Lorenzo Cain and the Royals ‘Madden Curse’

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Lorenzo Cain was awarded the title of 2014 Kansas City Royals Player of the Year recently and this got me wondering about past winners of this prestigious award and how they fared in the afterglow. You may be familiar with the so-called “Madden Curse.” When a player is selected to grace the cover of the newest edition of the Madden football game, many people believe this means that they are either going to get injured or have a terrible season the following year. I figured that, much like the all-star selection in the mid-2000’s, candidates for the Royals POTY might be slim pickings. I took a look at players who won in the years 2004-2008 and whether or not winning the award meant they should have packed it in the next year. I threw in the Royals overall record each year for kicks and giggles. (Reminder: This award is only for position players as there is a separate award for pitchers) Let’s take a look.

1. David DeJesus (2004) – David put up a line of .287/.360/.402/.763 with 15 doubles and 1.9 WAR in 96 games. Other position players with decent numbers that year included Ken Harvey (.287/.338/.421/.759, 20 doubles, 13 home runs, but a negative WAR probably due to being something of a hindrance on defense) and Carlos Beltran who probably would have won the award but was traded after 69 games. (Royals Record: 58-104)

DeJesus had an even better year in 2005 going .293/.353/.445/.804 with 31 doubles and 9 home runs in 122 games. He was worth 4.4 WAR. That wasn’t enough for a repeat however.

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 2. Mike Sweeney (2005) – Sweeney played 122 games during the ‘05 season and went .300/.347/.517/.864 with 39 doubles and 21 home runs and garnered 1.8 WAR. Other contenders included the aforementioned DeJesus along with Emil Brown who got significant major league exposure for the first time since 2001. He went .286/.349/.455/.804 with 31 doubles, 17 home runs, but was worth only 0.2 WAR due to defense. (Royals Record: 56-106)

This was the last year in Sweeney’s career where he would play over 74 games. His back bothered him in 2006 and beyond. He only played 60 games in ‘06.

 3. Mark Teahen (2006) – Having a slash line of .290/.357/.517/.854 with 21 doubles, 18 home runs, and a 3.7 WAR as a 24 year-old in your second full season as a major leaguer isn’t too shabby. Other contenders for the 2006 season included Mark Grudzielanek (.297/.331/.409/.740, 32 doubles, 7 homers, and 3.2 WAR) as well as Emil Brown (.287/.358/.457/.815, 41 doubles, 18 homers, and 2.0 WAR). (Royals Record: 62-100)

Teahen was never able to match the production of that season but still had a decent year in 2007 (.285/.353/.410/.763, 31 doubles, 7 home runs, and 2.3 WAR). No Madden curse.

 4. Mark Grudzielanek (2007) – Grudzielanek had a line of .302/.346/.426/.772 with 32 doubles, 6 home runs and 3.2 WAR which was almost identical to his previous year. He was still a machine at age 37….aside from only playing 116 games (which seems to be something that many of these award-winners have in common). The only other real contender was Mark Teahen. (Royals Record: 69-93)

Grudzielanek had good numbers the following year (.299/.345/.399/.743 with 24 doubles and 3 home runs) but only played 86 games. 2008 was his last year as a Royal and he only played one more season in 2010 with Cleveland.

5. Mike Aviles (2008) – Mike played only 102 games his rookie year but was very effective (.325/.354/.480/.833, 27 doubles, 10 home runs, and 4.7 WAR). Another contender for the award in ‘08 was David Dejesus (.307/.366/.452/.818, 25 doubles, 12 home runs, and 2.2 WAR) but Aviles was new on the scene and exciting and the Royals desperately needed some excitement. (Royals Record: 75-87)

Aviles ended up only playing 36 games in 2009 and underwent Tommy John surgery in July of that year. He played with the Royals until 2011 before he was traded to Boston. He has had a couple of decent seasons in his career and played the last two years in Cleveland. He’s struggled with health as he’s only played over 124 games in a season once in his career.

Overall, I’d say we were 2-5 for 2004-2008 which was honestly better than I expected. Teahen and Dejesus had pretty good years after winning the award. Grudzielanek was good but limited by injury. Next week, I’ll take a look at the years 2009-2013.

Next: The Royals Need to Retire 25 for Satchel Paige

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