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Most Beloved (Obscure) Royals: Sweet 16

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To make it this far, you pretty much need a World Series ring.

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Down to the final 16 in the bracket, it’s pretty striking how many of those who remain were on championship teams:

2015 (5): Kendrys Morales, Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Guthrie, Paulo Orlando, Luke Hochevar

1985 (4): John Wathan, Jamie Quirk, Steve Balboni, Buddy Biancalana

Neither (7): Tom Gordon, Bob Hamelin, Jim Eisenreich, Brian McRae, Bill Pecota, Johnny Giavotella, Mitch Maier

Of the 77 players chosen to “compete,” 21 were on either the ‘85 or the ‘15 club; nine of those remain, and in only two cases (Pete LaCock over Onix Concepcion and Brian McRae over Steve Farr) did a player without a World Series ring beat someone with a World Series ring. Terrance Gore’s loss to Steve Balboni is the only loss by a 2015 Royal that wasn’t to a teammate: Johnny Cueto and Chris Young lost to Morales, Edinson Volquez lost to Zobrist, and Cheslor Cuthbert lost to Orlando.

Here’s how the bracket shapes up in the Sweet 16 (Look back a the full bracket here and here.):

Fleeting Glory Semifinals

Flash-in-the-Pan Finals

#1 Bob Hamelin vs. #13 Paulo Orlando

Bob Hamelin is one of only two players left (along with Brian McRae) who did not play in either the 1980s or the 2010s. He and Mitch Maier are the only ones who remain from the true “dark ages” of 1995-2012, when the Royals had only one winning season. Hamelin is the last Rookie of the Year standing, as Angel Berroa fell in round 1 and Lou Piniella lost in round 2 (Carlos Beltran didn’t make the “obscure” bracket, obviously). All of this is a testament to the enduring appeal of “The Hammer,” but he hasn’t faced much competition yet, beating 1970s outfielder Tom Poquette and one-year wonder Paul Byrd. How will he do against one of the 2015 Royals?

Paulo Orlando is a “survive-and-advance” guy. He had a narrow victory in the play-in match-up with Cheslor Cuthbert, a somewhat comfortable win over Angel Berroa in round 2, and then beat Mike Aviles by a mere two votes, 207 to 205.

Poll

Bob Hamelin or Paulo Orlando?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Bob Hamelin
    (117 votes)
  • 40%
    Paulo Orlando
    (81 votes)
198 votes total Vote Now

Postseason Heroes Finals

#2 Kendrys Morales vs. #11 Ben Zobrist

Here’s a breakdown of our two heroes:

Kendrys Morales, DH

Biggest moments: a worm-burner grounder that ate up both Tony Sipp and Carlos Correa, tying up game 4 of the ALDS after all had seemed lost... the game-sealing home run in game 5 off of Dallas “not MadBum” Keuchel and his immortal skip down the line as he watched it fly.

Why else we love him: After a prolonged awful slump to begin 2016, he got as hot as any Royal not named George Brett has ever gotten for about a month—so hot that the Royals played him right field for five games in interleague play, and he didn’t suck!

Ben Zobrist, 2B-LF

Biggest moments: Zobrist didn’t have any signature moments in the 2015 postseason, but he seemed to be in the middle of every legendary rally, often with a double or walk. His two-run home run in the first inning in game 4 of the ALCS began the route that gave the Royals a 3-1 series lead.

Why else we love him: A long-time favorite of analytically minded baseball fans, Zobrist was the perfect acquisition at the perfect time: a short-term fill-in for the injured Alex Gordon who became the long-term replacement for the ineffective Omar Infante.

Poll

Kendrys Morales or Ben Zobrist?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Kendrys Morales
    (83 votes)
  • 58%
    Ben Zobrist
    (116 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now

Personalities Semifinals

#AlwaysRoyal Finals

#1 John Wathan vs. #12 Brian McRae

Wathan, the speedy catcher, utility player, and (later) manager cruised by Jeff Conine in the opening round; it was closer in round 2 against Bud Black, but he still won by more than 100 votes. Wathan’s career perfectly coincided with the Royals’ glory years (1976-1985), so he is associated with a lot of good memories.

Brian McRae is the son of Royals, well, royalty. And he made some spectacular plays in center field, even if the metrics insist he was only about average. His departure was part of the signal that the Royals were giving up after the strike. McRae beat Steve Farr in the first round and then squeaked by Lou Piniella with 55% of the vote in the second round.

