15 February 2007

Royal legacy #31 -- the 1999 Royals (64-97)

Another trip back to the Tony Muser days brings the countdown to 1999, proving yet again the last decade has been loads of fun for Royals fans. Muser's expert managing hand guided the '99 Royals to a 64-97 record (.398 winning percentage, first time under .400 for KC, and 11 wins less than expected in pythagorean W-L, which determines the expected record using a formula involving runs scored and allowed) despite the team hitting .282 for 3rd in the AL and using speed to lead the league in triples and finishing third in steals. You might ask yourself, how can a team featuring an OF of Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Beltran with Mike Sweeney slugging .520 at 1B and Joe Randa having a career year of .314/.363/.473 at 3B lose 97 games? The answer is obvious. The team posted a league-worst 5.35 ERA, allowed 921 runs, struck out a league-low 831 batters, posted only 29 saves and was in the bottom of most other pitching categories. The main starters weren't the huge problem, but 9(!!) pitchers that threw more than 20 innings for the sadsack '99 Royals threw up a plus-6 ERA. Muser's wise mind let Dan Reichert, Chris Fussell and the immortal Jim Pittsley combine for 21 starts with final ERAs, respectively, of 9.08, 7.39 and 6.94. That goes beyond gas can pitching.

Going into the season, the Royals were coming off a bad but not horrible 72-89 record in '98. Randa was picked up from the Mets in a December '98 trade but the Royals and GM Herk Robinson also stupidly dealt off Jeff Conine in a trade for Fussell (don't think that worked out). In the '99 draft the Royals had four first round picks and used the first on P Kyle Snyder (passing up Barry Zito and Ben Sheets, Snyder now pitches badly for Boston), the second on Mike MacDougal (inconsistent RP with great stuff dealt in '06 to CWS), P Jay Gehrke (never went anywhere), and P Jimmy Gobble (who at least is still with the team and did OK at times in '06, altho Brian Roberts did go later in the round than even those last two). I won't stomach going into later picks (altho Hank Blalock, Nate Robertson and Coco Crisp could have all been Royals, to name three). In July the team finally cut ties with Kevin Appier by dealing him to Oakland for Ps Jeff D'Amico, Brad Rigby and Blake Stein (Appier went on to three more decent seasons -- D'Amico and Rigby were
horrible and Stein had a couple OK seasons). Randa was about it in terms of positive moves for Robinson for the '99 season. Despite the hitting of Randa (.836 OPS), Sweeney (.907 OPS), Dye (.880 OPS), Damon (.856 OPS) and Beltran (.791 OPS in his Rookie of the Year campaign), the team also spent $4 million on Jeff King only to see him limited to 21 games in his final season; got a .627 OPS out of starting C Chad Kreuter; watched trade pick-up SS Rey Sanchez slug .370; and had minimal help off the bench. C Sal Fasano posted an .890 OPS in 23 games and OF Mark Quinn slugged .733 in 17 games but that was it.

Meanwhile, SP Jose Rosado and RP Jose Santiago were the lone sub-4 ERAs among major contributors on the mound. Rosado went 10-14 with a 3.85 ERA in 208 IP, signed a lucrative deal after the season, promptly got hurt and never pitched again in the majors after 2000. Santiago posted a 3.42 ERA in 47 IP and did pay off later by being dealt for SP Paul Byrd in 2001. SPs Appier (pre trade), Stein (post trade) and Jeff Suppan were marginal as the team posted 11 complete games in the season but pre-season addition SP Jay Witasick posted a 5.57 ERA (before anyone figured out he wasn't starter material in 2001), Jeff Montgomery was pai
d $2.5 million to finish his career one season too late with a 6.84 ERA and RPs Scott Service and Matt Whisenant put up ERAs of 6.09 and 6.35 in a combined 115 IP. It's really fascinatingly bad to see the '99 Royals bullpen staff.

With all this going on, Muser guided the team to three single-digit win months, an 11-32 record in one-run games, and losing streaks of 9 and 6 games (twice). The team finished a half-game up on Minnesota for last in the AL Central to narrowly avert a third cellar finish in four years. Things would get better for one year in 2000 before getting worse for a couple seasons starting in 2001.

1999 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Let's give Jermaine Dye his due for a breakout season. He did lead the team in HR (27) and RBI (119) in 158 games played. It's also kind of hard to find a picture of him online in Royals uni, thanks to nabbing the '05 World Series MVP for the White Sox.

1999 Pipeline Royals LVP -- I hate to keep sticking GMs in here, but Herk Robinson (left in picture) needs to be noted. Not much worked out for him (or Muser) in '99.

The lowly '99 Royals.

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