During the 2000s, no major league team lost more games than the Kansas City Royals. It was a decade where the negatives far outweighed the positives. This is the third installment of the 11 part Royals Rotten Decade series. I will briefly examine each season in the last decade before wrapping up the decade in the 11th and final part.
Part 3, the 2002 Royals (62-100) 737 RS / 891 RA
Payroll: $52.2 million (20th) / Attendance: 1,323,036
Draft: RHP-Zack Greinke (1st), C-Adam Donachie (2nd), 1B-Dave Jensen (3rd), LHP-Daniel Christensen (4th)*
*In addition to Zack Greinke, the 2002 Royals draft class also featured the selection of 1B-Kila Ka’aihue in the 15th round out of Iolani HS in Hawaii.
Top Prospect: SS-Angel Berroa
Above 110 OPS+ (Minimum 50 AB)
148 1B-Mike Sweeney (28): 0.340/.417/.563 in 471 AB
122 OF/1B/DH-Raul Ibanez (30): 0.294/.346/.537 in 497 AB
114 CF-Carlos Beltran (25): 0.273/.346/.501 in 637
Above 110 ERA+ (Minimum 40.0 IP)*
157 LHP-Scott Mullen (27): 3.15 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.7 SO/9 in 40.0 IP
127 RHP-Jason Grimsley (34): 3.91 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 7.4 SO/9 in 71.1 IP
127 RHP-Paul Byrd (31): 3.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.1 SO/9 in 228.1 IP
121 RHP-Cory Bailey (31): 4.11 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 4.7 SO/9 in 46.0 IP
115 RHP-Roberto Hernandez (37): 4.33 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 6.8 SO/9 in 52.0 IP
114 RHP-Runelvys Hernandez (24): 4.36 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5.4 SO/9 in 74.1 IP
*I tweaked the requirement from 50 to 40 IP for this season to include Mullen and Bailey in the list. I did this mainly because I wanted to point out that Mullen is the only Royals LHP to finish a season with an ERA+ of 110 or better during the 1st three seasons of the decade. LHP-Jeremy Affeldt (23) did finish the 2002 season with an ERA+ of 107.
The losing arrived in force during the 2002 season and wound up costing manager Tony Muser his job 23 games into the season. The team was 8-15 at the time he was let go. John Mizerock did a fine job as interim manager and went 5-8, before Tony Pena was brought on board. Under Pena’s leadership, the team went 49-77.
The 2002 Royals cost $16.1 million more than the 2001 team. Their $52.2 million price tag was more than double the 2000 team payroll of $25.9 million. Think about that for a minute. Ownership doubled the payroll in 2 years and the extra investment caused them to finish 15 games worse than the 77-85 finish in 2000. They scored 8 more runs than the previous season, but they allowed 33 more.
Offensively the team went into hibernation. Only Sweeney, Ibanez, and Beltran finished with an OPS+ above 100 on the entire team. C-Dusty Wathan (28) did finish the year with an OPS+ of 274 but he only had 6 plate appearances on the season. In the power department the three “big guns” led the way. Beltran hit 29 HR, while Sweeney and Ibanez both hit 24. Only 2 other players, Michael Tucker (12) and Joe Randa (11) broke double digits.
Largely out of necessity, and also in part because Pena liked the running game more than Muser, the team was more aggressive on the basepaths. 4 players topped 10 SB led by Beltran’s 35. He was joined by Tucker’s 23, Knoblauch’s 19, and Febles’ 16 steals. No matter who was managing the team, they had to run to try and manufacture runs. C-Brent Mayne, SS-Neifi Perez, and LF-Chuck Knoblauch were lineup regulars who finished the season with an OPS+ of 60 or worse. The “prize” from the midseason Jermaine Dye trade the previous season, Neifi Perez contributed an OPS+ of just 44. There was little help on the bench. The top option among that group was C-A.J. Hinch who finished the year with an OPS+ of 84. To make matters even worse, after playing in 456 games during the previous three seasons, 2002 was the first year that Mike Sweeney’s body started to break down. He played in 126 games and would never top that mark again in his career.
Continuing the trend of the previous 2 seasons, the bullpen again blew more than their share of saves. All told they succeeded on only 30 of 54 save opportunities for a success rate of 56%. While they couldn’t finish games, the pen was relatively effective otherwise. They were bolstered by the solid seasons of Grimsley, Roberto Hernandez, Bailey, Mullen, and the much maligned Jeremy Affeldt who started to embrace the role of reliever.
Paul Byrd turned the best season of his career. It was a season that also ranks among the best by a Royals starter during the decade. Runelvys also showed flashes of potential in 14 starts but his promise was weighed down by his general lack of conditioning. Darrell May, Jeff Suppan, and Miguel Asencio were below average, while 25-year old Shawn Sedlacek was downright awful in his 14 starts. The team tried many options at the back of the rotation including; Affeldt, Dan Reichert, Blake Stein, Chris George, Mac Suzuki, Chad Durbin, Wes Obermueller, and even Bryan Rekar. The last 3 names on that list made 2 starts a piece and each of them finished the year with an ERA above 11.00.
The 2002 Royals would finish 4th in the AL Central and 32.5 games back of the 1st place Minnesota Twins who went 94-67. The Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers both wound up a record of 55-106 making Kansas City the 3rd worst team in the AL again.
The team jumped from 28th in the league to 20th based on the payroll, but additional investment didn’t pay off. 2002 marked the first 100 loss season of the decade, but sadly it was just the 1st of 4 that Royals fans would have to endure.