 21 with the '97 Royals.
- In 30 postseason games with the Pirates ('90, '91, '92), D'Backs ('99, '01) Bell hit .262/.328/.402 with 3 HRs. In the 1991 Pirates-Braves series (not the Sid Bream/Fransisco Cabrera one) Bell had a truly bizarre postseason: he struck out 10 times, walked none, but managed to get 10 singles and 2 doubles out of the series. So, he went 12 for 29 and 10 of the 17 outs he made were at the plate. Against the Braves in 1992, he struck out only 3 times, but also managed only 5 hits and 3 walks. In the epic game 7 of that series Bell had a double, a walk, and a run-scored. Of course, the Braves scored 3 runs in the 9th to beat the Pirates, who haven't made the playoffs since. Or had a winning season.
- Bell had a strange, but somewhat typical career, increasing his walks and power with age. After a boring three-season stint with the Indians, Bell was a key asset to the late 80s/early 90s Pirates team, often hitting 3rd in a lineup that also featured Barry Bonds, Bobbby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke. His late in life renaissance with the D'Backs was ohh so D'Backian, but somehow always left me feeling strange, since most of those old Pirates were non-factors in the game by the late-90s. Well, Bonds excepted, of course.