09 March 2007

Royal legacy #21 -- the 1995 Royals (70-74)

Ah, yes, the team that started all the losing. The '94 strike, combined with the 1993 death of owner Ewing Kauffman, left the team with no rudder in a changing sea as a board of directors and GM Herk Robinson couldn't do much to keep the ship afloat. '95 was the year of Bob Boone, Cone trade #2 and a Cleveland team that roared through the AL Central, including an 11-1 record vs. KC. The problem was a sadsack offense that didn't finish higher than 10th in the AL any team category other than triples (third), steals (second) and caught stealing (second). The team batting average of .260 was 12th, the OBP of .325 was 13th and the SLG of .396 was 14th. The Royals hit a league-low 114 HR and scored a league-low 629 runs. Some decent pitching couldn't change the team's fate as the staff ERA of 4.49 was fourth in the AL, the staff combined for an AL-best 10 shutouts and allowed only 142 HR (third in the AL) and 692 runs (fourth). Power pitching was in short supply, however, as the team's 763 strikeouts were 12th in the league.

The biggest transactions for the team coming into the unknown of '95, when spring training opened with replacement players before the players and owners finally wised up and ended the work stoppage, included the trade of Brian McRae to the Cubs for little return, and, the next day in April '95, the trade of '94 Cy Young winner P David Cone to the Blue Jays for pennies on the dollar. OF Chris Stynes was the be
st player KC got in the deal and he didn't get more than 130 ABs in two seasons before getting shipped out in another Herk deal. Veteran C Pat Borders was brought in, as was P Tom Browning, but Borders didn't last the season before getting flipped to Houston and Browning pitched 10 innings in '95. The draft wasn't a total disaster as KC got OF Carlos Beltran in round 2 and flash-in-the-pan OF Mark Quinn in round 11 but missed out on C Michael Barrett, P Joe Nathan and P A.J. Burnett. Herk made a flurry of trades in August and September but didn't reap or give up much in any of the deals. One brought in has-been IF Juan Samuel, who finished out the year with KC before moving on near the end of his career. Defections began after the season as Tom Gordon, Gary Gaetti and Greg Gagne all moved on in free agency and their replacements couldn't provide the same punch in '96.

Gaetti was the difference maker in the KC lineup in '95 as he hit .261 with an .847 OPS, 35 HR (second in franchise history for a season) and 96 RBI. 1B Wally Joyner was also no slouch as he hit .310 with an .841 OPS, 12 HR and 83 RBI while playing good D at first. It would be his last season with KC as he was included in the Bip Roberts deal. Rookie rule V pick OF Jon Nunnally made a splash with an .829 OPS in 119 games to finish in the top 10 of RoY voting, and free-agent signing IF Keith Lockhart hit .321 with an .833 OPS in 94 games. His biggest contribution to KC would be as part of the trade that brought Jermaine Dye to town. OF Vince Coleman was also adequate with a .747 OPS and 26 steals in 75 games. Rookie Johnny Damon also debuted with 47 games of a .282
BA and .765 OPS. The biggest disappointment offensively was easily DH Bob Hamelin, who followed up a Rookie of the Year in '94 by hitting .168 with a .590 OPS in 72 games. Chris James and Joe Vitiello provided pop off the bench with OPS numbers of .839 and .763 but didn't get much help from guys like David Howard (.635 OPS in 95 games), Phil Hiatt (.625 OPS in 52 games) or Edgar Caceres (.641 OPS in 55 games). Rookie Joe Randa also had a rough debut with a .171 BA and .480 OPS in 34 games.

P Mark Gubicza had his last good season to pace the starting rotation with a 3.75 ERA and 213 IP along with a 12-14 record that included 2 shutouts. P Kevin Appier kept plugging away with a 15-10 record, 3.89 ERA and 185 Ks in 201 IP while P Chris Haney made 13 starts and compiled a 3.65 ERA in 81 IP. Gordon was slightly better than mediocre at 12-12 with a 4.43 ERA and 119 Ks in 189 IP. Meanwhile, Jason Jacome, Dilson Torres, Melvin Bunch, Scott Anderson and Doug Linton combined for 27 starts with plus-5 ERAs. Closer Jeff Montgomery was the main man out of the pen with 31 saves and a 3.43 ERA in 65 IP. RPs Hipolito Pichardo and Mike Magnante were also OK with ERAs of 4.36 and 4.23 in a combined 108 IP. RP Billy Brewer came off two solid years of small sample-size but effective relief to washout with a 5.56 ERA in 45 IP, and RP Rusty Meacham was also somewhat shaky with a 4.98 ERA in 59 IP. RP Gregg Olson was brought in mid-season and did well in posting a 3.26 E
RA in 20 games and 30 IP while P Dave Fleming also came in and was solid with a 3.66 ERA in 5 starts and 9 games total with 32 IP.

The team, although mediocre, was somewhat consistent in matching 35-37 home and road records. Going into June the team was 5 1/2 games behind the Indians and, even after a 15-10 June, the team sank to 9 games out of first as the Cleveland team was the buzzsaw of the AL. A July swoon dropped the team back to double digits in games back and a 12-17 September record cemented the team's also-ran status. When the dust settled the Royals were 30 games back of Cleveland but 2 games up on Chicago for second in the AL Central. All in all, Bob Boone's first season as Royals manager went decently as he guided the team to a record that was 4 games better than expected via pythagorean W-L, although the strike helped dip attendance to 1.23 million on the season. Boone's tenure would be short as his missteps combined with transaction blunders and an inability to adjust with MLB's economic times would sink the franchise into a hole it is still trying to get out of.

1995 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Gary Gaetti. Not the prettiest guy but a consistent player and a true leader.

1995 Pipeline Royals LVP -- Gotta go with The Hammer, Bob Hamelin. He couldn't quite reclaim that rookie-year magic. Followed in the footsteps of McRae as another born DH.

Yikes, I need to find better pictures for these two.

Here's the '95 Royals.

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