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David DeJesus deserves to be in the Royals Hall of Fame

He was the face of his era no matter how bad it was.

Kansas City Royals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Kansas City Royals have inducted 26 members into their franchise Hall of Fame. The most recent addition was Mike Sweeney, inducted back in 2015. Before Sweeney came groundskeeper George Toma (2012) and pitcher Kevin Appier (2011). No other former Royals have been inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame since 2010. On one hand, this is to be somewhat expected. After all, the team wasn’t all that good in the decade before 2010. From 2000-2010, the Royals made the playoffs zero times and lost 100 or more games four times. The only winning season was a flash-in-the-pan 2003 season in which the team still missed the playoffs.

Future Hall of Famers will surely be on the way. Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain are names that come to mind first. Salvador Perez will be there someday, but he still has playing years to go.

Despite the ineptitude of the early 2000s, one player still stands out above the rest, yet he is not a current member of the Royals Hall of Fame. A name that might not come to mind quickly should be considered as deserving as the rest: David DeJesus.

David DeJesus was a hidden star in an era of ineptitude

Born December 20, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York, David DeJesus later attended Manalapan High School in New Jersey. He was drafted by the New York Mets out of high school in the 43rd round of the 1997 draft. Instead of signing, DeJesus attended Rutgers University and played in the Cape Cod League. His showing over the next three years led him to the Royals. Kansas City selected DeJesus in the fourth round of the 2000 MLB Draft.

That summer, the Royals selected Mike Stodolka — a left-handed pitcher from Corona, California — with the fourth overall pick. They selected DeJesus with the 104th overall pick. Cliff Lee was selected next by the Expos, and Yadier Molina was nine picks later at 113 to the Cardinals. Although DeJesus didn’t have the type of career as those potential MLB Hall of Famers, he was clearly the best draft pick in the class for Kansas City. In all, only two players in the entire 2000 Royals draft class played five or more seasons in the major leagues. Only four played more than one.

That poor drafting is just one cause of what would eventually lead the Royals to a decade of poor results. During that decade, however, DeJesus would become an unheralded and reliable mainstay in the lineup. He made his Major League debut in 2003 but never landed as a top prospect. He played in just 12 games that season but stuck in the major leagues by the end of 2004. In 2004, DeJesus slashed .287/.360/.402 over 96 games and cemented himself in the Royals lineup. Over the next six MLB seasons, DeJesus compiled 19.1 fWAR for the Royals thanks mostly to outstanding on-base ability and strong defense in center field.

The Case for the Royals Hall of Fame

Compared to the rest of the league, DeJesus was never the best, or even top-10. It was an era heavy with offense, led by Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltrán. Among all MLB hitters from 2003-2010, DeJesus ranked 156th with a 108 wRC+. That 108 mark tied him with Carl Crawford and finished just behind Andruw Jones (110). Among MLB center fielders, DeJesus was 14th in that span with 19.8 fWAR. He finished on the leaderboards next to familiar names such as Alex Rios (20.2 fWAR) and Torii Hunter (23.2 fWAR). At his peak, from 2008-2010, DeJesus was as steady as always. Over those three seasons, he owned a 114 wRC+ — just ahead of Ichiro Suzuki and Matt Kemp who both sat at 112.

The case for DeJesus entering the Royals Hall of Fame is more about what he meant to the franchise than what he meant to the league. Intangibly, he was a bright spot during the worst years in the Royals' franchise history. His smile lit up a room and night in, night out, he gave a reason to watch the team. Statistically, he was the face of the franchise as well. From 2003 through his departure, following the 2010 season, DeJesus owned the leaderboard. Among Royals players in that span, he ranked first in games played, at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, triples, runs scored, RBI, and walks. He ranked third in home runs, fifth in batting average, and fourth in OPS.

DeJesus was an offensive force while playing great defense at a premium position. He won the MLBPAA Royals Heart and Hustle Award in 2007, 2008, and 2010. He was the perfect image of what a Royals baseball player was supposed to be: athletic, willing to put in the work, and willing to be a leader on the diamond. He finished his Royals career in 2010 when the team traded him to the Oakland Athletics. In return, Kansas City received pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. Neither had a notable career for the Royals, save for Mazzaro’s notorious 2011 game when he allowed 14 earned runs over 2 13 innings pitched against Cleveland.

The trade brought an end of an era to Royals fans. At that time in 2010, DeJesus finished his Royals career among some of the very best. His 108 wRC+ ranked 18th in franchise history. He owned a .787 OPS, tied with Bo Jackson for 19th. DeJesus’s .289 average as a Royal was tied with Willie Wilson and just ahead of Carlos Beltrán (.287). George Brett finished his career with a .369 on-base percentage. DeJesus wasn’t far behind, ranking tenth in franchise history at .360. Finally, his 971 hits as a Royal ranked ninth in team history.

It’s clear that David DeJesus wasn’t the best player the Royals have ever seen. He wasn’t the best player in the league during his time or his peak. He was simply a very solid, well-rounded baseball player who stood out on a very poor roster. But, the Hall of Fame isn’t always about being the best at something or sitting atop the leaderboard. No, sometimes it’s about making sure that you tell the history of the game. For the Royals, it’s impossible to tell their story without David DeJesus. Had he played on a winning Royals team, he’d probably even be viewed as a slam dunk candidate for the franchise Hall of Fame. Take Alex Gordon for example. His career wRC+ was 102 and his career slash line — .257/.338/.410 — were certainly behind what DeJesus put together.

The Royals Hall of Fame isn’t complete without David DeJesus, and he’s a name that they should seriously consider when determining any future inductees.