Aug 15, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Former Kansas City Royals player Mike Sweeney (29) throws out the ceremonial first pitch during his induction ceremony into the Royals Hall of Fame before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
5. Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney arrived in camp in 2000 as a 26-year-old former catcher trying to stick with the team. The KC Royals converted him to first base, and a player who looked long in the tooth to earn a job in the major leagued transformed into a hitting star.
The position change unlocked Sweeney’s bat to the tune of a .322/.387/.520 slash line with 22 home runs, 102 RBI’s, and a 129 OPS+ (29% better than league average).
Mike Sweeney was part of a young, prolific offense that included Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Carlos Beltran that tried to score enough runs to make up for a staff filled with batting practice pitchers. As the young guns matured, the destitute KC Royals traded off their stars as they drew near to free-agency in a series of ill-considered deals that got GM Allard Baird fired.
The one exception was Mike Sweeney, who signed a team-friendly deal to stay in Kansas City for the long term. Unfortunately, his loyalty was rewarded with a series of losing teams. Even so, Sweeney earned five All-Star berths with the Kansas City Royals. In 13 KC Royals seasons between 1995-2007, Sweeney slashed .299/.369/.492 with 197 home runs and an OPS+ of 120 (20% better than a league average hitter).
Sadly, Sweeney struggled with back problems in the latter years of his Kansas City career. His performance suffered and he bounced between the active roster and the disabled list with a myriad of injuries. Frustrated home fans turned on him, berating Mike Sweeney for his declining production and large contract.
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