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Most Beloved (Obscure) Royals: Elite Eight

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Remember how we were voting on this before the season? Well, we never finished.

Kansas City Royals
Got nothin’ better to do, right?
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

During the prolonged offseason, we pondered a lot of things and reminisced about our favorite Royals, leading to this series, where we voted on our favorite Royals that aren’t among the team’s all-time greats, either because of longevity or because they, well, just weren’t all that great.

We started off with more than seventy names and got down to 16 when the two-month season rudely interrupted. I got too busy to write for a couple of weeks, and then there was only three weeks or so left in the season, so I just decided to wait.

To refresh everyone’s memory, this is the final sixteen, with the “elite eight” down to these players:

Bob Hamelin, Ben Zobrist, John Wathan, Jeremy Guthrie, Tom Gordon, Bill Pecota, Steve Balboni, and Jim Eisenreich.

This vote represents the finals in each of the four broad “regions”/categories: Fleeting Glory (made up of Flashes-in-the-Pan and Postseason Heroes), Personalities (made up of #AlwaysRoyal and Characters/Clowns), Lost Causes (made up of Next Big Things and Saber-Darlings), and Random (made up of One-Tool Wonders, Meme Guys, Funny Names, and Surprises).

Fleeting Glory Finals

#1 Bob Hamelin (Flash-in-the-Pan) vs. #11 Ben Zobrist (Postseason Heroes)

The flash-in-the pan subregion had many interesting names—Mike Aviles, Mark Quinn, Angel Berroa—but Bob Hamelin was always the favorite here. The beloved 1994 Rookie of the Year went largely unchallenged, besting 2015 Royal Paulo Orlando in his latest match-up.

Ben Zobrist’s #11 seed reflects his short tenure on the team, the shortest tenure of any of the Royals remaining in the bracket, and shorter than all of the other postseason heroes he had to outlast to make it here, including ‘85 game 7 hero Darryl Motley and teammates Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales. Was Zobrist’s glorious three months as a Royal enough to get him past The Hammer?

World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Poll

Bob Hamelin or Ben Zobrist?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Bob Hamelin
    (282 votes)
  • 61%
    Ben Zobrist
    (459 votes)
741 votes total Vote Now

Personalities Finals

#1 John Wathan (#AlwaysRoyal) vs. #6 Jeremy Guthrie (Characters & Clowns)

John Wathan is a Royals lifer with a cool record (most steals by a catcher), a career that exactly overlapped the glory years (1976-1985), and a stint as the team’s manager. It was almost unfair to put him in the “obscure” bracket at all, but since he wasn’t in the other bracket, he slotted as the #1 seed in the loosely defined #AlwaysRoyal grouping. He didn’t have much trouble getting by Jeff Conine, Bud Black, or Brian McRae to reach this point.

Kansas City Royals
Wathan managed some talented but flawed Royals teams in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s

To me, Jeremy Guthrie is a bit of a surprise here. I knew he was a well-liked teammate and community man, but I know that his performance at times frustrated a lot of fans. I thought he might lose to the delightful Nori Aoki in round one, or to the popular (and similarly talented) Bruce Chen in round 2, but he outlasted both by somewhat narrow margins to face Jamie Quirk, who he beat by 11 votes. Can he continue to survive and advance?

Kansas City Royals Parade Celebration Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Poll

John Wathan or Jeremy Guthrie?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    John Wathan
    (498 votes)
  • 30%
    Jeremy Guthrie
    (215 votes)
713 votes total Vote Now

Lost Causes Finals

#1 Tom Gordon (Next Big Thing) vs. #2 Bill Pecota (Saber-Darlings)

Tom Gordon was a good player. He had a really good career, and had a good run with the Royals, starting with a 17-win rookie season where he won Rookie Pitcher of the Year but also lost Rookie of the Year to Gregg Olson, another pitcher. Go figure. But since he pitched a long time ago, during a mediocre era of Royals baseball, I thought he was the most vulnerable of the #1 seeds. I thought he might be in danger in round 2 versus Mark Teahen and I was sure he would lose to 2015 hero Luke Hochevar in the round of 16, but he won both of those match-ups easily. I guess “Flash” Gordon is still throwing curveballs.

Kansas City Royals
They don’t call him “Flash” for nothing
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Bill Pecota and Gordon were teammates much of their Royals careers, so Pecota likewise played on some decent but not great teams. He was a utility man whose talents were a little bit underappreciated in his time but who has been somewhat immortalized by the PECOTA projection system. He got past Calvin Pickering, Jon Nunnally, and Johnny Giavotella to advance as the representative Saber-Darling.

Poll

Tom Gordon or Bill Pecota?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    Tom Gordon
    (539 votes)
  • 21%
    Bill Pecota
    (146 votes)
685 votes total Vote Now

Random Finals

#1 Steve Balboni (One-Tool Wonder) vs. #3 Jim Eisenreich (Surprises)

I’m interested in who wins this match-up, because the winner seems to be a favorite to win the whole bracket. Steve Balboni, of course, was a stalwart of the 1984-85 division winners who set the long-time franchise record for home runs with 36 in 1985. His popularity proved to have staying power when he was among the top 25 vote-getters for the 50th-anniversary team and breezed past Terrance Gore, Tom Goodwin, and even MITCH Maier (82%-18%!) to get to this match-up with Eisenreich.

Eisenreich’s story of overcoming health challenges to have a really solid Major League career is inspiring. He was also a really good player for the Royals when they needed someone to step up as the championship core was fading. He was someone that was taken off the scrap heap and emerged as someone who did everything well. Here’s a video of Eisenreich telling his story from the Buck O’Neil seat:

Poll

Steve Balboni or Jim Eisenreich?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Steve Balboni
    (329 votes)
  • 54%
    Jim Eisenreich
    (388 votes)
717 votes total Vote Now

These choices are getting tougher, for sure. Be sure to share your votes and thoughts in the comments!