KC Royals: Club’s managing tree has many branches

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals
(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

Two World Series champion managers played for the KC Royals. One is retired and the other is suspended from the game.

A pair of former KC Royals–Lou Piniella and AJ Hinch–made more headlines as managers than as players. Piniella won a World Series with the Reds and AJ Hinch won one with the Astros. Piniella retired in 2010 after a long and successful career in the dugout; Hinch captured a Series title with Houston but is serving a suspension from baseball.

Piniella was a Royal from the first–he was in their inaugural lineup in 1969 and won Rookie of the Year honors that season, then played for the club until it traded him to the Yankees after the 1973 season. He hit .295 for KC and .291 for his 18-year career. His lack of power (102 career homers) detracted from an otherwise serviceable big league skill set.

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Managing was Piniella’s greater impact on the game. He managed five teams in 23 years and his 1,835 games ranks 16th on the all-time list, 28 behind Dusty Baker and 66 ahead of Jim Leyland. He won a World Series his first year with Cincinnati, took the Mariners to the playoffs four times and captured two division titles with the Cubs.

Piniella’s 2001 Seattle team tied the 1906 Cubs for most wins in regular a season with 116; the Mariners had major-league bests in runs scored, OBP, steals, WHIP, shutouts, runs allowed and ERA. They won the AL West by 14 games but lost the ALCS to the Yankees.

Piniella replaced fellow former Royal Hal McRae as Tampa Bay’s manager in 2003. He closed out his career during the 2010 season when he retired from managing the Cubs to help care for his aging mother. He won three Manager of the Year awards and finished with a record of 1,835-1,713.

Hinch spent two seasons (2001-02) of his seven-year major league career backing up KC Royals’ catcher Brent Mayne. Never a threat with the bat, Hinch hit .217 with the Royals and .219 for his career.

Arizona hired Hinch to replace Bob Melvin early in the 2009 season. Hinch took over a 12-17 club that finished 70-92; he hadn’t coached or managed in pro ball before and the Diamondbacks fired him the next July after a 31-48 start left them in last place.

Houston finished 70-92 in 2014 and named Hinch their manager the day after the season ended. The Astros, entrenched in a notorious rebuild in which 100-loss seasons were common, believed they were ready to win and Hinch was the man to lead them. He delivered immediately with successive 86 and 84 win seasons, then skippered the club to a World Series championship in 2017, a division title in 2018 and an NL pennant in 2019. The Astros won 101 games in ’17, 103 in ’18 and 107 in ’19.

Glory was fleeting for Hinch and Houston, however–the Astros were implicated in the signal-stealing cheating scandal that broke shortly after last season ended and tainted their 2017 and 2018 seasons.

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Major League Baseball suspended Hinch and the Astros fired him. He won’t manage this season and his future prospects are uncertain.

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Several KC Royals players have managed major league teams and three managed the Royals. Who will be the next Royal to join the ranks of big league managers?