There have been many lousy bats to cast a shadow in Kauffman (Royals/Municipal) Stadium. As fans, we have all questioned the wisdom of our Manager/General Manager over his insistence to start Player X over and over and over again, despite his inability to contribute even the tiniest amount to the offense. My recent frustration over yet another losing season prompted me to consider the question - "What would be the worst offensive Royals lineup of all-time?"
Here were my criteria:
- Only offensive production was considered. I didn't take defense or grittiness into account.
- The player had to have been the "most common starter" as his position for that year.
- Seasons were isolated. I'm looking at 2011 Billy Butler, not total career Billy Butler.
Debate is encouraged. You'll notice that 6 of the 9 are under Baird and Moore. You'll also notice that 2008 was an epically bad year. And without further ado, here is my worst offensive Royals lineup of all-time, by position.
Catcher - Hector Ortiz - 2001
You totally forgot about him, didn't you? In 2001, the Royals had a revolving door at catcher. Brent Mayne, Greg Zaun, A.J. Hinch, even Sal Fasano, took turns behind the plate. But the catcher that started the most games for the 65-97 Royals was Hector Ortiz.
2001 was Ortiz's best shot in the bigs. He played parts of 4 years with the Royals and Rangers in 1998 and 2000-2002. In 2001, he started 56 games for the Royals and put up some truly awful numbers from the catcher position. In 166 PA, he hit .247/.293/.299 with 0 HR and 11 RBI. He only had 7 extra base hits over that time period. SEVEN. He had 38 hits and 24 strikeouts, but was still paraded out by Tony Muser more than any other catcher in 2001. His career was understandably brief, and he was the worst offensive catcher in the history of the Royals.
Note: Runner up was Jason Kendall. Rewind yourself.
First Base - Ross Gload - 2008
It is truly amazing that the 2008 Royals won 75 games. I mean, their leading homerun hitter was 3B Alex Gordon with 16. And Trey Hillman made the decision that his regular First Baseman would be Ross (or Russ) Gload. Gload had taken over in 2007 for a completely incompetent Ryan Shealy (first baseman of the future!) and the Royals decided that the light hitting journeyman was just what they needed from the traditional power position. Gload rewarded them nicely, hitting .273!!!! Only problem was that his 418 plate appearances produced a grand total of 3 HR, and a handsome slugging % of .348.
Gload had 22 extra base hits all season and racked up a massive 37 RBI, an incredible total for a part-time shortstop. After his shining 2008, Ross (Russ) moved onto Florida and then Philadelphia, before calling his 10 year career quits. He played 10 years in the majors, at first base, and hit a total of 34 home runs. At first base. In the Major Leagues. Congrats, Ross (Russ) on being the worst offensive Royal to ever play a season at First Base.
Second Base - Jose "Chico" Lind - 1993
The 1993 Royals had a winning record (84-78), but it wasn't due to the bat of Chico Lind. David Cone and Kevin Appier handed the ball to Jeff Montgomery in great shape most of the time, and Hal McRae had plenty to smile about. When it came to Jose, he figured he had a solid second base glove, and that's all he needed. And that's pretty much all he got.
Lind hit .248/.271/.288 with 0 HR and 15 XBH in 464 plate appearances. He also had a Frenchy-like approach when at the plate, only drawing 13 walks. Of all of the starters, he was the worst in runs scored and runs batted in. Turns out, Chico had more problems than not being able to hit a baseball. Later on it was revealed that he had a major cocaine problem that contributed to him walking out on the 1995 edition of the Royals mid-stream. A good glove was Jose Lind, but an utterly lousy bat. It should be noted that the 2013 edition of Chris Getz is in the running to pass Chico at his current pace.
Third Base - Craig Paquette - 1997
The 1997 Royals had plenty of losing to go around. Their 67-94 record brought the end of Bob Boone's tenure and brought in Tony Muser. Between the two of them, they tried Dean Palmer at the hot corner, along with Scott Cooper (who???), but more than anyone else, Craig Paquette got the starting nod.
Paquette had promise - he was an 8th round pick by Oakland - but never could put it all together in the big leagues. In 1997, he had 267 PA with the Royals, putting up a slash line of .230/.263/.393. His OPS+ was a paltry 68. So much for offensive production from the hot corner. He had an abnormally low HR total, even for him, with 8 homers that year. Paquette went on to stints with the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers, never matching the glimpse of decency that he had shown with the Royals one season before. Congratulations Craig, on the worst offensive season by a Royals third baseman ever.
