Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals Logo
Kansas City Royals
The "Royals" name originates from the American Royal, a livestock show, horse show, and rodeo held annually in Kansas City since 1899. The "Royals" name may also have been selected as a respectful recognition of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League and a nod to the Kansas City Blues franchises of the Western League and American Association. This is reflected in the similarity of the Royals logo to that of the Monarchs.
Entering Major League Baseball as an expansion franchise in 1969, the club was founded by Ewing Kauffman, a Kansas City businessman. The franchise was established following the actions of Stuart Symington, then-United States Senator from Missouri, who demanded a new franchise for the city after the Athletics—Kansas City's previous major league team from 1955 to 1967—moved to Oakland, California.
The new team quickly became a powerhouse, appearing in the playoffs 7 out of 10 seasons from 1976 to 1985, including one World Championship and another pennant, led by stars such as George Brett, Frank White and Bret Saberhagen. The team remained competitive through the mid-1990s, but more recently has posted a winning record only once in the past 15 seasons.
1969–79: Taking off
The Royals began play in 1969 in Kansas City, Missouri. In their inaugural game, on April 8, 1969, the Royals defeated the Minnesota Twins 4–3 in 12 innings.
The team was quickly built through a number of trades engineered by its first General Manager, Cedric Tallis, including a trade for Lou Piniella, who won the Rookie of the Year during the Royals' inaugural season. The Royals also invested in a strong farm system and soon developed such future stars as pitchers Paul Splittorff and Steve Busby, infielders George Brett and Frank White, and outfielder Al Cowens.
In 1971, the Royals had their first winning season, with manager Bob Lemon leading them to a second-place finish. In 1973, under manager Jack McKeon, the Royals adopted their iconic "powder blue" road uniforms and moved from Municipal Stadium to the brand-new Royals Stadium (now known as Kauffman Stadium).
Manager Whitey Herzog replaced McKeon in 1975, and the Royals quickly became the dominant franchise in the American League's Western Division, winning three straight division championships from 1976 to 1978. However, the Royals lost to the New York Yankees in three straight American League Championship Series encounters.
1980–84: From pennant to pine tar incident
After the Royals finished in second place in 1979, Herzog was fired and replaced by Jim Frey. Under Frey, the Royals rebounded in 1980 and advanced to the ALCS, where they again faced the Yankees. The Royals vanquished the Yankees in a three-game sweep punctuated by a George Brett home run off of Yankees' star relief pitcher Goose Gossage. After reaching their first World Series, the Royals fell to the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
The Royals returned to the post-season in 1981, losing to the Oakland Athletics in a unique divisional series resulting from the split-season caused by the 1981 Major League Baseball strike. In July 1983, while the Royals were headed for a second-place finish behind the Chicago White Sox another chapter in the team's rivalry with the Yankees occurred. In what has come to be known as "the Pine Tar Incident," umpires discovered illegal placement of pine tar (more than 18 inches up the handle) on third baseman George Brett's bat after he had hit a 2-run home run off Gossage that put the Royals up 5–4 in the top of the 9th.
The baseball bat used by Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett in the Pine Tar Incident on July 24, 1983.
After Yankee Manager Billy Martin came out of the dugout to talk to home plate umpire Tim McClelland, McClelland and the other umpires mulled over the bat(measuring it over home plate, touching it, etc.). McClelland then pointed to Brett in the dugout and then gave the out sign, thereby disallowing the home run. George Brett then stormed out of the dugout, angry and hysterical. McClelland ejected Brett. The homer was later reinstated by the commissioner and the Royals went on to win after the game was resumed several weeks later. "The Pine Tar Incident" has now become part of baseball lore.
Despite the scandals, the 1983 season was also notable for some transitional changes. First, owner Ewing Kauffman sold 49% of his interest to Memphis developer John Fogelman. Second, John Schuerholz was named general manager. He would bolster the farm system with pitchers Bud Black, Danny Jackson, Mark Gubicza, David Cone, and Bret Saberhagen, as well as hitters such as Kevin Seitzer.
