14 February 2007

Royal legacy #32 -- the 1970 Royals (65-97)

While 1970 can arguably be called worse than 32nd all-time for the Royals, there's no denying that pieces began to fit together that year for the '70s Royals teams that were perennial contenders. The 1970 Royals finished the season 65-97 thanks to awful hitting numbers of a .244 team BA (9th in the AL), .308 team OBP (11th in the AL) and .348 team slugging % (last in the AL). For once on a bad Royals team, pitching wasn't the problem as the '70 Royals posted a 3.78 team ERA (middle of the pack in the AL). Charlie Metro managed the team through its first 52 games, long enough to oversee 7 and 6-game losing streaks before getting fired in favor of Bob Lemon, who would post a .487 winning percentage with KC through '72. Under Metro the team stumbled out of the gate to a 7-14 April and then went on to a 7-19 June, mostly under Lemon. Thanks to the awful offensive attack the team was shut out 14 times.

While the team stank on the field, GM Cedric Tallis was quietly putting the pieces in place for the future. The big deal actually happened in December '69 when Joe Foy was traded to the Mets for OF Amos Otis and P Bob Johnson. AO was a franchise standout through '83 while Johnson posted a team-low 3.07 ERA in '70 before being part of a post-season trade package that reaped IF Freddie Patek. Foy was out of the league by '72. That may be the best trade in franchise history. In June '70 the team picked up IF Cookie Rojas in a trade and Rojas would be a staple in the middle IF into the beginning of the glory years in the mid-to-late '70s. 2B Frank White was signed as an amateur free agent in July '70 and, after debuting in '73 would become the franchise's icon at the keystone. As noted, offensively there weren't many highlights for the '70 Royals. Otis hit .284 with a .777 OPS to lead the team, OF Lou Piniella led with a .301 BA and posted a .766 OPS, and 1B Bob Oliver posted a .760 OPS. 1B/OF Joe Keough came off the bench to hit .322 with an .839 OPS in 57 games but that was about it. Two regulars put up sub-.300 OBPs and four slugged under .36
0. Keough was the only help off the bench as the team hit a league-low 97 HR and scored a league-low 611 runs.

All that put some decent pitching to waste. Johnson went 8-13 in 214 IP despite his 3.07 ERA and four other starters (Dick Drago, Jim Rooker, Bill Butler and Dave Morehead) posted sub-4 ERAs and
went a combined 26-47. Two relievers posted sub-3.20 ERAs in more than 50 IP led by midseason trade addition Ted Abernathy's 2.59 ERA and 12 saves. Tom Burgmeier also had a nice season with a 3.16 ERA in 68 IP. Showing to be on the horizon were Ps Al Fitzmorris and Paul Splittorff, as Fitzmorris posted a 4.44 ERA in 117 IP and Splittorff hurled only 8 2/3 innings in his first MLB experience.

As the Royals were still a fledgling expansion team in '70, the fans knew no better, especially after the ugly days of the KC A's. They still knew stinky offense, tho, as attendance was only 693,000 in Municipal Stadium in '70, which was good for 11th in the AL. Things were starting to change for the better, however, as the team posted its first winning season in '71 and the real winning would begin in '75.

1970 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Let's give GM Cedric Tallis the nod here. No player really stood head-and-shoulders above the rest, so the guy that helped put the glory days teams together should get his due.

1970 Pipeline Royals LVP -- SS Jackie Hernandez. A line of .231/.281/.282 AND 17 errors at short? Yikes. At least he did help as part of the Patek/Bruce Dal Canton deal.

Here's to the 1970 Royals.

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