Who are the four greatest Royals?

By Steve Sell
April 17, 2015

Major League Baseball is conducting a vote for the four all-time greatest players in the history of each franchise.

The Kansas City Royals have only been in existence since 1969, so they don't have near the talent pool to choose from. But that’s not to say the Royals haven’t had their fair share of stars.

The problem in recent years is that when a Royals player becomes a star, he’s picked off by another team that can offer more money. Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye fell into that category after making up one of the best outfields in baseball. Zack Grienke became unaffordable and now makes gazillions for the Fort Knox of baseball franchises, Los Angeles. At least the Royals traded him for Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, which worked out well for Kansas City.

My top four is based on what they did while with the Royals, not what they became later in their careers.

1. George Brett — Mr. Royal. A no-brainer. Brett is one of the best third basemen in baseball history, maybe one of the Top 5. He won three batting titles in three different decades and energized the city in 1980 when he chased the magical .400 batting average, coming up just 10 points shy at .390. Definitely the face of the franchise.

2. Frank White — A lot of people believe White should be in the Hall of Fame, given he won eight Gold Gloves and was a productive offensive player later in his career. There's not much difference between White and Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski, who is in the Hall. White was a great ambassador for the team, but was treated shabbily by management after his career was over and now there are a lot of hard feelings.

3. Willie Wilson — Wilson epitomized what the Royals were all about during their glory run of the 1970s and 1980s. He was a sleek leadoff hitter whose singles practically always turned into doubles because of his stolen-base prowess. He could run like the wind and could cover a lot of ground. He was the prototypical leadoff hitter who took advantage of the spongy turf to beat balls into the ground for easy hits. As big and strong as he was, it's still flummoxes me he could hit only 41 home runs in his 19-year career.

4. Hal McRae — This is where it starts to get close. I went with McRae because of both his longevity and productivity. McRae spent 15 of his 19 years in baseball with the Royals and put up some huge offensive numbers as perhaps the best DH of his generation. He hit .293 in his time with the Royals and swatted 169 homers and 449 doubles while driving in 1,097. He hit better than .300 on six occasions and combined with  Brett for a fearsome 1-2 punch. He also was known for his fearless play and leadership, which later led to him being the team's manager. 

As you see I didn't have a pitcher among my Top 4. The first three Royals for me were easy, but I thought about pitchers Bret Saberhagen or Dan Quisenberry at No. 4, or outfielder Amos Otis. 

Saberhagen was brilliant in bursts, including seasons where he won 23 and 20 games, but his career was short-circuited due to injuries. Quisenberry to me is still the top reliever in Royals history, though Jeff Montgomery and Joakim Soria had some good years and Greg Holland, if he keeps it going, could surpass all of them. Holland is still young and has shown no signs of wear and tear in his career.

Otis was one of my all-time favorite Royals. He was a 14-year fixture in center field who could hit for average, some power at times and could steal a lot of bases. He also was so fluid in the outfield and personified class. Tough guy to leave off.

An underrated Royal was Paul Splittorff, who won 166 games, though he wasn't the dominant pitcher Saberhagen was. He averaged about 11 wins a season, with a high of 20 in 1973.

I'm sure many of you will disagree with my choices, though especially Brett and White are locks. I'm sure a lot of recent Royals fans will believe Mike Sweeney should be there and I'll admit he was solid, but to me falls short of the mark.


Close