Thanks to the sudden and surprising maturation of most of the aforementioned players (specifically the pitching), the Royals won their fifth division championship in 1984, relying on Brett's bat and the young pitching staff of Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Charlie Leibrandt, Bud Black and Danny Jackson. The Royals were then swept by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. The Tigers went on to win the World Series.
1985: Missouri's finest and the "I-70 Series"
In the 1985 regular season the Royals topped the Western Division for the sixth time in ten years, led by Bret Saberhagen's Cy Young Award-winning performance. Throughout the ensuing playoffs, the Royals repeatedly put themselves into difficult positions, but managed to escape each time. With the Royals down 3-games-to-one in the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Royals eventually rallied to win the series 4–3. In the 1985 World Series against the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals – the "I-70 Series" because the two teams are both located in the state of Missouri and connected by Interstate 70 – the Royals again fell behind 3–1. The key game in the Royals' comeback was Game 6. Facing elimination, the Royals trailed 1–0 in the bottom of the ninth inning, before rallying to score two runs and win. The rally was helped by a controversial safe call at first base by umpire Don Denkinger, which allowed Royals outfielder Jorge Orta to reach base safely as the first baserunner of the inning.
Following Orta's single, the Cardinals dropped an easy popout and suffered a passed ball, before the Royals went on to win with a bloop base hit by seldom used pinch hitter Dane Iorg. Following the tension of Game 6, the Cardinals came undone in Game 7, and the Royals won 11–0 to clinch the franchise's first World Series title.
1986–94: Staying in the picture
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Royals developed young stars such as Bo Jackson, Tom Gordon, and Kevin Seitzer, made some successful free-agent acquisitions, and generally posted winning records, but always fell short of the post-season. For example, in 1989, the Royals won 92 games and posted the third-best record in baseball, but did not qualify for the playoffs.
Many of the team's highlights from this era instead centered around the end of Brett's career, such as his third and final batting title in 1990 – which made him the first player to win batting titles in three different decades – and his 3,000th hit. Though the team dropped out of contention from 1990 to 1992, the Royals still could generally be counted on to post winning records through the strike-shortened 1994 season.
1995–2001: Decline in the post-Kauffman era
At the start of the 1990s, the Royals had been hit with a double-whammy when General Manager John Schuerholz departed in 1990 and team owner Ewing Kauffman died in 1993. Shortly before Kauffmann's death he set up an unprecedented complex succession plan to keep the team in Kansas City. The team was donated at his death to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts with operating decisions of the team decided by a five-member group chaired by Wal-Mart executive David Glass. According to the plan the Royals had six years to find a local owner for the team before opening ownership to an outside bidder. The new owners would be required to say they would keep the team in Kansas City. Kauffman had feared that new owners would move it noting, "No one would want to buy a baseball team that consistently loses millions of dollars and had little prospect of making money because it was in a small city." If no owner could be found the Kauffman restrictions were to end on January 1, 2002 and the team was to be sold to the highest bidder.
In 1999 New York City lawyer and minor league baseball owner Miles Prentice vowing not to move the team bid $75 million for the team which was the minimum Kauffman had stipulated the team could be sold for. MLB rejected the bid saying that Prentice did not produce the funds necessary to back up the bid. The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation then agreed to a $96 million bid from Glass.
In 1994 season the Royals decided to reduce payroll by trading pitcher David Cone and outfielder Brian McRae, then continued their salary dump in the 1995 season. In fact, the team payroll, which was always among the league's highest, was sliced in half from $40.5 million in 1994 (fourth-highest in the major leagues) to $18.5 million in 1996 (second-lowest in the major leagues).
As attendance slid and the average MLB salary continued to rise, rather than pay higher salaries or lose their players to free agency, the Royals traded their remaining stars such as Kevin Appier, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye. By 1999, the team's payroll had fallen again to $16.5 million. Making matters worse, most of the younger players that the Royals received in exchange for these All-Stars proved of little value, setting the stage for an extended downward spiral. Indeed, the Royals set a franchise low with a .398 winning percentage (64–97 record) in 1999, and lost 97 games again in 2001.
