One writer's tribute to retired KC Royals star Eric Hosmer

Hoz's Kansas City career is worthy of celebration.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hosmer retired Wednesday, but his plans to start a new sports media company will keep him connected to baseball. Six seasons have passed since he last wore a Royals uniform, but he left an enduring legacy at Kauffman Stadium. Despite his long absence, and his times with San Diego, Boston, and the Cubs, it may be that Kansas City's fans were most affected by the news of him hanging it up.

Eric Hosmer was the face of KC's championship teams

Count me among disappointed fans when Hosmer signed with the Padres in early 2018. I wasn't heartbroken, but I was sad to see him go. In hindsight, skeptics of the deal were right: San Diego overpaid for Hosmer, and the Royals probably dodged a bullet when they were outbid.

On the other hand, would the Royals have been any worse off if they'd kept Hosmer? Certainly, he would have cost them a lot of money, but it wasn't like they were signing free agents left and right. So, yes, the club would have been out some cash, but the rebuilding Royals probably wouldn't have been any worse off, and fans would have had another one of their favorites to root for. I can't imagine any KC fan who wouldn't willingly trade their Lucas Duda memories for a few more years of Hoz.

That's something other fanbases will never understand about Kansas City's relationship with Hosmer. To them, he's just another star who parlayed some solid seasons and postseason appearances into a mega-deal, then underperformed. And that's fair. If his glory days had been with, say, Texas, I'd probably feel the same way. But they weren't. They were with Kansas City, and to Royals fans, his legend will be bigger than his reality.

Even in Kansas City, Hosmer was inconsistent. He was good in 2013 as the Royals made their first serious playoff push in a decade, but he fell back during the 2014 regular season. Fortunately, he roared back to life in the postseason, putting up outstanding numbers in the Wild Card game and the American League Division and Championship series. He was good again in the 2015 championship campaign but dipped again in 2016 before rebounding in 2017, his final Royal season.

But it wasn't just his numbers that won over Kansas City fans. The 2014-2015 Royals were stacked with excellent players, but no true superstars, and Hosmer wasn't the best player on the roster, an honor that goes instead to Lorenzo Cain. But whether it was a postgame interview or famously buying drinks for fans after a key postseason win, Hosmer became the team's unofficial spokesman and strongest connection with its fans.

Hosmer's Royals caught flak for being cocky. There were a lot of complaints about them celebrating too much on the diamond, and old heads scolded them. But those Royals, new to success, played with a swagger, and clearly enjoyed the game. Baseball was fun for them, they made it fun for fans again, and Hosmer was always front and center.

No, Hosmer isn't an all-time great. Aside from the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, his post-Kansas City career was arguably mediocre. He'll never be inducted into Cooperstown but will be in the Royals Hall of Fame, and that honor, when it comes, will be richly deserved. He played a leading role in reigniting my love of baseball, and I doubt I'm the only Royals fan who can make that claim. He and his teammates made baseball matter for a whole new generation in Kansas City.

Eric Hosmer remains famous for two 2015 postseason moments

The 2014-2015 Royals put together an impressive highlight reel of big plays, including Salvador Perez's walk-off in the 2014 Wild Card Game, Alcides Escobar's inside the park home run to lead off the 2015 World Series, and Alex Gordon's ninth-inning home run to tie Game 1 of that Fall Classic. The list goes on and on, but two of the best involve Hosmer.

The first came in the bottom of the eight against Toronto in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS, when Hosmer singled and Cain scored from first to punch the Royals' ticket to a second straight World Series. Of course, Cain deserves most of the credit for that one, although someone had to put the ball in play. But the second play is all Hosmer.

It happened in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series with the Mets leading 2-1. Hosmer was on third when Perez hit a chopper to David Wright; Hosmer hesitated long enough to make Wright throw out Perez at first, then dashed for home. Lucas Duda's throw was offline and Hosmer slid home to tie the game. The Royals didn't finish the Mets off until the 12th inning, but that's the moment when most KC fans knew the team was going to win their first championship in 30 years.

And while Hosmer may never earn a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his jersey is there. I've seen it myself, and it was one of the highlights of my visit. Despite the high expectations and accusations of underachieving, Royals fans know exactly who Hosmer was, and they wouldn't trade their experiences with him for anything.

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