With the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) not electing anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, I though it would be a good time to look at some possible former and current KC Royals players who could get enshrined in Cooperstown in the future. It is probably wishful thinking because it is highly doubtful I will see a Royals player inducted into the HOF in my lifetime.
Outfielder Johnny Damon. If and when he actually retires, the five year clock will start. That means that Damon could be on the 2018 ballot (at the earliest). There was a bit of a debate last year, but he still has not reached the “magical” 3,000 hit plateau (currently at 2,769 hits).
Damon has the playoff pedigree, as he won World Series titles with both Boston (2004) and the NY Yankees (2009).
If Damon were to not play again, he would be a career .284 hitter with 1,668 runs scored and 408 stolen bases. He has also hit 235 homeruns and driven in 1,139.
In his final season with the Royals (2000), he led the American League in runs scored (136) and stolen bases (46), and was second in the league in hits with 214. He was a two-time All-Star with the Red Sox (2002 and 2005). In 2002, Damon was the first player selected by fans in the inaugural All-Star Final Vote.
His best year was in 2004 when he hit .304 with 20 homeruns and 94 RBIs. He was also key to the Red Sox first World Series championship in 86 years.
Damon hit the DL for the first time in his career in July 2008 and at the time was one of only three active players to play at least ten years without heading to the DL.
Since his playing career with the Yankees came to an end following another championship in 2009, Damon has bounced around. He played with Detroit in 2010 and reached a few milestones: his 1,000th career RBI (fittingly against the Royals) and his 2,500th career hit against Baltimore. He moved on to Tampa Bay in 2011 and then Cleveland in 2012, where he was released in August and has not played since (besides for Thailand in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier).
I’m still hoping that if he officially retires, he will sign a one-day deal like Mike Sweeney did and retire as a Royal.
Many Royals fans wanted to see what could have been if Damon and fellow outfielder Carlos Beltran played more games together. Instead, they were separated before reaching their prime.
Beltran was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1999 and was named to his first All-Star team prior to being traded to Houston in 2004 (and then played as a member of the National League team). He is now a seven-time All-Star. From 2006-2008, he won three straight Gold Gloves with the NY Mets. While with the Mets, he was named to their 50th Anniversary team as the starting centerfielder.
Though he never made the postseason with the Royals, he did in his half a season with the Astros (when he hit a postseason record eight homeruns) and then again with the Mets and this past season with St. Louis. He has yet to be caught stealing in the postseason (11-for-11) and is baseball’s all-time leader in OPS (on-base plus slugging) during the postseason.
In 2011, Beltran hit his 300th homerun while playing for San Francisco against Mat Latos. He recorded his 300th stolen base to join the 300-300 club this past season. He is the first switch-hitter to join that club and only the eighth player overall. Oh and that stolen base came against the Royals. He picked up his 2,000th career hit a few weeks later.
Heading into the 2013 season (and his final season under contract with the Cardinals), Beltran is a career .282 hitter with 2,064 hits, 416 doubles, 334 homeruns, 1,243 RBIs, and 306 stolen bases. His career numbers would be a lot higher if he had stayed healthy.
Zack Greinke won his first and only CY Young Award in 2009 with the Royals. It was also the only year he has been selected as an All-Star. He is with his third team since being traded following the 2010 season. Over a year-and-a-half with Milwaukee, he did not lose a home game at Miller Park.
His career number aren’t eye-popping, but if he were to have more seasons like that of 2009 for the next few years, his numbers will get much better. Greinke is currently 91-78 with a 3.77 ERA and 1,332 strikeouts in his career heading into his first season with the LA Dodgers. If he can stay healthy (both mentally and physically), he could become the superstar he is paid to be.
Billy Butler may be the only current Royal to get consideration for the HOF when his career is over. But since slugger Edgar Martinez has been criticized for being a full-time DH and has yet to be inducted, Butler may never do enough.
Heading into the 2013 season, Butler is a career .300 hitter with 956 hits, 480 RBIs, and 103 homeruns. He made his first All-Star team in 2012 and also earned his first Silver Slugger Award.
Despite the fact that Butler is a very good contact hitter, he has just begun to hit for power. Plus, he has not been a very good clutch hitter yet and has not played on a good team. However, he will not turn 27 until after Opening Day and is just hitting his prime. Butler could be a scary good hitter for years to come and hopefully Royals fans will get the chance to fully experience it.
Am I missing anyone?