The Royals recently opened up fan-voting for their 2021 Hall of Fame class, and the candidates are a bit...underwhelming. It’s going to be a long while, yet, before we get to vote on most of the heroes from 2014 and 2015, but we do have a couple on the ballot this time.
In order to maintain an air of mystery and suspense, I’m going to talk about the guys in reverse order of how enthusiastically I voted for them. Hok likes his drama, OK?
It’s almost unimaginable that he is even eligible. Davies hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2015, and you only have to have been out for three years to be added to the ballot. You can stay on the ballot if you got more than 10% of the vote in the previous year but, while I don’t recall who was even on the 2020 ballot off-hand, I can’t imagine he broached that threshold. Additionally, the only reason he meets the years-on-the-roster and innings-pitched criteria are because he played for some awful Royals teams, and let’s just say that he did not improve them.
Back then, the Royals were all about pitch-to-contact, and Davies at least had the part about not striking guys out down. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so good at the “not walking them” part. I like to imagine Davies is as shocked as anyone that he’s on the ballot. I’ve got nothing against the guy, but if he gets even a single non-fan vote or more than double-digit fan votes, I’ll be amazed.
tl;dr He does not get my vote.
Hochevar was a first overall pick. Ordinarily, I’d say that that sort of thing shouldn’t be held against an athlete. But he refused to sign with the Dodgers when he was picked in the first round the year earlier because he wanted to go higher/get paid more. I don’t say this to criticize someone who wants to get paid, but that means the first-overall expectations he came to KC with were also of his own doing. The fact, then, that he never came close to meeting them also falls on his shoulders, at least to a degree.
Much was made of the Royals’ attempt to convert him to a reliever following his step back as a starter in 2012. He did have a 1.92 ERA, which is good, but somehow that still only resulted in a 1.1 fWAR. For context, Cubs fans were disappointed in the results of their trade for Wade Davis when he put up only a 1.1 fWAR in 2017. Hochevar then got hurt, and while he pitched in the late innings for most of 2015 and 2016 for the Royals, he was never even as good then as he had been in 2013.
He was almost good for a couple of seasons but did nothing to earn himself my Hall of Fame vote.
Damon was at least very good for a part of his time in Kansas City. However, this is a team Hall of Fame, and the fact that he seemingly had no desire to stick around in Kansas City should count against him. He was probably my first favorite Royal, but two good years and then spending more of his career outside of KC than in it just doesn’t do it for me.
He’s not helped by recently being in the news for driving with an insanely high blood-alcohol level, but I can’t imagine I would have voted for him, anyway.
His inclusion on this ballot should put to rest any fears you might have that he might still be pitching. Guthrie was one of my favorite players when he was a Royal. This was partly because he and I share a first name and partly because he just kept finding ways to get back on the mound despite lacking the talent of most major league pitchers.
He never had a genuinely above-average season, and he had several below. As much as I love him, I simply can’t vote him into the Royals Hall of Fame.
This was a tough call for me. Like Damon, Beltrán had many more and plenty of his best seasons outside of KC. Still, he had more and better seasons as a Royal than Damon. He also, somewhat famously, was prepared to stick around for longer if only the team hadn’t attempted to renegotiate the deal after they’d mostly agreed on an offer.
I went back and forth multiple times on whether I’d vote for him but ultimately decided to do it. I want future generations to go to Kauffman and know that Carlos Beltran, one of the last players who could steal bases and hit home runs, used to roam center field for the Royals.
I considered not voting for Ventura simply because he wasn’t around long enough. But then I considered that it wasn’t exactly his fault he didn’t stick around. This is a vote for the electrifying presence he had and a vote wishing that it could have lasted longer.
When I saw who was on the ballot, I knew immediately that he’d get my vote. Billy loved being a Royal. He loved being in KC. Fans hated him because when Billy was a terrific hitter, the teams were awful. Then the team started getting good in 2013, he started declining. And he declined fast.
He was drafted as a third baseman but moved to the outfield and then to first base at the Royals’ request without ever complaining. He couldn’t run or field, but for a few glorious years, he could hit. I’ll also never forget how obvious it was that he didn’t want to leave KC following the 2014 season. He hoped the Royals would bring him back, but when Oakland bizarrely gave him a three-year deal worth $30M, it would have been equally irresponsible for Billy to turn it down as it would have been for Moore to match it.
Maybe Butler doesn’t deserve this honor on the merits of statistics, but, well, I want him to have it, anyway. He took so much crap from the fans while he was in KC I just think it would be nice to do something to even that out a bit.