The ’95 KC Royals: The last short season revisited

(Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn /Allsport) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

A trade jolted the 1995 KC Royals before the season even began. The deal set a negative tone for the campaign.

Kansas City fans not driven away by the strike were still celebrating the good early April news that baseball was back when the Royals shocked them with bad news. On April 6, just four days after the strike ended, the club traded ace pitcher David Cone to Toronto for Tony Medrano, Dave Sinnes and Chris Stynes. Cone, the strike season Cy Young Award winner with a 16-5, 2.94 ERA record, had been back with the Royals since 1993 after they traded him to the Mets in ’87; the Cone deals were two of the worst trades the club ever made.

The trade dampened Royal spirits and may have been a bad omen. The club plodded through a lackluster 70-74 season and finished second in the AL Central, 30 games behind Cleveland. It was an outcome perhaps predictable by an uninspiring Opening Day lineup, a mixture of young, aging (by baseball standards) and relatively unknown players. Gary Gaetti (36) started at third, Greg Gagne (33) at shortstop, Wally Joyner (32) at first, and Jose Lind (30) at second; the outfield was younger with Michael Tucker in left (23), Tom Goodwin in center (26) and Felix Jose (29) in right.

Catcher Brent Mayne and starting pitcher Kevin Appier were 27. The lineup won the club’s first game, beating Baltimore 5-1; Appier pitched 6.2 hitless and scoreless innings to earn the first of  his eventual club-leading 15 games. Joyner had a double, single and RBI and Gagne added two singles. Closer Jeff Montgomery finished the contest with two strikeouts in the ninth, but wasn’t eligible for a save.

Because it was an Opening Day victory (and a home one at that), the game served as a season highlight. The Royals were tied for first at the end of the day, a position they’d never occupy again. The season and its component parts were unspectacular–the Royals had identical 35-37 home and road records; finished the first half 33-32 and the second 37-42; had three winning months (a 15-10 June was their best and 17 August wins were their most in any month of the season); their longest winning streak was seven, their longest losing streak was six.

Former Royal Bob Boone managed the club (he replaced Hal McRae, who was fired a little over a month after the ’94 strike began).

The end came Oct. 1 in Cleveland. The Indians hammered KC 17-7; starting his last game for the Royals, Gordon gave up 10 runs on nine hits in the first inning. The lopsided loss marked a fitting conclusion to a season that would prove to be the first of eight straight losing campaigns, and the first of an 18-year span in which the club posted 17 losing records.