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Who will make the Royals Hall of Fame?

The envelope please

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Like any Hall of Fame, the Royals Hall of Fame has some members that are, well, shall we say borderline? The most common names thrown about on that front are Cookie Rojas and Joe Burke.

Cookie came to the Royals in 1971 at the age of 31, when many thought he was washed up. He enjoyed a career renaissance in his 8-year Royal career, making four All-Star teams and teaming up with shortstop Freddie Patek to form one of the most formidable double-play combos in baseball history. Even though his Royals career was only worth 7.2 WAR, there are only three second basemen in Royals history that you immediately think of: Frank White of course. Whit Merrifield. And Cookie. Rojas was what Dayton Moore would have called a “veteran presence.” He had been a very solid player for the Phillies, where he experienced winning and losing. He brought a toughness to those young Royals teams that was needed to get past the Oakland juggernaut. Plus, he always had a joie de vivre that made him one of the most popular players to ever wear a Royal uniform. I’m okay with Cookie being in the Hall.

Which brings us to Joe Burke. Burke took over as Royals general manager in June of 1974. Most of the key pieces of the Royals dynasty were already in place, thanks to a series of brilliant trades and drafts by Burke’s predecessor Cedric Tallis. Burke’s best move as GM would have been firing Jack McKeon and replacing him with Whitey Herzog, who had managed for Burke in Texas. He was on the winning end of two trades, getting Larry Gura from the Yankees and snatching Jim Colborn and Darrell Porter from the Brewers. He did sign Dan Quisenberry and drafted Mark Gubicza, David Cone, and Danny Jackson, which laid the pitching groundwork for the 1985 championship team. On the flip side, he drafted but could not sign Hubie Brooks and Frank Viola and he lost Tom Candiotti to the Rule 5 draft. The remainder of his trades and free agent signings were meh at best. I’m still okay with Burke being in the Hall. He was at the helm when the Royals won division titles in their glorious 1976-78 run and when they made their first World Series appearance.

Who will be the next inductees into the Royals Hall? Here are some candidates and what I believe are their chances.

Cedric Tallis

The fact that Tallis is not in the Royals Hall is an injustice bordering on criminal. Twelve of the twenty-six members of the Royals Hall have direct ties to Tallis. He took over an expansion franchise, when the Royals had nothing, and built the infrastructure that made them in short order, the model expansion franchise. His 1968 expansion draft was nothing short of fantastic, given what was available. He made a series of absolutely brilliant trades that stocked the expansion Royals and laid the framework for their 1970s and ‘80s success. He should have been inducted many years ago and it remains a mystery as to why he has not. All of the principals involved when Tallis was with the Royals are now dead, so there’s no one to speak the truth. If there was some agreement to keep Tallis out of the Hall, Dayton Moore needs to man up and explain this to the fans. If there was not a backroom deal to deny Tallis, his candidacy needs another look.

Should he be in the Hall? Absolutely.

Will he make it? No.

George Spriggs

I’ve written in-depth about Spriggs over the past two years. His career with Kansas City would not even register to most fans. But…he’s the Royals one and only alumni of the Negro Leagues and to me that is significant enough. I find it shameful that the Royals have not honored Spriggs. He never got a fair shake from major league baseball. The Pirates, the team that originally signed him, let him flounder in the low minors for several seasons. Pittsburgh was also one of the worst possible landing spots for Spriggs, as they were loaded in the outfield with Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Virdon, Manny Mota, Matty Alou, and later, a young Al Oliver. By the time he got to Kansas City, he was on the downhill side. Still, the significance of Spriggs must not be overlooked.

Should he be in the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? No.

Darrell Porter

Porter was an athletic prodigy, making his debut with Milwaukee as a 19-year-old catcher in 1971. The Royals swiped him from the Brewers in a December of 1976 trade, and he immediately became the missing link for the Royals. Even though he only played in Kansas City for four seasons, those four seasons were something to behold. He slashed .271/.375/.435 with 61 home runs and 301 RBI. He scored 290 runs, drew 318 walks, and only struck out 260 times in 2,262 plate appearances. Until Sal Perez blossomed, Porter’s 1979 season was the yardstick by which all Kansas City catchers are measured.

