Mike Sweeney presents the Mike Sweeney Award (thanks MindaHaas.net)

Mike Sweeney Retires a Royal


After signing a one day contract today, Mike Sweeney announced his retirement from baseball.  He left as he came in – a Royal.

Thus ends one of the more surprising, promising, frustrating, disappointing and yet enjoyable careers in Royals history.

I’ve probably mentioned what amounts to a baseball fetish for first basemen.  I started watching baseball – REALLY watching baseball and taking in all the strategy and abilities – in the late 80s when George Brett had moved across the diamond to first base.  His retirement in 1993 was devastating, even though I knew it was inevitable.

With every first baseman who was supposed to take the wheel as master and commander of the Royals offense – Bob Hamelin, Larry Sutton, Jeff King – there just wasn’t the same threat coming from that position for the Royals.

Then Mike Sweeney came along.

For the now too-cool teenager and college student, I wasn’t going to let the same hero worship effect my baseball viewing.  Oh no, no sir.  He’s Mike Sweeney – he’s good, but, he’s not George Brett.  No big deal.

That was how it appeared, while on the inside, I knew the Royals had found the slugging first basemen they’d sought since Brett left.  In a then-loaded Royals offense, Sweeney stood out as my favorite of the bunch.  And yeah, I held him in high enough esteem to at least approach Brett in my mind.

Surrounded by Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon, Sweeney was the captain and the biggest threat in the lineup.  From 1999 to 2002, he had a line of .322/.396/.535/.931 and averaged 63 extra base hits a season.

There’s a certain crop of fans that took to booing Sweeney during return trips with the Mariners.  I get the frustration – while watching Kevin Appier, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye get traded for chicken feed, the Royals were left with Beltran and Sweeney.  They were able to sign Sweeney to what was then the largest contract in team history.  After multiple injuries and a Carlos Beltran trade, it seemed they made the wrong choice.  Sweeney became the symbol for the Royals small-market sadness and fans took it out on him.  It still doesn’t make sense.

In his prime, Sweeney was among the best hitters in baseball – not just on the Royals but in the entire league.  For his career, he sits behind just Brett (and tied with Billy Butler) in regards to Royals batting average (I’m not going to count Jose Offerman‘s .306).  He’s third in career slugging percentage among Royals and surpasses even Brett in Royals OPS.

He’ll be a Royals Hall of Famer.  That much is clear.  The Royals hold him in as high regard as the other legends.  For evidence, consider that the Royals hand out team awards bearing the names of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Paul Splittorff, Dan Quisenberry.

And Mike Sweeney.

He’s the “aw shucks” former face of the franchise, but he’s the one who stayed.  He WANTED to be in Kansas City in a time when everyone else was being jettisoned out.  He didn’t choose to be injured to the extent that he was.  He didn’t choose to bear the brunt of Tony Muser‘s scorn – when he said the Royals should be drinking tequila instead of consoling themselves with milk and cookies and prayer, it was a clear shot at Sweeney’s dry and devout lifestyle.

Well Tony Muser can shove it.

I’m not going to comment on Sweeney’s “soldier for Christ” outlook.  He can believe what he wants to believe.  You can believe what you want to believe.  That’s not why we’re here.

Mike Sweeney retired a Royal, and I believe that’s how it should have been.

Career Statistics

Year G PA R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1995 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 31
1996 50 190 23 46 10 4 24 18 21 .279 .358 .412 .770 96
1997 84 266 30 58 8 7 31 17 33 .242 .306 .363 .668 74
1998 92 311 32 73 18 8 35 24 38 .259 .320 .408 .728 88
1999 150 643 101 185 44 22 102 54 48 .322 .387 .520 .907 128
2000 159 717 105 206 30 29 144 71 67 .333 .407 .523 .930 131
2001 147 632 97 170 46 29 99 64 64 .304 .374 .542 .916 132
2002 126 545 81 160 31 24 86 61 46 .340 .417 .563 .979 148
2003 108 463 62 115 18 16 83 64 56 .293 .391 .467 .858 120
2004 106 452 56 118 23 22 79 33 44 .287 .347 .504 .851 117
2005 122 514 63 141 39 21 83 33 61 .300 .347 .517 .864 127
2006 60 252 23 56 15 8 33 28 48 .258 .349 .438 .787 102
2007 74 289 26 69 15 7 38 17 29 .260 .315 .404 .719 88
2008 42 136 13 36 8 2 12 7 6 .286 .331 .397 .728 97
2009 74 266 25 68 15 8 34 17 31 .281 .335 .442 .777 108
2010 56 168 21 38 5 8 26 14 21 .252 .321 .444 .765 110
2010 30 110 11 26 3 6 18 9 14 .263 .327 .475 .802 123
2010 26 58 10 12 2 2 8 5 7 .231 .310 .385 .695 86
16 Seasons 1454 5848 759 1540 325 215 909 522 613 .297 .366 .486 .851 118
162 Game Avg. 162 652 85 172 36 24 101 58 68 .297 .366 .486 .851 118
G PA R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
KCR (13 yrs) 1282 5278 700 1398 297 197 837 484 555 .299 .369 .492 .861 119
SEA (2 yrs) 104 376 36 94 18 14 52 26 45 .276 .332 .452 .784 112
PHI (1 yr) 26 58 10 12 2 2 8 5 7 .231 .310 .385 .695 86
OAK (1 yr) 42 136 13 36 8 2 12 7 6 .286 .331 .397 .728 97
AL (16 yrs) 1428 5790 749 1528 323 213 901 517 606 .298 .366 .487 .853 118
NL (1 yr) 26 58 10 12 2 2 8 5 7 .231 .310 .385 .695 86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/25/2011.

We’ll see ya at the induction ceremony, Sweeney.

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