In the middle of this era, in 1997, the Royals declined the opportunity to switch to the National League as part of a realignment plan to introduce the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays as expansion teams. The Milwaukee Brewers made the switch instead.
2002–06: Rock bottom
In 2002, the Royals set a new team record for futility, losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history. They fired manager Tony Muser and he was replaced by Tony Peña.
The 2003 season saw a temporary end to the losing, when manager Tony Peña, in his first full season with the club, guided the Royals to their first winning record (83–79) since the 1994 season. He was named the American League Manager of the Year for his efforts and then shortstop Angel Berroa was named AL Rookie of the Year. The team spent a majority of the season in first, but ended up in third place behind the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, who won the AL Central.
Picked by many to win their division in 2004 after faring well in the free agent market, the Royals got off to a disappointing start and by late June were back in a rebuilding mode, releasing veteran reliever Curtis Leskanic before financial incentives kicked in and trading veteran reliever Jason Grimsley and superstar center fielder Carlos Beltrán for prospects, all within a week of each other. The team subsequently fell apart completely, establishing a new low by losing 104 games. The Royals did, however, see promising seasons from two rookies, center fielder David DeJesus and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. Among the many mistakes of 2004, was acquiring Juan Gonzalez, Benito Santiago, and keeping pitchers Darrell May and Brian Anderson, both of whom underachieved after a great 2003 season. They all were let go during the season or after the season's end.
In 2005, the Royals continued a youth movement, with the second-lowest payroll in the Major Leagues. The Royals ended the 2005 season with a 56–106 record (.346), a full 43 games out of first place. It was the third time in four seasons that the team reestablished the mark for worst record in the history of the franchise. During that season, the Royals also suffered a franchise record 19-game losing streak highlighted by a three-game stretch of blowout losses at home from August 6 through August 9; in that stretch the Royals lost 16–1 to the Oakland Athletics, were shut out 11–0 by Oakland, and then in the third game, against the Cleveland Indians, built a 7–2 lead in the eighth inning before allowing 11 runs to lose 13–7. During the season manager Tony Peña quit and was replaced by interim manager Bob Schaefer until the Indians' bench coach Buddy Bell was chosen as the next manager.
Looking for a quick turnaround, general manager Allard Baird signed several veteran players prior to the 2006 season, including Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Grudzielanek, Joe Mays and Scott Elarton. Nevertheless, the Royals struggled through another 100-loss season in 2006, becoming just the 11th team in major league history to lose 100 games in three straight seasons.[8During the season Baird was fired as GM and replaced by Dayton Moore.
2007: "True. Blue. Tradition."
Kansas City entered the 2007 season looking to rebound from four out of five seasons ending with at least 100 losses, and appeared to be opening up its wallet a bit, with a payroll exceeding $60 million dollars for the first time (rising to 22nd-highest in the major leagues). The Royals outbid the Cubs and Blue Jays for free agent righty Gil Meche, signing him to five-year, $55 million contract. Reliever Octavio Dotel also inked a one-year, $5 million contract. The team also added several new prospects, including Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Among Dayton Moore's first acts as General Manager was instating a new motto for the team: "True. Blue. Tradition."
In the 2007 MLB Draft, the Royals selected shortstop Mike Moustakas at #2 overall, signing him minutes before the deadline. In June 2007, the Royals had their first winning month since July 2003, following up in July with their second-consecutive winning month of the season. On August 1, manager Buddy Bell announced his intentions to resign following the 2007 season. On September 12, the Royals defeated the Minnesota Twins 6–3 to win their 63rd game, guaranteeing that they would not lose 100 games in 2007. The victory ended the team's string of three consecutive seasons of 100 losses or more, but the team still finished in last place in its division with a record of 69–93.
2008: "New. Blue. Tradition."
Kansas City's 2008 season began with the team searching for its new manager after the departure of Buddy Bell. On October 19, the Royals hired Trey Hillman, formerly the manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters and a minor league manager with the New York Yankees, to be the 15th manager in franchise history.
The 2008 season began with the release of fan favorite Mike Sweeney, who had numerous injuries over the past five seasons and had declined in production. Angel Berroa was traded to the Dodgers for minor leaguer Juan Rivera on June 6, 2008.
