It’s the time of year where we like to be frightened. On the silver screen, it's Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Candyman, Chucky, and Jigsaw scaring us out of our wits.
But on the baseball diamond, there have been certain players that give fans the frights. These are the scariest players in Royals history.
Ryan pitched with the Angels for most of the 70s, facing off against the Royals numerous times and absolutely dominating them. In 46 starts against Kansas City in his career, Royals hitters batted just .201/.307/.266. Think about that. That’s the equivalent of going three full seasons hitting like Tony Pena, Jr. He struck out 349 Royals in 336 2⁄3 innings, and this was an age in which not many hitters struck out.
His scariest start against the Royals was easily on May 15, 1973. Ryan was in just his second year with the Angels, blossoming as a pitcher, and this was his first start ever in new Royals Stadium. Royals hitters never had a chance. Despite a bad bullpen session before the game, Ryan mowed down the lineup, striking out 12 and walking just three (he was notoriously wild in those days), as he tossed the first of what would be seven no-hitters in his Hall of Fame career. Royals outfielder Lou Piniella called Ryan’s repertoire “the best stuff in the league”, adding “He throws so hard and his curve is just about impossible to hit.”
Royals fans didn’t fear Chambliss when he played for the league joke, the Cleveland Indians. But donning those Yankees pinstripes is like putting on Jason Vorhees’ hockey mask. Chambliss would scare Royals pitchers for years, hitting .321/.381/.467 against Kansas City, his best numbers against any franchise. But it was October that made him truly scary.
In 1976, the Royals won their first division title, matching them up against the Yankees. Chambliss had a sensational series. He smacked a two-run home run, and drove in the game-tying run in a Game Three Yankees win. Overall he would go 11-for-21 (.524) with 8 RBI in the series. But it was his last swing that truly murdered the Royals. In the pivotal Game 5 in Yankee Stadium, George Brett had silenced the crowd with a huge three-run home run to tie the game. The Royals wasted a scoring opportunity in the ninth, which opened the door for the Yankees.
Facing Mark Littell, Chris Chambliss homered on the first pitch he saw, ending the series and giving Royals fans nightmares for years.
His nickname was “The Big Hurt” for a reason. A former tight end at Auburn, Thomas was an imposing figure at the plate. He hit .303/.412./540 with 37 home runs in 182 games against the Royals and always seemed to have the big hit at the right time.
I remember in 1993, the Royals got hot in August and were just 3.5 games back of the first place White Sox, heading to Chicago for a three-game set with them. Kevin Appier outdueled Jack McDowell in the series opener to put them just 2.5 games back. In the second game, the Royals took a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning, and hope was rising that the Royals might be able to make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
The Royals brought in All-Star closer Jeff Montgomery - he led the league with 45 saves that year with a 2.27 ERA. He shut things down. Even after he ran into some trouble and allowed two runners to get on, he retired the next two hitters and it seemed he might escape trouble.
But then he faced Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt drilled one to deep centerfield that landed somewhere in Lake Michigan. With one swing of the bat, he had ripped out the hearts of Royals fans.
Moss seemed like a really nice guy, but sometimes those are the ones you have to keep an eye on the most. He was a slugger on the 2014 Oakland Athletics club that had dominated in the first half, only to slide in the second half to end up on the road in the Wild Card game against Kansas City. Moss gave Royals fans their first gut punch in the first inning with a two-run blast off James Shields to make it 2-0 Oakland.
The Royals battled back and led 3-2 going into the sixth inning, but when Shields allowed the first two hitters to reach base, Ned Yost was not going to let him face Moss again. However, he made the curious decision to replace Shields with Yordano Ventura, a starter who was pitching on just one day’s rest. Moss made Yost immediately regret that decision, launching a long three-run home run to put Oakland back on top.
Kansas City would eventually stick a knife in the A’s, but Moss was not quite done terrorizing Royals fans. He would end up signing a two-year, $12 million deal with them in 2017, but hit just .207/.279/.428 in 118 games, and was worth -0.9 WAR. Eek!
Bautista was briefly a Royals player - spending a week with them in 2004. But sometimes they come back! Joey Bats re-engineered his swing with Toronto and became one of the most feared hitters in baseball, leading the league in home runs in both 2010 and 2011. He smacked 40 home runs in 2015 and led the league in walks, eventually finishing eighth in MVP voting. His biggest moment that season came in the ALDS against the Rangers that fall, when he hit the game-winning home run in Game 5 with an iconic bat flip.
The Jays faced off against the Royals in the ALCS, and it was clear the Royals feared Bautista, walking him three times in Game 1. He went hitless in Game 2 and misplayed a flyball in right field leading to a Royals comeback and a 2-0 series lead.
The Jays took Game 3, although the Royals again kept Bautista in check, walking him once. The Royals won in a rout in Game Four to put them on the edge of the World Series, but like any good horror movie villain, the Jays were hard to kill off for good.
The Blue Jays hammered the Royals in Game 5 to send the series back to Kansas City. In Game 6, Bautista cut into the Royals’ lead with a solo home run to make it 2-1, Kansas City. But he put the fear into Royals fans in the eighth, when his two-run home run off Ryan Madson tied the game at 3-3. The Royals took the lead in the bottom of the inning, but in the ninth, Wade Davis ran into some trouble. He put runners at second and third with two outs and Josh Donaldson - who led the league in RBI that year - at bat. But he couldn’t afford to walk Donaldson because of the man that was on-deck - Jose Bautista. Luckily, Davis got Donaldson to ground out to third to end the game. But it was clear how much the Royals were fearful of the damage Bautista could do, he ended up walking seven times, more than anyone else in the series.
The Royals made a surprise post-season run in 2014, perhaps the most fun stretch of baseball in club history. They made an improbable comeback in the Wild Card game against Oakland, then steamrolled the Angels and Orioles in the American League playoffs to clinch their first pennant in 29 years.
But the party came to an end in the Fall Classic, and ending the fun was a villain by the name of Madison Bumgarner. Joe Buck mentioned this once or twice, but Bumgarner was absolutely dominant that World Series. He gave up just one run over seven innings in a Game 1 win. He allowed just four hits in a complete game shutout (back when pitchers used to do that in the post-season!) in a Game 5 victory.
Royals fans thought they were through with him. But if you’ve watched any good horror series, you know the bad guy is never truly dead. The Royals felt they had a chance down just 3-2 in the fourth inning. But seeing Bumgarner warm up in the bullpen gave Royals fans feelings of dread. MadBum came on to pitch the final five innings, allowing just one hit and no runs until the ninth. That’s when Alex Gordon singled, and had his hit misplayed by outfielder Gregor Blanco to allow him to get to third with two outs.
But Bumgarner got Salvador Pérez to pop out to end the series. Bumgarner gave up just one run in 21 innings pitched, and was named World Series MVP. His name still gives me the heebie-jeebies!