1985 was a glorious year. Mikhael Gorbachev assumed control of the USSR, leading to a warming of relations between the Americans and Soviets. Tetris was released, helping kids waste countless hours. And "Back to the Future" was released, showing America that time travel was possible with a DeLorean, some plutonium, and a flux capassiter. That October, a plucky little team from Kansas City would stun the baseball world by storming back from 3-1 deficits in both the League Championship Series and the World Series to become World Champions.
Great Scott! In the future, the Royals are run by idiots!
The Royals organization has failed to make a single post-season since that magical year, although it has spent much of its time trying to recreate that magic. What would our club look like today if we did recreate that championship-winning roster? Who are the modern day equivalents of George Brett, Daryl Motley, Bud Black?
Read on, and you'll see how it is possible to recreate the 1985 Royals. And maybe, just maybe, the Process will begin to make more sense to you.
1985 Jim Sundberg .245/.308/.381 10 HR 35 BI 88 OPS+ 0.8 WAR
2009 Ivan Rodriguez .249/.280/.384 10 HR 47 BI 73 OPS+ 0.3 WAR
Both Sundberg and Rodriguez were both excellent defensive catchers (quite possibly two of the greatest ever) whose skills had eroded by this point, but still had a reputation for handing young pitchers well. Ivan was the much better hitter over his career, but by this point, their slash lines were nearly identical.
1985 Steve Balboni .243/.307/.477 36 HR 88 BI 111 OPS+ -0.9 WAR
2009 Mike Jacobs .229/.297/.401 19 HR 61 BI 83 OPS+ -0.5 WAR
That’s really not fair to Steve Balboni since he posted a much higher slugging percentage, and a higher on-base percentage in a much lower offensive environment. But its hard to find another player much like Steve Balboni these days (where happened to all the fat guys with mustaches in MLB?). The "grip it and rip it if its anywhere near the strike zone" mentality is only employed by a few select hitters and Mike Jacobs is one. Jacobs 2008 season (.247/.299/.514, 32 HR, 108 OPS+ -0.3 WAR) is actually much closer to what Balboni was able to accomplish. It is also remarkable that Balboni was able to club thirty-six home runs (still a franchise record!) and yet still post a negative WAR.
1985 Frank White .249/.284/.414 22 HR 69 BI 89 OPS+ 1.9 WAR
2009 Mark Ellis .263/.305/.403 10 HR 61 BI 86 OPS+ 1.6 WAR
Ellis is not as skilled defensively as Frank White, but among his contemporaries he is considered one of the best, despite his curious lack of Gold Gloves. Both players were in their early 30s in these respective seasons with their defense starting to slip a bit, albeit still above average (Total Zone has White at 6 and Ellis at 5 for these respective seasons). Frank was enjoying a power peak at this point in his career while Ellis has seen his power begin to dip a bit, but both carried double digit home run power and double digit stolen base speed.
1985 George Brett .335/.436/.585 30 HR 112 BI 178 OPS+ 8.0 WAR
2009 Albert Pujols.327/.443/.658 47 HR 135 BI 188 OPS+ 9.2 WAR
I was going to put Alex Rodriguez, but figured that is really unfair since A-Rod posted worse offensive numbers (.286/.402/.532 30 HR 100 BI) in 2009 in a much better offensive environment than George did in 1985. Oh and George is a gritty gamer who once played post-season ball with his ass on fire, while A-Rod is a big stupid choke artist who slaps the ball out of the first basemen’s mitt and doesn’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. The only thing they share in common is they both defecate on themselves. Only George does it at the Bellagio in the winter, while A-Rod does it every October.
In 1985 George posted a 178 OPS+ . Here are the list of guys who posted a 178 OPS+ or better in 2009.
That is all. Albert actually is a better comparison if you are comfortable moving him back to third for the purposes of this exercise. They even share a similar walk-to-strikeout ratio. George clogged the bases with 103 walks, whiffing just 49 times. Albert walked 115 times to 64 strikeouts. They were also above average defenders (Albert is actually excellent, but at an easier position) and pretty good base-stealers. They were both clutch when it mattered and great leaders in the clubhouse, although while Albert serves God and raises a family of special needs children, George in his prime was out on the Plaza getting plowed with Jaime Quirk and Kansas City’s finest female groupies.
1985 Onix Concepcion .204/.255/.245 2 HR 20 BI 38 OPS+ -1.2 WAR
2009 Ronny Cedeno .208/.256/.337 10 HR 38 BI 57 OPS+ –1.1 WAR
Onix Concepcion and Ronny Cedeno were each well-regarded prospects who had hit for some decent power in the minors, but did not see that offensive success translate to the major league level. Both had good defensive reputations and both were fairly awful base-stealers. Cedeno has at least managed to eclipse Concepcion’s career length – Onix would manage just one MLB plate appearance after the 1985 season.
