Who should be in the Royals hall of fame?
For the Kansas City Royals, a second golden age is nearing its end.
Whether the postscript is written in late July, via multiple trade-deadline departures, or in September, during one final chase for a playoff spot, is yet to be determined.
Either way, a rebuilding or retooling process will be underway one year from now (although, general manager Dayton Moore has made a series of moves that should prevent the Royals from plunging to the depths of futility they experience during the 2000s).
That means legacies will be burnished and certain players will settle into their place among Kansas City icons.
Which leads me to wonder: How many of the recent Royals will enter the franchise’s hall of fame?
For starters, I counted up the members of the Royals’ 1985 World Series champions who became team HOFers. The final tally was eight (George Brett, Frank White, Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and Dennis Leonard).
Obviously, that doesn’t include manager Dick Howser, owner Ewing Kauffman and other front-office types. And when it comes to players it’s a little tricky, because Leonard spent much of the ’85 season recovering from injury and only pitched in two games.
Also, the way organizations work is different; Brett, White, McRae and Wilson were together for more than a decade, earning a cache through longevity that is unlikely to be matched.
Still, there are a handful of millennial Royals who will join them in in the HOF. Here’s how they stack up, so far:
Alex Gordon – HOF selection is based on a somewhat complicated voting process (with 75 percent required) that involves fans, media and team officials. But Gordon’s inclusion should be simple. He’s a homegrown favorite, born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., a lifelong Royals fan and twice signed to long-term contract extensions with the club. Gordon currently ranks as the franchise’s eighth-best player of all time, according to Wins Above Replacement (with a total WAR of 32). He’ll not only get in the HOF, he might one day have a statue erected in his honor.
Chances of getting in: Lock.
Salvador Perez – Another guy who might one day have a statue (hopefully, hoisting a Gatorade bucket) built outside Kauffman Stadium. He is the Royals’ all-time best catcher and helped usher in a new era when he signed a long-term deal with the team after playing in just a few games during the 2011 season. Perez is already a four-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and the recipient of last year’s Silver Slugger award. And at age 27, the 2015 World Series MVP may have his best seasons ahead of him.
Chances of getting in: Lock
Eric Hosmer – Numbers don’t reflect Hosmer’s value to the Royals. He’s a career .277 hitter with a .428 slugging percentage. But he holds the franchise’s postseason record for runs-batted in, with 29, and his dash home in Game 5 of the World Series is one of the most memorable sequences in Royals lore. It seems doubtful that the team will be able to keep him after this season, so Hosmer will lose a little of his favorite son status. In time, however, all will be forgiven and he will be remembered as one of the defining player of this era.
Chances of getting in: 90 percent.
Lorenzo Cain – This is where things start getting a little dicey. Cain was an X-factor in the Royals’ run to two American League pennants, and he’s put together four pretty good seasons. Still, most people probably don’t realize he ranks 19th in Royals history with a WAR of 20. That places him between two HOFers, John Mayberry (WAR of 21) and Freddie Patek (also with a WAR of 20). Again, players don’t stay with the same team as long as they used to, and the Royals may not sign Cain this winter, either because he finds a better deal somewhere else, or his injury issues make him too great a risk. What he’s accomplished so far makes him a likely HOFer.
Chances of getting in: 85 percent.
Billy Butler – A guy who came up through the Royals system, but never fit the organization’s model for speed and defense. He batted .295 in eight seasons with the club, produced key hits during the pennant-winning year of 2014, but missed the 2015 championship. Something tells me he’ll be a HOFer eventually, but it may be a while.
Chances of getting in: 65 percent.
Mike Moustakas – Chants of “Mooooose” echoed through Kansas City until the third baseman suffered a torn ACL in his 27th game last season. Nobody doubts his popularity, but Moose’s career peak lasted basically 18 months. He struggled to establish himself from 2011 through well into 2014. Moustakas is beginning his comeback this spring, and is expected to test the free agent market in the fall. That may not be enough of a resume to sway voters.
Chances of getting in: 50 percent, with this upcoming season weighing heavily.
Alcides Escobar – There were days of exasperation and exhilaration for Escobar. He is a leadoff hitter with a career .297 OBP, but a knack for memorable performances in the postseason (ALCS most valuable player with an inside-the-park homer in the World Series). His overall body of work may be more appreciated in the future, as this core group of players become more beloved.
Chances of getting in: 50-50.
Kelvin Herrera – The bullpen trio of Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland – otherwise known as H-D-H – dominated the American League, before fatigue, injuries and trades broke them up. When it’s all said and done, Herrera will probably have the most extensive body of work, and the strongest case for the HOF. In a perfectly sentimental world, H-D-H would be inducted together. But individually, the Royals’ current closer has the best case.
Chances of getting in: 60 percent, or higher if he thrives in his new role.
Others to consider: Yordano Ventura (tragically, career was too short); Danny Duffy (needs to be more consistent, but just signed a deal that will keep him in KC through 2021); Jarrod Dyson (wonderful role player who could never hold down an every-day spot in the outfield).