Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
By now you probably know that the BBWAA has elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas into the Hall of Fame. I won’t get into my personal feelings on the matter in this space. Partly because this is a place for primarily Royals-related news, but mostly because I’m assuming you don’t want to read 5000 words on my opinion of the voting process and why it desperately needs changed. Plus, you’ve probably already read at least 27 of those columns in the last couple of weeks, so this should be a nice break from that.
A couple of days ago, Dave Cameron at Fangraphs wrote a very interesting piece on what current major leaguers are projected to eventually be voted into the Hall of Fame. After research, he found that the historical precedent was for any given season to have approximately 30 eventual Hall of Famers. Definitely well worth a read. It also got me thinking about the Royals Hall of Fame, and which current Royals are on track to be enshrined at Kauffman Stadium.
First, I looked at all of the players already in the Royals Hall of Fame. There are 8 position players and 9 pitchers, so I needed to figure out what accomplishments each player had that merited their prestigious honor. Here are all of the players and their relevant qualifications:
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One thing you’ll surely notice is that these players spent quite a bit of time in Kansas City. The average number of plate appearances by the hitters is over 6800, which comes out to around 11 full seasons in a Royals uniform. Granted, having George Brett in there can skew things, but even removing him only drops the average to 6154, so still 10 seasons with the team. For the pitchers, the fewest innings by a starter came from Steve Busby with 1060.2, and even the two relievers threw more than 1700 innings combined. In other words, guys who have a plaque at Kauffman Stadium spent a long time playing for the Royals. Now, that doesn’t mean players shouldn’t be considered for playing “just” 7 or 8 seasons in Kansas City, and with the way free agency is in today’s game, getting that many years from a productive major leaguer in a small market is fairly rare. Still, in most cases it takes sustained excellence to be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. Only John Mayberry and Cookie Rojas had fewer than 4800 plate appearances, and with the exception of Rojas and Freddie Patek, every position player received some kind of recognition or award from the league, whether it was on offense or defense. Even Rojas & Patek went to a combined 7 All Star Games.
Are there any current Royals who could fit in with that group?
In my opinion, there are 4 position players to consider. Two of them are almost locks, while the other two have more work to do. Here are all 4 hitters and their current accomplishments:
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Alex Gordon is still under contract for 2 more seasons, and he holds a player option for 2016, so if he completes all three seasons in Kansas City, the only way he doesn’t end up in the team’s Hall of Fame is if his struggles from last year become even worse in 2014. Now would be the time to knock on some type of wooden object.
As for Billy Butler, his career ranks among Royals hitters are already impressive, and since he could be kept in a Royal uniform for the next two seasons, don’t be surprised if he starts to pass even more of the current Hall of Famers in some of those statistics. It’s possible Butler is traded or that his option isn’t picked up in 2015, but that’s a different topic altogether. He’s going to have the numbers to earn a spot in the Royals Hall of Fame.
Salvador Perez is locked up to a ridiculously cheap contract through 2016, with 3 more team options after that. Obviously some of his value could diminish if he’s moved out from behind the plate in those later years, but he’s likely still going to be the best catcher in franchise history. I think that warrants enshrinement.
Eric Hosmer is an interesting case to me. I think Hosmer could potentially be an excellent first baseman for his entire Royals career, however, I’m not sure his Royals career will be longer than 5 or 6 years, since it seems unlikely he’d sign an extension having Scott Boras as his agent. It remains to be seen if Hosmer can do enough in that somewhat brief time to join the ranks of the all-time Royals greats.
It’s tough to see any current Royals’ pitchers accomplishing enough in their time with the organization to merit the honor of the Hall. James Shields probably is only going to have two seasons under his belt. Jeremy Guthrie could have 3.5 mediocre seasons in Kansas City, but that’s not enough to earn a spot in the Hall. Guys like Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy certainly have the potential, but it’s way too early to project long, illustrious careers for them. The only pitcher on the roster right now with an outside shot at making the franchise Hall of Fame is probably Greg Holland. He already ranks 28th in franchise history in fWAR (7.2), he’s 4th in saves (67), and among pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched, Holland has the 2nd best ERA- (58). He’s entering his first year of arbitration, and he’s going to get expensive in a hurry, so if he’s not traded, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Holland locked up to some kind of extension to keep him in Kansas City for a couple of extra years. Of course, even if Holland is here for another 5 or 6 seasons, there is no guarantee he’ll be good enough the entire time to get him in the conversation for the Hall of Fame, since he’s a relief pitcher and all. There are too many factors involved to put strong odds on Holland making it in, but there is an outside chance that I believe was worth mentioning.
I love visiting the Hall of Fame when I go to Kauffman Stadium. Seeing all the trophies on display from the franchise’s glory days. The old uniforms and photos of the enshrined players. The big number “5” made of 3,154 baseballs for each of Brett’s hits. It’s all such an incredible experience, and the 2014 Royals could potentially add a few more photos and uniforms to those exhibits at some point down the road.With a little bit more help, maybe they could even add some new displays of their own.