21 March 2007

Royal legacy #17 -- the 1993 Royals (84-78)

Two things make 1993 stand apart unique from other Royals seasons, and neither are really good things. #1 -- owner Ewing Kauffman died after a bout with bone cancer. This was the most important change as Kauffman's death would leave the team in the hands of a seemingly adrift board of directors chaired by David Glass, who would go on to take over the team and help run it into the ground. Basically the stable backbone that had kept the team's winning tradition intact since 1975 passed away. If you don't have the right people in the right places when that happens, it makes it tough to rebound. The Royals didn't. #2 -- Hal McRae's classic office rant. Set off by a question about George Brett in a game situation. As Ron Burgundy would say, "Boy, that escalated quickly." My personal favorite lines are "You think I'm a G**damn fool?" and, of course, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it." Perhaps a little known fact is the guy that got hit with the phone or whatever and whose face is bleeding at the end of the video -- that guy is Alan Eskew, who now writes for the team website. He was writing for the Topeka paper at the time of the rant, I believe. Ah, memories. The funniest thing was it wasn't like it was a late August game -- the rant happened in April. You'd think Hal would have wanted to build up to that point over a season, not a month. 1993 also marked George Brett's farewell tour of the league and the last year of the AL West, so it was the end of an era both in KC and the American League with Brett's retirement and the '94 realignment.

Hitting was not a strength of the '93 squad. The team BA of .263 was 10th in the AL and the .316 OBP was last in the AL, as was the 675 runs scored and 428 walks drawn. Team slugging was only a little better at .397 (ninth in the AL) but the team was third in doubles at 294 and fifth in triples with 35. Kauffman Stadium (as named mid-season before the owner's death) was again unkind to the longball as the team's 125 homer total was 10th in the AL. Free swingers like Brian McRae (105 Ks), Felix Jose (95 Ks), Greg Gagne (93 Ks) and touted rookie never-was 3B Phil Hiatt (82 Ks) helped the team post a fourth-worst 936 Ks in '93 as well. The pitching staff was a different story as great seasons from Kevin Appier, David Cone and Jeff Montgomery helped the team post a 4.04 ERA that was third in the AL. The staff allowed a league-low 1,379 hits and 105 HR while keeping the anemic offense alive in games by allowing only 694 runs (second in the AL). The pitchers weren't as stingy with walks as their total of 571 was ninth in the AL but they posted 985 Ks for fourth in the league.

Coming off a 90-loss season in Hal McRae's first full season as manager again gave low expectations heading into '93 but GM Herk Robinson made some nice moves following the '92 campaign. He let OF Jeff Conine go to Florida in the expansion draft but improved the defense (if not the offense by much) at 2B with a trad
e for Jose "Chico" Lind, who was coming off an NL Gold Glove season in '92. He also got some good production out of rule V pick RP Billy Brewer for two years of 30 some-odd IP seasons before the league caught on and he started getting shelled -- by then he was out of town anyway. The big get came on December 8, 1992, when hometown boy Cone signed with KC after being traded away in '87 and making his name with the Mets. Gagne signed on the same day and, if nothing else, provided solid D at short for two seasons. Felix Jose came along in February '93 in a deal that sent Gregg Jefferies to St. Louis. The deal looked like a challenge deal for both sides and Jefferies paid off for St. Louis in '93 while Jose would do more in '94 for KC before moving on in '95. In April, Herk sold SP Mike Boddicker to Milwaukee, and the June draft reaped KC not much, as 17th rounder Glendon Rusch is considered by most to be the organization's best pick of the draft. 31st rounder Jacque Jones was likely their best pick but the Royals were unable to get him signed. First rounder P Jeff Granger went fifth, ahead of P Billy Wagner, P Chris Carpenter, 1B Derrek Lee, and OF Torii Hunter and, needless to say, didn't pan out. The Gagne and Cone signings cost the team its second and third-rounders. The other big miss of that draft was OF Jermaine Dye, who went to Atlanta in round 17, but he would eventually make his way to KC anyway. 3B Gary Gaetti came along and was shrewdly picked up by Herk in June as he went on to post three solid seasons in KC. I'm beginning to think someone else was controlling Herk's mind in '93 with these moves that turned out well -- the draft aside. At the end of July, with the team in second, he sent minors P Jon Lieber and RP Dan Miceli to the Pirates for RP Stan Belinda in a move that worked out somewhat well for Pittsburgh.