He slashed .291/.421/.484 with 20 home runs, 112 RBI, 101 runs scored while leading the league with 121 walks. It was a magnificent season worth 7.6 WAR. Porter finished ninth in the MVP vote that year, but he should have been third, behind Fred Lynn and teammate George Brett. Voters often get it wrong, and I believe the Royals Hall voters have too. Porter's time with Kansas City was marred by his drug and alcohol abuse, for which he became a trailblazer among athletes seeking treatment at a time when that was not accepted.

Should he be in the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? No.

David Cone

Cone’s career with the Royals was too short, no fault of his. A local boy, he was drafted by and made his debut with the Royals in 1986 before being shipped to the Mets in one of the worst trades in franchise history. He promptly went 81-51 in parts of seven seasons in New York, blossoming into one of the best pitchers in baseball. He came back to Kansas City as a free agent in December of 1992. He won the American League Cy Young in 1994 before the Royals brass lost their minds and traded him a second time, this time to Toronto for a trio of stiffs.

Cone holds the distinction of being the trade chip on two of the worst trades in team history. Before his 17-year career ended, Cone threw a perfect game, was a five-time All-Star and was part of five World Championship teams. He became a poster boy for the idea that a team never gets better by trading away their best players. Time has a way of dulling the senses. Cone was one of the best pitchers of his era. During different seasons, he led the majors in wins, win percentage, innings, strikeouts, FIP, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. People also forget that he came back from surgery to repair a potentially life-threatening aneurysm in his pitching shoulder. Bottom line: he was a hell of a pitcher, unfortunately most of it with other teams.

Should he be in the Hall? No.

Will he make it? No.

David DeJesus

DeJesus was drafted by Kansas City in the fourth round of the 2000 draft. He made his debut during the 2003 season and had the unfortunate timing of playing for some of the worst Royal teams to ever take the field. During his eight seasons in Royal uniform, DeJesus did his part, slashing .289/.360/.427. He was worth 18 WAR in his Royal career. He went on to fashion a 13-year career with six teams where he showed remarkable consistency. His career slash of .275/.349/.412 was remarkably close to his Royals peak. DeJesus often flew under the national radar due to those putrid Royals teams. During his tenure the Royals lost 761 games, an average of 95 losses per year.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? No.

Carlos Beltran

Where do you start with Beltran? When he came up with the Royals as a 21-year-old in 1998, he was touted as a bona fide five-tool player. And he didn’t disappoint. In his first full season in 1999, he slashed .293/.337/.454 with 22 home runs, 108 RBI, 27 stolen bases, and 112 runs scored. He easily won the Rookie of the Year. Then he got better.

The Royals organization, at the time, was a mess. Everyone knows the story about how the Royals would not offer Beltran $1 million more to stay in Kansas City. It seems absurd now, jilting their first homegrown superstar since George Brett over money that is now thrown at negative WAR utility infielders. But the Royals did just that. In June of 2004, they packaged Beltran in a three-team trade, sending him to Houston, where he immediately announced himself on the national stage with a transcendent playoff series. And like the Energizer bunny, he kept going and going, playing for 13 more seasons. Over his 20-year career, Beltran collected 2,725 hits and 435 home runs. He won three Gold Gloves, made nine All-Star teams, and was worth over 70 WAR. I expect to see him enshrined in Cooperstown.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? Maybe.

Johnny Damon

Much like Carlos Beltran, Damon flew under the national radar until he left Kansas City. The Royals drafted him in the first round of the 1992 draft and he made his debut with the team as a 21-year-old in 1995. He was often criticized in Kansas City for his defensive skills, but he more than made up for it with his bat and speed. During parts of six seasons, he slashed .292/.351/.438 with 156 stolen bases and 504 runs scored. He ended up putting together an 18-year career which saw him collect 2,769 hits and win two World Series titles. Like other Royals stars of the era, he was traded by an inept management team to Oakland in 2001, a deal that still ranks among the worst in club history.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? No.

Zach Greinke

Greinke was the Royals first-round draft pick in the 2002 draft out of Apopka (FL.) High School. He possessed brilliant stuff and made his major league debut on May 22, 2004, as a 20-year-old. In 2005, the game almost broke Greinke. The Royals were some kind of bad in those days, they finished at 56-106 and went through three managers. Greinke, who might possibly be on the spectrum, walked away from the game for a short time. Today, an athlete’s mental health is much more front and center. Not so, in those days. Fortunately, the Royals gave Greinke the support he needed.