Poll

John Wathan or Brian McRae?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    John Wathan
    (132 votes)
  • 31%
    Brian McRae
    (62 votes)
194 votes total Vote Now

Characters and Clowns Finals

#2 Jamie Quirk vs. #6 Jeremy Guthrie

This is an interesting match-up between a fan favorite of the early era of the Royals against a prominent figure from the Royals’ resurgence. Quirk was on the 1985 roster, but most of his Royals playing time came in the ‘70s and later in the ‘80s. Quirk’s popularity has enough staying power to get him past Kurt Bevacqua and Brian Bannister without much trouble in the first two rounds. Guthrie’s two match-ups were much closer, as he battled against contemporaries Nori Aoki and Bruce Chen. Like Quirk, Guthrie has a World Series ring but did not appear in the series.

Poll

Jamie Quirk or Jeremy Guthrie

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Jamie Quirk
    (94 votes)
  • 52%
    Jeremy Guthrie
    (105 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now

Lost Causes Semifinals

Next Big Thing Finals

#1 Tom Gordon vs. #4 Luke Hochevar

Neither Gordon nor Hochevar have been challenged much as the higher seeds in each of their first two rounds. Gordon’s victory over Gary Thurman in the first round was the most lopsided in the tournament, and he had a surprisingly lopsided win over Mark Teahen in round two. Hochevar’s wins were over Clint Hurdle and Jeremy Affeldt.

Both pitchers began their careers as starters before finding greater success in the bullpen. Gordon’s success was greater in both roles, but his success as a reliever came in other uniforms. Hochevar was a lifelong Royal, with injuries ending his career prematurely as he had come into his own as a reliever.

Poll

Tom Gordon or Luke Hochevar?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Tom Gordon
    (121 votes)
  • 38%
    Luke Hochevar
    (77 votes)
198 votes total Vote Now

Saber-Darlings Finals

#2 Bill Pecota vs. #11 Johnny Giavotella

The Saber-Darlings have ironically come down to two players that were probably, at some point in their careers, labelled with the term “scrappy” that so many Internet fans hate. Pecota took out Calvin Pickering and Jon Nunnally to get this far, and Gio beat Felipe Paulino and Kila Ka’ahihue. Both were infielders who had limited opportunities to play regularly, Pecota in 1991 as a third baseman with the Royals and Giavotella in 2015-16 with the Angels. Pecota was considerably better defensively, which kept him employed as a bench player, something Gio wasn’t able to do.

Poll

Bill Pecota or Johnny Giavotella?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Bill Pecota
    (115 votes)
  • 39%
    Johnny Giavotella
    (75 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now

Random Semifinals

One-Tool Wonder vs. Meme Guy

#1 Steve Balboni vs. #4 Mitch Maier

If this tournament were promoted by the Royals and voted on by general fans, this would be no contest, but the love for Maier here makes it much more interesting. It will be interesting to see if Will McDonald’s fictional MITCH can get Maier past Balboni. When I put the bracket together, I guessed Maier would come out of it, but Mitch’s wins over Sal Fasano and Ken Harvey weren’t close but not blowouts. Balboni, who beat Terrance Gore and Jimmy Gobble in this tournament, ranked in the top 25 vote-getters in the 50th-anniversary team. As beloved as the letters from camp are, Balboni was a key player for a championship team and a long-time club record-holder. Mitch Maier only inspired those letters that made me laugh so much; he didn’t write them, so we’ll see if they get him past Bye-Bye Balboni.

Poll

Steve Balboni or Mitch Maier?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Steve Balboni
    (160 votes)
  • 17%
    Mitch Maier
    (35 votes)
195 votes total Vote Now

Funny Names vs. Surprises

#10 Buddy Biancalana vs. #3 Jim Eisenreich

Buddy Biancalana emerged from the funny names bracket over Hipolito Pichardo and Pete LaCock, while Jim Eisenreich beat Esteban German and Pat Sheridan in some of the most lopsided match-ups in the tournament. Biancalana sort of represents what this tournament is about. He really wasn’t good, and he didn’t play for the Royals for long. But because he played for a World Series team and was on David Letterman’s show, he endeared himself to fans. My family had a hamster more or less named after him and a particular tune to which we would sing his name. Eisenreich, of course, was a much better player, with a great story to go along with it. He finally got his World Series ring with the 1997 Marlins (after coming close with the ‘93 Phillies).

Poll

Jim Eisenreich or Buddy Biancalana?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Jim Eisenreich
    (119 votes)
  • 36%
    Buddy Biancalana
    (68 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now