There are many frustrating things about being a Royals fan. Every year though, in the middle of July, there is a giant spectacle that serves as a reminder of just how bad things are.
The 82nd Annual All-Star Game will take place on July 12th in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Kansas City Royals will again have their one mandatory representative. Each year, the 34 man roster is built by the fans voting for the starters at each position. The players themselves get to vote in sixteen spots. After all is said and done, there will be five semi-deserving players put on a ballot where fans will make “the final vote” for each league. Then Ron Washington, the manager of last year’s A.L. Champs – the Texas Rangers, has the dubious honor of filling out the other eight spots on the A.L. squad.
The catch, of course, is that every team must have at least one player on the roster.
Over the past 20 years, the Royals have had multiple All-Stars just twice. The last time that happened was in 2003, when both Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal found themselves in Chicago for the Mid-Season showdown. Neither of them appeared in the game.
The last time the Royals had three All-Stars was in 1988 (and 1987). The Royal record is five, which they’ve done twice – in 1982 and 1972. The 1982 selections were a who’s who of Royals legends: George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, and Dan Quisenberry.
Not only have the Royals only had one All-Star in each of the last seven years, they haven’t had a starter since Jermaine Dye in 2000. The last Royal pitcher to start an All-Star game was Bret Saberhagen, who took the hill in Oakland and tossed three scoreless innings in 1987.
The Royals have had one All-Star Game MVP – Bo Jackson in 1989.
Back to present day – this year’s All-Star Rosters will be announced on Sunday. So who will Ron Washington choose to fill a spot on his dream team? Here are the candidates and their resumes:
Jeff Francoeur – The only Royal on the fan voting radar – he’s 12th among A.L. Outfielders. (Only 4 million votes behind leading vote getter Jose Bautista.)
WHY – Frenchy has had an up and down first half of the season. He’s been great in some late inning situations, earning a reputation for being a clutch performer. From an All-Star perspective, he’s a good arm in the outfield, and a veteran who is still looking for his first chance to play in this game. His best chance may rest on the fact that he played for Washington last year during their World Series run.
WHY NOT – He has been struggling as of late and has seen his average dip under .260. If you’re Ron Washington, you might rather have someone like Carl Crawford, Ichiro, or Nick Swisher more than Franceour.
Alex Gordon – A Position switch and resurgence to try and realize his lofty potential.
WHY – Gordon is having his best season, hitting near .300 for most of the season. His hot start helped the team get out of the gate in a surprising way. It seems like most fans were ready to give up on Gordon and saw his position change as a desperate act. He has wowed everyone, and perhaps has gotten the attention of the Rangers manager. Gordon would be a versatile addition, being able to play any OF position, first base, or even third base.
WHY NOT – Again, if you look at the list of other outfielders who would be available, Gordon might be an afterthought. There are a couple of Rangers who have received over a million fan votes (Nelson Cruz and David Murphy), so there will be some pressure to have those guys on the roster.
Billy Butler – The team’s leading hitter (again). The steady performer.
WHY – Bill has been the team’s top offensive threat since he arrived in 2007. It could be only a matter of time until he gets his turn to be the ASG representative and this could be his year. He would be a solid bat off the bench for the A.L. All-Stars in the first ever game played in an N.L. stadium that will include a DH.
WHY NOT – He’s not a power threat. Billy has basically been the same guy since he arrived, and the fans seem to be bored by it. Everyone is pleased that he hits around .300 each year, but they want the long ball. When Ron Washington is building his roster, he might think the same thing. If he’s looking to grab a DH off the bench, he would be better served with a guy like Matt Stairs.
Joakim Soria – The recent All-Star face of the Royals and anchor of the bullpen.
WHY – Soria has been there before (twice, including last year), so he wouldn’t be in complete awe of the scene. Managers like to stock their bullpen with 3-4 closers to shorten the game. If you let your starter go two innings, then two other starters throw one inning, then you’ve just got to fill up two innings before letting three closers do what they do best. Another thing that this would do is increase Soria’s trade value. By having him step out of line and tip his cap would let every team see that he’s the best player the Royals have and if the team ends up dangling him, this would be a great negotiating tip when seeing what they can get in return.
WHY NOT – Soria went through a black hole this year and really struggled, even losing his job as the closer. The good news is that he’s recovered, but as of right now, he’s only got 13 saves on the season. That’s eight behind the league leaders. If Ron Washington is just looking at the list of saves leaders, he’d have to pass over quite a few guys – including his own Neftali Feliz.
Aaron Crow – The Rookie Surprise and leader of a young bullpen.
WHY – In just under 40 Innings this season, Crow is carrying a 1.36 ERA – the best on the team. If he qualified, it would be the best ERA in the American League. Crow is a local guy, so he’s got the support of the fans on both sides of the state line. He has been consistent all year long and has a bright future. In an All-Star game situation, he might be a perfect guy to come in and face a tough righty.
WHY NOT – He may not be very well known outside the Kansas City area. Being able to come in and face one or two hitters may not be enough to land him a spot in an All-Star bullpen. There could be an underlying opinion by Washington that the rookie would need to earn his spot on the team, and would likely give it to a veteran.
The most frustrating thing for Royals fans is that there are no players this year who deserve to be on the All-Star team. While it will be an honor for whoever is chosen, they will know down deep that the only reason they are on the team is because someone had to represent the Royals.
So while the history of the Royals in the All-Star game has been less than stellar recently, we have quite a future to look forward to. Plus, we get to play host next year. How great would it be to send a few of these guys who have starred in Minor League All-Star games and Futures Games to the Big Game? Then, maybe I won’t have that bad feeling in my stomach next July.