Last year I made a vow to write an annual story about why the Royals’ first General Manager, Cedric Tallis, should be in the Royals Hall of Fame. Like it or not, it’s that time of year. Many of us have speculated as to why Tallis has been snubbed. His credentials are far too impressive for just a plain oversight, so there must be another underlying reason. The most common theory I seen floated about is that there must have been a dispute between Tallis and owner Ewing Kauffman and the payback of that dispute was that Tallis’ name be essentially erased from the team’s history. I have no evidence of this, it’s just speculation on my part and speculation of others close to the team.
The team has been tight lipped about the situation, but since Tallis was fired during the 1974 season, and Mr. K has been dead since 1993, well, the club really needs to make a statement as to why Tallis has been blackballed. Or do the right thing and induct him. All the principal parties are long gone, and enough years have passed. It’s time.
Maybe you’re a big Hall person or perhaps you prefer a smaller, more exclusive Hall. Your choice. The Royals seem to be stuck between the two. On the big Hall side, you have players like Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek, and I’ve heard many argue against these two. Even though their accumulated numbers and metrics are not super impressive, I like them in the Hall. I remember watching them play and remember how important they were to the Royals’ success in the mid to late 1970s.
Ned Yost, the most recent inductee, has also had some disputes about his bona fides. Yes, he’s the winningest manager in team history. He also has the most losses of any manager in team history. His career win percentage as skipper of the Royals is .471. Yes, he did take two teams to the World Series, winning one. He should have. From the 2013 All-Star break to the end of the 2015 season, the Royals were arguably the best team in baseball.
I’ve always felt the 2013 team should have made the playoffs and would have under a different manager. Prior to the All-Star break, the team went 43-49 while Ned figured out who could play and who couldn’t. From May 17 to June 4, the team lost 15 of 18, which effectively killed their season. They lost 16 one-run games and seven two-run games in the first half. After the break, the team went 43-27 but couldn’t catch Cleveland for the final wild card.
I’ve always felt that with two exceptions, those being Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, the Royals had a better lineup and pitching staff, yet Cleveland found a way to win. Their manager, Terry Francona, will go to the baseball Hall of Fame someday soon. Matthew LaMar wrote a great piece a few weeks back on the importance of avoiding long losing streaks early in the year. Those long losing streaks are season killers and the Royals have mastered that art.
That said, I’m okay with Ned being in the Hall. His players seemed to love him, and he did win the World Series. If that qualifies me as a Big Hall guy, so be it. There are three other players who will (or should) go in almost immediately: Alex Gordon, Sal Perez and Zach Greinke. No arguments about those guys. They deserve it.
There are a few other players I believe deserve another look, among them Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Beltran, Charlie Leibrandt, Darrell Porter, Wade Davis and Bo Jackson. Yes, Bo’s career was short, and his accumulated numbers are lacking if you’re stuck on having an exclusive small Hall, but for those of us who saw him play, wow. Just wow. The guy was something else and it’s a shame his career with the Royals ended so abruptly.
In my 55 years of watching baseball, there have been very few players who had that “it” factor. “It” being the type of player that you’d stop what you were doing to watch them. Reggie Jackson had it. George Brett had it. Ken Griffey Jr. had it in his early days. And Bo had it. If you saw him play, I don’t need to explain this to you. If you missed him, you could watch his highlights on YouTube and they’re just as impressive today. The other five all had their moments of excellence and each played an important role in the Royals success during their tenure.
My biggest beef about the Tallis snub is the inclusion of Joe Burke in the Hall. Burke succeeded Tallis as general manager partway through the 1974 season. I’m sure Burke was a nice man and a competent baseball executive, but the fact remains that he rode Tallis’ coattails to his Royals success. Burke’s two best trades were getting Porter and Jim Colborn from the Brewers and filching Larry Gura from the Yankees. He later let Porter walk in free agency, which was a misfire. Burke did draft David Cone and Mark Gubicza and signed Dan Quisenberry as a free agent, so there was some success. But his record pales next to Tallis. Of the 18 players in the Royals Hall of Fame, Joe Burke acquired three of them. John Schuerholz (who’s not in the Hall), acquired three. Herk Robinson acquired one. When Gordon and Greinke are elected, Allard Baird will have two to his name, as will Dayton Moore if Salvy and LoCain go in. No one is thinking about Baird or Moore for the Royals Hall of Fame. At least they shouldn’t be.
Cedric Tallis was responsible for acquiring 11 of the players in the Hall. Eleven! Sixty-one percent of the players in the Royals Hall of Fame were acquired by a general manager who also built the franchise from the ground up! Tallis set up the farm system and conducted the expansion draft. He wrote an instruction manual about how the organization would be run, The Royal Way. He made numerous one-sided trades that brought in Rojas, Amos Otis, John Mayberry, Freddie Patek, Lou Piniella, Ed Kirkpatrick and Hal McRae. He drafted or signed Paul Splittorff, Doug Bird, George Brett, Dennis Leonard, UL Washington, John Wathan, Frank White, Al Cowens, Willie Wilson, Steve Busby and Mark Littell. It was quite simply the greatest accumulation of talent in the history of the franchise. Those players were responsible for the Royals winning the American League West for three consecutive years. Tallis built the Royals into a model franchise. And he was only on the job for five and a half years! Moore was on the job for 16 years and will be lucky to get two players in!
Bottom line, I’m a big Hall guy. Bring in Bo and Beltran. Bring in LoCain and Liebrandt and Charlie Lau. Bring in Porter and Wade Davis and what the hell, throw in David DeJesus, Bob Lemon, Joakim Soria and Kevin Seitzer while you’re at it. And the team also needs to recognize George Spriggs, their only alumni of the Negro Leagues.
But for God’s sake, right a wrong and induct Cedric Tallis. Leaving him out is starting to smack of junior high politics and the Royals need to be better than that. Aside from Mr. Kauffman, there was no one more responsible for the Royals’ early and continued success than Cedric Tallis. Give the man his due.