Top Royals All-Star Game Performances: Honorable Mention
Since the Royals are hosting the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, I got nostalgic. While the current team hasn’t been good for very long, from the mid-70s until 1990, the Royals weren’t just relevant, they were one of the best organizations in baseball. Multiple All-Stars were the norm rather than the hope or exception.
So I started looking back, year by year, at old All-Star games to see how the Royals have done in the past and I came up with ten notable performances. Five of those stand out as very good, but here, I want to glance at five that were solid, though maybe lacking in impact of the game or in Royals history. The All-Star Game is where some stars shine brighter and it’s always great to see your team’s representative(s) doing well on that stage.
1972 – Cookie Rojas
Rojas was coming off of an All-Star year in 1971 where he’d hit .300 and appeared in his first All-Star Game as a Royal. In 1972, he was a reserve and entered the game in the top of the eighth inning. Pinch-hitting for Rod Carew and with Carlton Fisk on first, Rojas homered to left to put the American League up 3-2.
He looked primed to be named the MVP of the game, but Wilbur Wood came in for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a tying run and the National League won in the bottom of the tenth.
Rojas went on to play in two more All-Star Games in 1973 and 1974 in the latter stages of his baseball career.
1990 – Bret Saberhagen
Saberhagen was coming off of a Cy Young season in 1989 and made the All-Star team in 1990 with a 2.98 ERA in 121 innings.
He threw two perfect innings, facing Chris Sabo, Mike Scioscia and Barry Bonds in the first inning, striking out Scioscia. In his second inning of work, Saberhagen got flyouts from Shawon Dunston, Lenny Dykstra and Ryne Sandberg. In the following inning, Julio Franco drove in two to break a 0-0 tie and Saberhagen ended up being the pitcher of record and the first Royal to be named the winner of an All-Star Game.
The honor came with a price – Saberhagen made only three more starts in 1990 due to ligament damage in his right elbow. He made his first post-ASG start on July 15 but didn’t resurface until September.
1986 – Frank White
In 1986, the All-Star Game was in the Astrodome, and for the second time ever, featured a Royals manager as Dick Howser led the American League squad after winning the World Series in 1985.
George Brett was selected as a reserve, but due to injury didn’t play in the game.
That left White as the only Royal to represent the World Champion Royals. Earlier in the game, Lou Whitaker, the starting second baseman for the AL, had homered off of Dwight Gooden. White replaced him in the seventh inning and hit a homer of his own off of Mike Scott. White got another at bat in the ninth but flied out against Mike Krukow.
White was an All-Star five times, but 1986 was his final selection. The home run was his only hit as an All-Star in seven at bats.
2009 – Zack Greinke
2009 was a special year. The Royals started out 18-11 and were three games up in the AL Central in early May. While that success eventually faded, Zack Greinke made every fifth day an event.
Greinke started the year by giving up just four earned runs in his first 60 innings pitched en route to one of the best pitching seasons in Royals history. As the All-Star Game approached, it looked like Greinke could be the game’s starter in St. Louis but Roy Halladay started instead.
Nonetheless, when Greinke’s turn came up, he flashed the same brilliance he’d shown in the regular season.
He only threw one inning, and it’s difficult to judge an All-Star Game performance on just one inning, but he started out by inducing a weak foul out from Raul Ibanez to third on the first pitch then striking out David Wright on a 1-2 pitch (looking) and finishing off a perfect inning by getting Shane Victorino on a 1-2 pitch on his own for a second strikeout.
Greinke of course went on to win the AL Cy Young Award after 229.1 innings with a 2.16 ERA.
1995 – Kevin Appier
Despite being one of the best pitchers in the 1990s, this was Kevin Appier’s only All-Star selection. Despite surpassing a 100 ERA+ every year from 1990 to 1997, and being the best candidate for the 1993 Cy Young Award, Appier never got the recognition he deserved.
In 1995, he made his one shot count.
Appier had a 3.04 ERA in 121 innings going into the All-Star Game and came into the game after Randy Johnson started for the AL and dominated. In the third inning, he retired Barry Larkin, struck out Vinnie Castilla and finished off Craig Biggio, then continued into the fourth, mowing down Lenny Dykstra, Tony Gwynn and Barry Bonds. That’s four Hall of Famers (or deserving Hall of Famers) and two of the best of the early 90s in that group, and Appier cut them all down in order.
Every batter but Castilla grounded out, in Appier’s impressive showing.
Appier faded a bit as the season wore on, finishing with 201.1 innings and a 3.89 ERA, but he was still one of the best starters that year.
These are performances worth pointing out, but I’ve decided on five performances by Royals in the All-Star Game that stand out even better.