Shortstop - Tony Pena - 2008
Our second entry from the horrendously offensive 2008 offense may be the worst STARTER of all-time for the Royals, not just shortstop. Tony Pena (or Tony Pena Jr. as he was known then) was acquired by the Royals for Erik Cordier by the all-knowing GMDM in one of his many trades with his old club. TPJ was a slick fielding shortstop who made highlight reel plays deep in the hole. To his credit, he could definitely flash some leather. And then he would step to the plate.
I think that I blocked how truly bad Pena was in 2008. When I look at the numbers, I think they must be wrong. In 235 PA, Pena hit .169/.189/.209 with 6 XBH, 6 walks, and 49 strikeouts. For some reason, he was intentionally walked twice (which honestly wouldn't even make sense in an interleague game). Miguel Olivo had a .278 OBP in 2008. Pena made him look like Ichiro by comparison.
It's hard to believe that TPJ didn't stick as an offensive force in the bigs. But even he saw the light and decided pitching may be his thing. He's actually still toiling away in the minors with the White Sox organization, where he is 2-8 with a 4.86 ERA for their AAA club this year.
Left Field - Chuck Knoblauch - 2002
Didn't Chuck Knoblauch play second base? Didn't he win the Rookie of the Year? Wasn't he a four time all-star??? Yes, yes, and yes. That was until he got Rick Ankiel disease and actually couldn't throw the ball from second base to first base. Incidentally, it's kind of ironic that the Royals took on reclamation projects Ankiel and Knobby, both with the mental block issue. Anyway, in 2002, Chuck Knoblauch was the most common starter in LEFT FIELD for the 62-100 Kansas City Royals. And it didn't go well.
It wasn't like the 3-headed managerial monster of Muser/Mizerock/Pena had a plethora of options for their corner outfielder. Aaron Guiel, Brandon Berger, and Mark Quinn aren't exactly awe-inspiring. And if Knoblauch could return to his old form........well, he didn't. Knoblauch had 336 plate appearances in his final major league season. He hit .210/.284/.300. That's a 50 OPS+ and a -0.7 WAR. Chuck hung it up after that debacle, but not before recording what I believe to be the worst offensive season for a LF in Royals history.
Center Field - Joey Gathright - 2008
And the 2008 trifecta is complete. Gathright joins Pena and Gload on the list and make me really appreciate how good Trey Hillman's performance was to get to 75 wins. Dayton Moore loved Joey Gathright's flash. I mean, he was fast as lightning and could even jump over a car!!! When I think of Joey Gathright, I instantly recall Willy Mays Hayes from "Major League". Gathright make Wesley Snipes proud in 2008, hitting .254/.311/.272. He had less extra base hits (4) than TONY PENA did in 2008. But he stole 21 bases!
Gathright split some time with Mitch! in 2008, before Maier began writing regularly from camp. Maier looked like a great option compared to the light-hitting Gathright, who surprisingly only spent one more season in the major leagues after 2008. Seems other General Managers just didn't see the possibilities that Moore did. Yes, he was fast, but Joey was the worst offensive center fielder we ever had.
Right Field - Jeff Francoeur - 2013
Yes, I realize I'm cheating a little bit since Lough is likely to pass Frenchy in starts before the season is over, but I figure Royals Review will give me a pass. Ned Yost, in a bid to cash out with his "under" bid on season wins at Caesars, continually trotted out Jeff Francoeur this year to the Frenchy Quarter.
His .208/.249/.322 line should speak for itself. But the 8 walks and 49 strikeouts won't shut up.
Designated Hitter - Bob Hamelin - 1995
This one hurts me. I was a huge fan of the "Hammer" and his 1994 Rookie of the Year campaign. I saw him hit a game-tying homerun in the bottom of the ninth that season. But it is called the designated HITTER.
Hamelin followed up the ROY campaign with a train wreck. In his epic DH battle with Joe Vitiello, he hit .168, .278, .313. He had 35 hits and 56 strikeouts. The year before he had 88 hits and 62 strikeouts to go with his 24 home runs and 65 RBIs. I remember a story blaming something on his switch to contact lenses, which may have had some validity to it since he did had something of a renaissance in 1997 where he hit .270 with 18 HR for the Tigers. But the rebound was short lived. The Hammer was out of baseball in 1999, but not before posting the worst offensive DH season in the history of the Royals.
So, in summary, just remember - it could always be worse. Unless it's 2008.