1985 Lonnie Smith .257/.332/.358 6 HR 48 BI 90 OPS+ 1.2 WAR
2009 Willie Harris .235/.364/.393 7 HR 27 BI 101 OPS+ 1.2 WAR
Both Smith and Harris had bounced around a bit, although Lonnie had a much higher pedigree as a former All-Star, while Harris has been a journeyman utility player. Lonnie stole many more bases (52 for Smith just 11 for Harris). Willie is a better defender (they didn’t call Lonnie "Skates" for nothing). But both could get on base a bit, cause a bit of havoc on the bases, with non-embarrassing power. I don’t anticipate Willie to ever consider murdering his general manager however.
1985 Willie Wilson .278/.316/.408 4 HR 43 BI 97 OPS+ 1.3 WAR
2009 Scott Podsednik .304/.353/.412 7 HR 48 BI 98 OPS+ 1.8 WAR
Scottie P. enjoyed a resurgence last year, and has kept it up this year, while 1985 was Willie’s last good year as a full-time starter. He was no longer able to hit .300, and thus, lost a lot of his value. Both Wilson in 1985 and Scott in 2009 were average fielders. Both known for their basestealing, Willie had the clear edge in steals - 43 to 30.
1985 Daryl Motley .222/.257/.413 15 HR 70 BI 80 OPS+ -0.8 WAR
2009 Rick Ankiel .231/.285/.387 11 HR 38 BI 76 OPS+ 0.0 WAR
Daryl enjoyed a breakout season in his first full year in the big leagues in 1984, posting a 109 OPS+ with 15 HR and a .441 slugging percentage. Rick Ankiel enjoyed a breakout season in his first full year as a hitter in the big leagues in 2008, posting a 119 OPS+ with 25 HR and a .509 slugging percentage. Both would fall back to earth hard the next season with awful on-base percentages that hurt much of their value. Motley would soon be out of the league. Ankiel will no doubt be employed by the Royals for many, many seasons.
1985 Hal McRae .259/.349/.450 14 HR 70 BI 118 OPS+ 0.4 WAR
2009 Magglio Ordonez .310/.376/.428 9 HR 50 BI 109 OPS+ 1.0 WAR
Technically Magglio still plays right field, but he profiles closest to Hal McRae for this exercise. Both were once power hitters who lost much of their power in their late 30s. Ordonez was a .300 hitter in 2009, something McRae was unable to accomplish although he had hit .300 in each of the previous three seasons. Both could draw a few walks and were difficult to strike out. McRae was known as an aggressive base-runner, a reputation I have never heard for Ordonez.
1985 John Wathan .234/.319/.324 1 HR 9 BI 77 OPS+ 0.5 WAR
2009 Jason LaRue .240/.288/.327 2 HR 6 BI 63 OPS+ 0.3 WAR
Both were gritty catchers near the end of their careers and like Wathan, LaRue was capable of playing multiple positions.
1985 Jorge Orta .267/.317/.383 4 HR 45 BI 91 OPS+ -0.5 WAR
2009 Ross Gload .261/.329/.400 6 HR 30 BI 90 OPS+ 0.5 WAR
Does anyone doubt that Gload could beat out an infield single in a crucial Game 6?
1985 Buddy Biancalana .188/.277/.261 1 HR 6 BI 49 OPS+ -0.1 WAR
2009 Robert Andino .222/.274/.288 2 HR 10 BI 49 OPS+ -0.3 WAR
"Andino" is not as fun to say as "Biancalana" however.
1985 Pat Sheridan .228/.307/.335 3 HR 17 BI 77 OPS+ -0.1 WAR
2009 Brian Anderson .243/.328/.347 4 HR 18 BI 75 OPS+ 0.0 WAR
The Royals may have been better off convincing Sheridan to take up pitching as Anderson has done.
1985 Dane Iorg .223/.268/.331 1 HR 21 BI 64 OPS+ -0.5 WAR
2009 Craig Monroe .215/.287/.354 3 HR 16 BI 71 OPS+ -0.2 WAR
Craig doesn’t have a cooler brother named Garth though.
1985 Greg Pryor .219/.270/.272 1 HR 3 BI 50 OPS+ -0.6 WAR
2009 Cody Ransom .190/.256/.329 0 HR 10 BI 55 OPS+ -0.7 WAR
This is shaping up to be on heck of a bench.
1985 Lynn Jones .211/.261/.257 0 HR 9 BI 43 OPS+ -1.1 WAR
2009 Ryan Freel .193/.290/.216 0 HR 5 BI 36 OPS+ -0.5 WAR
Tomorrow, the pitchers.