He pitched sparingly for them in 2006 and 2007. He exploded on the national scene in 2009 when he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA which was good for his only Cy Young Award. To see Greinke that season was to see near perfection. He carved up hitters, alternating between a high 90s fastball and a ridiculous curve that often dropped into the mid-50s. The Royals still stunk, finishing at 65-97, which makes Greinke’s season all the more astounding. He pitched parts of seven seasons in Kansas City, going 60-67 with a 3.82 ERA before GM Dayton Moore shipped him to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress, a trade that ranks as the best of the Moore tenure and was a key to their championship teams of 2014 and 2015. As of this writing, Greinke is still an active player, 18 years in with a record of 219-132. He’ll be inducted into Cooperstown one day.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? Maybe.

Danny Duffy

The Duff man was drafted by the Royals in the third round of the 2007 draft. He made his debut in 2011 and has over the years, developed into a fan favorite. Duffy was the one pitcher who I thought might throw the next Royals no-hitter, but that never transpired. Duffy is a free agent as of this writing and has a career record of 68-68 in 11 seasons, all with Kansas City. The Royals traded him to the Dodgers in July of 2021, but he never saw the mound for LA.

Should he make the Hall? No

Will he make it? Probably

Alex Gordon

Gordon was the college player of the year at Nebraska and the first-round pick for the Royals in the 2005 draft. He made his debut in 2007 and after a rough start, a trip to the minors and a position change, reinvented himself as one of the best fielding outfielders of all time. His bat never produced what many expected, and the drop-off was pronounced after his age-32 season. In 14 years in Kansas City, he still produced a slash of .257/.338/.410 with 190 home runs and 749 RBI. He won eight Gold Gloves and I believe him to be the best fielding outfielder I have seen in nearly six decades of watching the game.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? Yes.

Salvador Perez

Perez, who was signed as an international free agent in 2006 as a 16-year-old, made his debut in 2011 and quickly became the soul of these Royal teams. At an age when the wear and tear of catching usually means a decline in production, Sal just keeps getting better. He slammed 48 home runs in 2021, a major league record for catchers. If there is a season in 2022, it will be Perez’s eleventh, all with Kansas City.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? Yes.

Lorenzo Cain

Cain was drafted by and made his debut with the Brewers, before coming to Kansas City in the previously mentioned Greinke trade. He enjoyed his best seasons in Royals uniform, slashing .289/.342/.421 while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense and infusing the clubhouse and field with equal measures of joy and intensity. The Royals elected not to resign him when he became a free agent after the 2017 season, which was a mistake. He’s spent the last four seasons back with Milwaukee. He was worth almost 25 WAR in his Royal career.

Should he make the Hall? Yes.

Will he make it? Maybe.

Ned Yost

This is a tough call and one that’s sure to provoke emotional responses on both sides. Yost has won the most games in Royal managerial history. He was the skipper for two World Series appearances including the 2015 championship. On the flip side, he’s lost the most games in club history and his win percentage of .471 puts him just a shade above Bob Lemon in the rankings of Royal managers. His often-exasperating game management birthed the term “Yosted.” He was however a very popular figure with fans and in the clubhouse.

Should he make the Hall? No

Will he make it? Yes

Dayton Moore

Much like Yost, Moore inspires heated passions with the Royal faithful. He took over at a time when the Royals were an outhouse fire. He rebuilt the organization which ultimately led to the 2014 and 2015 World Series appearances. However, his record in trades, drafting and free agent signings leaves something to be desired. Due to those misses, the Royals window of contention was very short and their return to the gallows was rapid. During his now 16-year tenure, the team has posted three winning seasons. He recently vacated the General Manager job, moving up to club president, though few people doubt who’ll actually be calling the shots. Moore has won more games than any GM in Royals history. He’s also lost more games than any GM in club history. Much like Yost, his record is built more on longevity than excellence. The margin between success and failure in baseball, especially for smaller market teams like the Royals, is thin. No one knows this better than Dayton Moore.

Should he make the Hall? No

Will he make it? Yes