There will be no further speculation, if there really was any, about Wade Davis and his future with the KC Royals. Nostalgic fans who remember Davis at his best will wonder no longer if he’ll return next season, and his detractors now know he won’t throw another pitch for Kansas City.
His 13-year major league career ended Wednesday when Davis retired. Unknown and so far unannounced is why, although pitching poorly in 2021 and finishing the season on the Injured List likely contributed to his decision.
The question of whether baseball history will deem Davis one of the greatest relievers of all time is for another day, but he was certainly one of the best of his time. He’ll never be a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, but he pitched like one in Kansas City and will, at some point, be considered for induction into the Royals’ own Hall of Fame.
But will he be elected?
Some, even those who concede how much Davis meant to the Royals during his five years with the club, will say no. They’ll argue only two of those years—2014 and 2015 when he helped Kansas City to straight World Series and one title—really meant much.
Such points shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. Davis debuted with Kansas City in 2013 after coming to the Royals with James Shields in the deal that sent hot prospect Wil Myers (and others) to Tampa Bay, and KC fans angry about losing Myers into a frenzy. Unfortunately, Davis’ 8-11 record and 5.32 ERA in his first KC season probably did little to alter any perception that he was merely a Shields trade throw-in the Royals agreed to accept. And this, his last season with the Royals, was about as bad as it could be.
But to contend 2014 and 2015 were Davis’ only meaningful Royal seasons is not only wrong but preposterous. He was superb in 2016, when he had a sub-2.00 ERA for the third consecutive season, saved 27 games, and didn’t surrender a single home run for the second time in three years. His misfortune, if any, was to have pitched for a .500 team that simply wasn’t as good as the two World Series clubs.
And to include Davis’ 2021 in the team Hall of Fame equation is to consider the unimportant. Yes, he saved only two games, won none of his three decisions, and his 6.75 ERA was the second-worst of his career, but Davis was a pitcher in obvious decline and what he couldn’t and didn’t do with naturally dwindling talent in the final year of his career shouldn’t be a factor.
KC Royals pitcher Wade Davis deserves to make the club’s Hall of Fame.
When the time comes, and it will, those charged with determining who gains entry to Kansas City’s Hall of Fame should choose Wade Davis. What he did for the Royals in three seasons is enough.
Davis was the middle member of the almost unbeatable “H-D-H” back-of-the-pen combination that exploded on the baseball stage in 2014. Kelvin Herrera, who retired in February, pitched the seventh inning, Davis the eighth, and Greg Holland closed. Like Herrera and Holland, Davis was spectacular that year: he gave up only eight runs in 72 innings (1.00 ERA), had a career high 13.63 SO/9, a 2.88 BB/9 (the second best of his career), and won nine games. He surrendered only one run in 14.1 postseason innings and won two American League Championship Series games.
Davis remained incredible in 2015. His 0.94 ERA may be the only necessary proof of how good he was, but he also saved 17 games and won eight others. And then there’s what he started doing in September and how much it meant to the Royals.
Until the season’s final full month, Davis was still the “D” in H-D-H, but an injury forced Holland to the sidelines for the rest of the campaign, and Davis suddenly found himself the closer. Holland last pitched Sept. 18; Davis took over, saved four games and four more in the playoffs, survived a 45-minute rain delay to win the final game of the ALCS, and closed out the World Series clincher against the Mets. All that by a pitcher brand new to the closer’s role.
Then there was that excellent 2016 campaign, Davis’ last season with the KC Royals until he returned this year. He pitched for the Cubs and Colorado in the interim, but how he pitched for clubs other than Kansas City has no bearing on his suitability for KC’s Hall of Fame.
And what he did for the Royals is priceless. Without him there would have been no H-D-H, and probably no 2014 AL pennant or World Series. Whether the club would have repeated as AL champs in 2015 and won the Series is debatable, but doing so would have been extraordinarily difficult absent his efforts.
How significant a player’s contributions were to the Royals determines whether he gains admission to their Hall of Fame. Davis didn’t spend his entire career in Kansas City, but what he did for the franchise is remarkable and invaluable.
Wade Davis belongs in the club’s Hall of Fame.
Wade Davis left the game for good Wednesday. Someday, he needs to be inducted into the KC Royals Hall of Fame.