Kansas City Royals All-Time Tournament Team

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The Kansas City Royals have a colorful 52-season history. After some early struggles, they had an impressive run of success in the late-’70s and early ’80s, reached the mountaintop in 1985, entered a long stretch of losing, then finally reached the heights of the sport again in the mid-2010s. Their fortunes have run the full gamut across half a century. There is no shortage of notable names throughout Royals history. If one had to assemble a Royals all-time team about a decade ago, it would almost exclusively consist of players who were on the team sometime from 1975–85. At that time, the Royals were perennial contenders and regularly made appearances in the ALCS. However, after back-to-back pennants and another title this past decade, there’s a new class of Royals legends. Now, an all-time team can fully reflect their franchise history, and that’s what this roster aims to do.

Royals All-Time Team

Infield

Catcher: Salvador Perez (2011-present)

The choice for the Royals’ all-time catcher is a no-brainer. Salvador Perez has been everything Kansas City could’ve hoped for and more. His lengthy, muscular build is a plus on both sides of the ball. He has five Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers to his name. Although he’s been great his whole career, Perez has found a new gear in recent years. Seemingly out of nowhere in 2021, he crushed 48 homers, an MLB record for a catcher, and drove in 121 runs, both career highs by a mile. Since he’s still only 31 years old, one can only wonder what he’s capable of the next few seasons.

Salvy also played a pivotal role in re-establishing the Royals’ success after decades of losing. After popping out to end the 2014 World Series, Perez made sure the Royals’ luck would change in the next Fall Classic. He earned World Series MVP in their triumph over the New York Mets, batting .364 and becoming the first catcher to win the award since Pat Borders in 1992.

First Baseman: Eric Hosmer (2011-2017)

Like Perez, Eric Hosmer was a key cog in the homegrown Royals core that eventually won it all in 2015. A defensive stalwart, he won four Gold Gloves in his Royals tenure. In 2014, with Kansas City making their first postseason appearance in 29 years, Hosmer pounced at the opportunity. He hit .400 in both the ALDS and ALCS, and .351 across the whole postseason. While his offensive output was not as high the following October, he still owns the franchise record for postseason RBI (29).

Hosmer enjoyed a career year at the plate in 2017, his last year in KC. He batted .318 with 25 homers, 94 RBI, and an OPS of .882. Playing in all 162 games that year, he won his first career Silver Slugger before departing for the San Diego Padres in free agency. Hosmer’s reliability at the plate and in the field, his durability, and his postseason heroics all land him a spot on the Royals’ all-time team.

Second Baseman: Frank White (1973-1990)

A career Royal, Frank White was a constant throughout the team’s first wave of prosperity. So far, this Royals all-time infield has one common thread: outstanding defense. White is no exception. An eight-time Gold Glover, he owns a .983 career fielding percentage at second base across 18 seasons. Although White was a relatively light hitter during his career, he occasionally showed flashes of brilliance in October. The prime example of this was the 1980 ALCS, in which the Royals got the monkey off their back by defeating the New York Yankees, their longtime playoff rival. In the three-game sweep, he went 6-for-11 at the plate with a 1.455 OPS. His fifth-inning homer in Game Three jump-started Kansas City that night. White’s efforts in the series garnered him ALCS MVP honors.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar (2011-2018)

During his Royals tenure, Alcides Escobar was known for being a slap hitter, but also for being durable with a very good glove. It is his performance in October, however, which ultimately lands him on this all-time roster.  A .311 hitter in his postseason career, Escobar proved valuable in the leadoff spot during the Royals’ deep runs in 2014 and 2015. He was MVP of the 2015 ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, compiling a 1.134 OPS and five RBI in the series. He led off the ensuing Fall Classic with an inside-the-park home run. 2015 was a career year for Escobar, as he also received his first and only All-Star and Gold Glove nods.

Third Baseman: George Brett (1973-1993)

The easiest choice for the all-time squad, George Brett remains not just the best Royals third baseman of all time, but the greatest player in Royals history. Brett owns several franchise records, including most games played (2,707), runs scored (1,583), hits (3,154), doubles (665), triples (137), home runs (317), and RBI (1,596). He was the author of many October heroics, including a memorable three-run blast off Goose Gossage to help finish off the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS. In 1985, Brett was the ALCS MVP and hit .370 in their World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals. A career .305 hitter, Brett also holds the distinction of being the only major leaguer ever to win a batting title in three separate decades. He is the only Baseball Hall of Famer with a Royals cap on his plaque.

Outfield

Left Fielder: Alex Gordon (2007-2020)

We now move onto the outfield of this Royals all-time team. Of the recent core of beloved homegrown Royals, Alex Gordon was the first to make his debut. In many ways, he was the heart and soul of that group. Since he came up earlier in the Royals’ lean years, he had to be more patient than guys like Hosmer, Perez, and Mike Moustakas. However, no matter how good or bad the Royals were, Gordon always brought his A-game. He was sure-handed in left field, winning eight Gold Gloves in 14 seasons. While he batted over .300 only once in his career (2011), he showed a penchant for extra-base hits, compiling six seasons with 30+ doubles, including an MLB-leading 51 in 2012.

Gordon’s patience eventually paid off, as he became a key part of the 2014 and 2015 postseason runs. His crowning moment as a Royal has to be his dramatic ninth-inning homer to tie Game One of the 2015 World Series, which KC won in 14 innings.

