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Forgotten Royals: Dean Palmer

You never hear about Dean Palmer anymore. That's quite the vague and anecdotal statement, but it certainly feels true. His name rarely comes up in broadcasts and the internet is no different: ole Dean has been mentioned on this site just four times (in stories) and in just 22 comments.


Dean Palmer came to the Royals on July 25, 1997 via trade for Tom Goodwin. The Rangers were 50-53 and sat in 3rd in the AL West. The Rangers had Fernando Tatis ready to take over at third, and Palmer was set to become a free agent. I'm not sure why the Rangers wanted Goodwin, but perhaps Dayton Moore was assistant GMing for them in disguise. As a Royal Goodwin was posting OBPs around .330 with no power and lots of running around. Anyway, Texas wanted him. I guess. It was the late 1990s. Who knows.

But back to Palmer. In 42 games with the Royals in 1997, Palmer hit .278/.335/.487, with 9 homers. Like Goodwin, Palmer wasn't much more than an average OBP guy, which limited his potential as a player. In Palmer's case, along with spotty defense, that meant that he was never an elite player. According to the metrics, he was bad defensively, and I remember that that was his general reputation at the time. He led the AL in errors more than once, which would definitely get a guy that reputation. Especially then. Actually, now too.

In a surprising move, the Royals brought Palmer back with a one-year contract for $5.8 million for 1998. Palmer responded with a superficially huge year. Palmer hit .278/.333/.510 with 34 HRs and 119 RBI. 34 homers and 119 RBI. Those 34 homers are still tied for third most in team history, behind Gary Gaetti's 35 (another forgotten Royal) and Steve Balboni's 36. Those 119 stakes are also third most (in a tie with Dye). Palmer managed a 115 OPS+ and made the All-Star team.


Palmer was oh so close to equaling Balboni. During a September 11th doubleheader, Palmer homered twice, getting him to 33 bombs with 16 games remaining. He homered just one more time, on the 23rd. Royal Immortality denied. Balboni's franchise leading 36 homers is somewhat infamous, but Balboni was/is a beloved 1980s oddity. Palmer was just a guy playing in a big offensive era with really no legacy. It's probably good for Royals history that Balboni held on.

The next off-season Palmer signed an ill-fated five year contract with the becoming terrible Tigers. Over the last three years of his contract, Palmer played in just 87 games, hastening his descent into oblivion. Goodwin played with the Rangers through 1999, memorably leading the league in caught stealings one year.

Palmer played for a 72 win Royals team, back when that was considered especially bad for the franchise, and as mentioned above, everyone acknowledged he had a flawed game. I'm not arguing that he should be in the Royals Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, he did have a very loud one and a half years for the team. A period that really didn't register with anyone. Palmer is remembered as the third or fourth bat on those 1990s Texas teams who later, well... what happened to him again? Well, in between the Texas years and the bad contract with Detroit, he was a Royal. A Royal to remember.