The Royals began the 2008 season 3–0 with a sweep over the Detroit Tigers, a team that many thought might win the AL pennant. Through 13 games, the Royals were 8–5 and in first place, a vast improvement over their 3–10 start from the previous season. However, by the All-Star break, the Royals were again in losing territory, with their record buoyed only by a 13–5 record in inter-league play, the best in the American League. The team finished the season in fourth place with a 75–87 record. It was the first time in five years the Royals did not finish last in their division. Closing pitcher Joakim Soria, was the Royals' lone representative in the 2008 MLB All-Star Game, finished the year with 42 saves.
2009: Return to last place
Prior to the 2009 season, the Royals renovated Kauffman Stadium. After the season began, the Royals ended April at the top of the AL Central, all of which raised excitement levels among fans. However, the team faded as the season progressed and finished the year with a final record of 65–97, in a last-place tie in its division with the Cleveland Indians.
The season was highlighted by starter Zack Greinke, who did not allow an earned run in the first 24 innings of the season, went on to finish the year with a Major League-leading 2.16 earned run average, and won the American League Cy Young award. Greinke joined Bret Saberhagen (in 1985 and 1989) and David Cone (in 1994) as the only three players in Royals history to receive the award. He also set a club record 15 strikeouts in a single game against the Cleveland Indians.
2010: The Yost Era
The Royals began the 2010 baseball season with a rocky start, and after the team's record fell to 12–23, General Manager Dayton Moore fired manager Trey Hillman. After Hillman's departure, former Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost took over as manager. Yost's main focus was to get the Royals mindset on a winning season. Nevertheless, the Royals finished with a 67–95 record, in last place in the division for the sixth time in seven years.
The Royals, through the first half of the season, led the MLB in team batting average. David DeJesus, leads the MLB with the most consecutive errorless games. Joakim Soria was chosen to represent the Royals in the All-Star game in Anaheim. Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, confirms that Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, will host the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.
The Royals also set a dubious franchise record during the season, allowing 42 runs in a three day span from July 25 to July 27. The team gave up 12 runs against the New York Yankees on July 25, 19 runs against the Minnesota Twins the next day, and another 11 against the Twins on July 27.
Rivalries and fan base
The Royals' most prominent rivalry is with the intrastate St. Louis Cardinals, stemming back to the Royals' victory over the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. The series is still a source of contention among fans, notably the controversial call in the bottom of the ninth of game 6 in which Jorge Orta was called safe on a play that replays later showed him out. A Royals rally let them tie and later win the game and then later the series.
Interleague play in 1997 allowed the I-70 Series to be revived in non-exhibition games. The first few seasons of the series were rather even, with the Cardinals holding a slight advantage with a 14–13 record through the 2003 season. Through the 2010 season, the Cardinals hold the series advantage 34–26. The Royals took two out of three from the Cardinals in 2010 behind victories from starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Bruce Chen.
Historically, one of the Royals' major rivalries was with the New York Yankees. The rivalry stems largely from the period between 1976 and 1980, when both teams were in top form and met four times in five years for the American League Championship Series. An older factor in Kansas City-New York relations is the "special relationship" between the Yankees and the Kansas City A's during the 1950s, in which Kansas City's best players (such as Roger Maris and Ralph Terry) were repeatedly sent to New York with little compensation. The Royals' recent lack of success, however, as well as the Yankees' more popular and historic rivalry with the Boston Red Sox has caused this rivalry to lose its prominence. Also of note are division rivalries with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, and Minnesota Twins. In the early 2000s, Detroit and Kansas City had a number of bench clearing brawls.
Forgotten in recent years is the old division rivalry between the Royals and the Oakland Athletics. In the early 1970s, Oakland won three World Series titles from 1972–1974, and after the A's left Kansas City under less than honorable terms, a strong rivalry existed between the two teams during this period. This was soon forgotten by the late 1970s when the Royals came to prominence and the terrific rivalry with New York began. Also strong in the late 70s was the rivalry against the California Angels, particularly in the fights for the American League West pennant in 1979.
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