Center Fielder: Willie Wilson (1976-1990)

Another mainstay of the Royals’ powerhouse of the ’70s and ’80s, Willie Wilson was a great contact hitter, hitting over .300 in six different seasons. A real speedster, he led the American League in steals once (83 in 1979) and in triples five times. Wilson’s career year came in 1980. He hit .326, largely from the leadoff spot. He led the AL that year in at-bats (705), runs scored (133), hits (230), and triples (15). Despite somehow not being named to the All-Star team that year, he finished fourth in MVP voting and also won his only career Gold Glove. Wilson hit .367 from the two-hole in the 1985 World Series, helping the team to their first championship.

Right Fielder: Danny Tartabull (1987-1991)

Despite playing only five seasons for Kansas City, Danny Tartabull managed to stand out as a great slugger and run producer. He drove in over 100 runs in three of those five years and eclipsed 30 homers twice. In 1991, his last year as a Royal, Tartabull hit .316 with 35 doubles, 31 homers, and 100 RBI. His .593 slugging percentage led the AL that year, and he notched his only All-Star appearance. Tartabull had an OPS+ of 128 or higher in all five of his seasons as a Royal.

Designated Hitter: Hal McRae (1973-1987)

A reliable contact hitter for many years, Hal McRae was another constant in the Royals’ lineup during their impressive run in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Hitting near or above .300 almost every year with the team, McRae nearly won the AL batting title in 1976, losing to teammate George Brett on the last day of the season. In 1982, he led the league in both doubles (46) and RBI (133), and won a Silver Slugger Award. McRae was one of the best DH’s of his day, an era where the position was relatively new and had few standouts. After his playing days, McRae managed the Royals from 1991 to 1994.

Starting Pitcher: Bret Saberhagen (1984-1991)

Any team serious about winning the World Series generally needs a dominant ace to put them over the top. Bret Saberhagen filled that role for Kansas City in their first title year of 1985. In only his second season, Saberhagen went 20–6 in ’85 with a 2.87 ERA. His 1.058 WHIP, 2.89 FIP, and 4.16 K/BB ratio all led the league, and he won the AL Cy Young Award. Saberhagen continued his brilliance into October, pitching complete games in both of his Fall Classic starts. Giving up a single run across two games, he won World Series MVP. Saberhagen added another Cy Young in 1989. He went 23–6, leading the league in wins, ERA (2.16), and complete games (12). Saberhagen threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in 1991, the last by a Royal to date.

Relievers

When it comes to compiling a relief corps for the Royals’ all-time team, one name belongs on the list without a doubt: Dan Quisenberry. Arguably the preeminent closer of the 1980’s, Quiz led the American League in saves a record five times, including four straight years from 1982-85. In all five of these years, he finished in the top five in Cy Young voting. In ten years with the Royals, the submariner pitched to a 2.55 ERA and recorded 238 saves.

Jeff Montgomery’s spot on this all-time team is also well-earned. A three-time All-Star, he pitched to a 3.20 ERA during his Kansas City tenure, with his best years spanning 1989 to 1993. In ’93, his 45 saves tied him for the AL lead and won him the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. Montgomery is the Royals’ all-time saves leader with 304.

Although Greg Holland was a phenomenal closer during the Royals’ second peak in the mid 2000’s, this squad still needs a middle reliever. That’s where Wade Davis comes in. In 2014 and 2015, Davis had two of the most dominant seasons a setup man can have. He pitched to ERA’s of 1.00 and 0.94, and WHIPs of 0.847 and 0.787, respectively. Davis went nearly three straight months in 2014 without giving up an earned run. His dominance in the late innings set him up well in the win column both of these years, with records of 9–2 and 8–1, respectively.

Manager: Whitey Herzog (1975-1979)

Dick Howser (1985) and Ned Yost (2015) are the only two managers to lead the Royals to World Series wins. However, it is Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog who helmed their initial run of success in the late ’70’s. This set the table for their pennant runs of the ’80’s. During Herzog’s tenure, the Royals won three straight AL West titles from 1976 to 1978. In all three years, they lost tightly contested ALCS matchups to the Yankees, the first two going the full five games. The roster he oversaw formed the foundation of the team for the next decade. Herzog went on to manage the Cardinals, where he won a title in 1982. Ironically, he lost the 1985 World Series to his former team, several members of which got their start under him.

The success Herzog had in St. Louis makes one wonder what might’ve been had he stayed in KC. The team had built a great deal of chemistry after multiple playoff trips. Keeping the same manager may have gotten them over the top even sooner. Herzog being largely responsible for turning that particular group into winners makes him the ideal managerial choice for the Royals’ all-time team.

Honorable Mentions:

John Mayberry (1B, 1972-1977)

Amos Otis (CF, 1970-1983)

Mike Sweeney (C/1B/DH, 1995-2007)

Bo Jackson (OF/DH, 1986-1990)

Freddie Patek (SS, 1971-1979)

Greg Holland (RP, 2010-2015, 2021)

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Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players/Managers Mentioned:

Salvador Perez, Pat Borders, Eric Hosmer, Frank White, George BrettGoose Gossage, Alcides Escobar, Alex GordonMike Moustakas, Willie Wilson, Danny Tartabull, Hal McRae, Bret Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, Jeff MontgomeryGreg HollandWade Davis, Dick HowserNed YostWhitey Herzog, John Mayberry, Amos Otis, Mike Sweeney, Bo Jackson, Freddie Patek