As with other solid Royals teams, the offense was a team effort with a couple of guys sticking out more than the rest. C Mike Macfarlane led the pack with an .857 OPS while hitting .273 with a team-best 20 HR and a then-team-record 16 HBP. Supplementing this was 1B Wally Joyner, who led regulars with a .292 B
A and posted an .842 OPS, 36 doubles, and 15 HR. Gaetti paid dividends for the league minimum by hitting for a .786 OPS with 14 HR in 82 games. After that was a cadre of solid performances led by George Brett's .266 BA and .746 OPS, 19 HR, 31 doubles and team-high 75 RBI in the final season of his HOF career. OF Kevin McReynolds hit for a .741 OPS while splitting time with Chris Gwynn in LF. Gwynn chipped in nicely with a .300 BA and .741 OPS in 103 games. Brian McRae whiffed often but did provide solid D in center while hitting .282 with a .738 OPS, including 28 doubles, 9 triples and 12 HR. Gagne also supplemented his D with a .280 BA, .725 OPS and 32 doubles at the plate. Lind, on the other hand, played great D at second but also hit for a .559 OPS to provide nothing at the plate. Felix Jose also didn't live up to his potential as he hit .253 with a .652 OPS in 149 games. The bench was shallow, to say the least, after Gwynn. Hiatt's inability to hit (.651 OPS) was what brought Gaetti into the picture at third, aging OF Hubie Brooks hit for a .706 OPS in 168 AB, C Brent Mayne hit for a .654 OPS while giving Macfarlane a break and no one else really made a name for themselves. Keith Miller, Rico Rossy and Harvey Pulliam all saw time at the plate for KC and didn't do much, and even '94 surprise RoY Bob Hamelin didn't impress in his limited time in '93.

Pitching was a different story in KC as Kevin Appier posted a second consecutive great season. Ape went 18-8 with a 2.56 ERA (fourth all-time in KC's season books), a 1.10 WHIP (eighth all-time for KC) and an
adjusted ERA+ of 178, which equals Saberhagen's '89 mark for the best in KC history. Appier also whiffed 186 batters in his 34 starts and 238 IP. With the stellar Cone behind him, the duo was one of the best in the league, even with Cone's control problems. Cone went 11-14 with a 3.33 ERA, 114 walks, 191 Ks and 14 wild pitches in 34 starts and 254 IP. He and Appier combined for 11 complete games. Hipolito Pichardo had a second straight solid year to start his career and proved a good third starter with a 4.04 ERA, 7-8 record and 2 complete games in 30 games (25 starts) and 165 IP. Flash Gordon proved effective both in the rotation and the pen as he posted a 3.58 ERA and 12-6 record with 143 Ks in 48 games (14 starts) and 155 IP. The other two main starters -- Chris Haney and Mark Gardner -- weren't pretty as they combined for 39 starts and had ERAs of 6.02 and 6.19 with a combined 13-15 record. The bullpen was solid behind closer Jeff Montgomery's landmark season that earned him his only Rolaids Relief Man award. Monty went 7-5 with 45 saves and a 2.27 ERA along with a 1.00 WHIP in 69 games and 87 IP. His save total tied Dan Quisenberry's team record set in '83. Brewer, as previously mentioned, was good in limited action with a 3.46 ERA in 39 IP; Mark Gubicza worked mostly out of the pen and posted a 4.66 ERA and 2 saves in 49 games (104 IP). Belinda also came on to post a 4.28 ERA with 25 K in 27 IP. The two other most solid pitchers were Mike Magnante with a 4.08 ERA in 35 IP and Greg Cadaret with a 2.93 ERA in 15 IP.

The Royals were winners at home and on the road in '93 as they posted a 43-38 record in KC and 41-40 record on the road. The team staggered out of the gate to a 5-game season-opening losing streak and finished April 9-14 and 6 games out of first. The team rebounded to go 16-9 in May and cut the deficit to 2 games back before starting June with a 5-game win streak. The momentum didn't last as the Royals went 13-15 in June but kept within 1 1/2 games of the AL West lead. The Royals were a game back at the all-star break and rat
tled off 16-12 and 15-14 records in July and August. The Chicago White Sox were hot, though, and KC couldn't break through. A 4-game winning streak in mid-August kept KC within 3 1/3 games and a second August 4-game surge cut the deficit to 2 games on August 19. By the end of the month, the steady Sox had upped the lead to 6 games over KC as the Royals slipped to third place behind Texas. A comeback wasn't in the cards as the Royals treaded water at 13-13 in September and finished the month 9 1/2 games out, in third place. The final deficit was 10 games as the White Sox earned the last AL West title. Hal McRae guided the team to a record 5 games better than expected via pythagorean W-L, had the team over .500 in both halves of the season, went 38-32 in 1-run games, and saw 1.93 million fans come to Kauffman in a mark that was 13th in the 14-team AL. As active as the hot stove season was heading into '93 for KC, Herk didn't do much heading out of the season. His biggest moves were the resigning of Gaetti and the addition of OF Vince Coleman and OF Tom Goodwin. Like I said, not much. But McRae would have the team doing even better than '93 when the strike combined with baseball's changing economics and the rudderless organization would change the face of the franchise for 13 years and counting.

1993 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Kevin Appier. Truly one of the franchise's pitching greats.

1993 Pipeline Royals LVP -- Keith Miller. Made $1.09 million to hit .167 with a .194 SLG and .423 OPS in 37 games.

No comments: