This guy was a Royal?
The Major League Baseball active roster is only 26 players, and it used to be only 25 players. However, the regular season is long and grueling. Most baseball teams use somewhere in the realm of 40-50 different players over the course of 162 games. That’s a lot of guys, and not all of them are big contributors. As a result, in every team, there are always a few guys who come and go without much fanfare and who are quickly forgotten about.
This is especially true for the Royals, who have only had four winning seasons in the last quarter century. An awful lot of random dudes have come and gone during that time, and remembering some of these guys is a true nostalgic joy.
So, here’s what we’ll do: covering the entire Dayton Moore era, we’ll pick out one forgotten Royal from each season. The criteria we’ll use revolves around the idea that reading each player’s name below should conjure an exclamation of “wait, he played in Kansas City?” or “who on earth is that?” or “I totally forgot about him!” or “oh yeah, that guy!”
To maximize the chance of provoking those responses, most of these players only played for the Royals for one season. We’re also excluding players who came up through the Royals farm system, because even if they only played for one season in the big leagues, they’re by definition far more well known. Finally, we’re not looking at players who are infamous, disqualifying the Yuniesky Betancourts of the world who were so bad as to stick in our head as an example of what not to do on the diamond.
2020: Matt Harvey
Royals fans know Harvey as the guy who was absolutely dealing in the fifth game of the 2015 World Series until he suddenly wasn’t, which allowed Kansas City to scrape together the game-tying run and eventually come home with the trophy. That the Royals employed Harvey as fodder in the pandemic shortened 2020 is just cruel. Ten years from now, people will be going “wait, when did Matt Havey play for the Royals?”
2019: Homer Bailey
The previous year’s version of Harvey, Bailey was actually pretty good for the Royals. The former Cincinnati Red had stunk since essentially inking his expensive long-term contract, but the Royals scooped him up, paid him the league minimum, and managed to trade him at the deadline.
2018: Rosell Herrera
For about a month, people wondered if Herrera was a secret find for the Royals, who picked him up from the Reds. From July 2 through August 1, Herrera slashed .306/.367/.417 in 79 plate appearances while playing three different positions. But he was available for a reason, and that reason was that he was not good, and the Royals cut him at the end of the year. But man, it was fun to think that the Royals might have picked up a contributor there for a second.
2017: Melky Cabrera
This is cheating a little bit, because Cabrera is a well-known name who was really good for the Royals in 2011. But, apparently, Melky also played 58 games for the 2017 Royals? This I remember absolutely nothing of, nothing whatsoever, despite it being not very long ago and the Royals being not awful in 2017.
2016: Dillon Gee
In the pantheon of “this was certainly a guy,” Dillon Gee is a prominent figure. Gee pitched for the Mets for six seasons in about the blandest and most mediocre way possible, and then made his way over to Kansas City where he pitched 125 completely inconspicuous innings. He pitched one more year before he retired.
2015: Joba Chamberlain
It was very difficult to come up with one of these for the World Series Champions, so we’ll just go with a guy who got barely any playing time but, nevertheless, got themselves a World Series ring: Joba Chamberlain? Just really weird. I have no memory of him pitching once. Well, maybe I do, but I can’t hear it over the sound of Eric Hosmer dashing home.
2014: Josh Willingham
Make no mistake: Willingham was good, and was exactly what the Royals needed as they fought (and won) a Wild Card spot. His stop in Kansas City was the final one in an accomplished 11-year career which saw him get nearly 1000 walks, almost 200 strikeouts, and a hair over 550 walks. Willingham’s postseason contributions ended with the Wild Card Game, but even in that game he had a bit part that is usually overlooked.
2013: Jamey Carroll
Jamey Carroll’s career looked like some weird cross between Whit Merrifield and Nicky Lopez. Like Merrifield, he didn’t debut until his late-20s. Like Lopez, Carroll’s game revolved entirely around contact, limiting strikeouts, and playing solid defense. Of course, the main difference is that, by the time he played for the Royals, Carroll was a whopping 39 years old, and so did everything poorly. His wRC+ in 43 plate appearances with Kansas City was 2. Not a typo. Two.
2012: Humberto Quintero
Look, I mostly included Quintero there because his name is a mouthful, and that he would truly be one of the forgettable backup catchers but for the fact that he made fun of Bruce Chen with a racist gesture. Pro tip: racism “in good fun” is still racism. Carry on.
2011: Jeff Francis
Francis was not bad at all. But if you closed your eyes and imagined the most milquetoast finesse lefty possible, chances are you were picturing this guy. Francis managed to pitch 183 innings this year and nobody remembers any of them. Dude was a magician.
2010: Phillip Humber
The craziest thing in the world is the collection of pitchers who have pitched perfect games, of which Phillip Humber is one. Sure, there are a lot of great pitchers who have pitched them, but they get lots of chances to do so, increasing their odds. Humber is one of them, along with Dallas freaking Braden and Armando Galarraga (bite me, Jim Joyce).
2009: Ryan Freel
The Royals already had Willie Bloomquist. Why did they also get Ryan Freel? Who knows. Early Dayton Moore was definitely the crazy utility player guy.
2008: Hideo Nomo
There were a couple of very mediocre and very forgettable bullpen arms this year that could have filled this spot, including Brett Tomko, Kip Wells, and Jeff Fulchino. But when looking through the list of players on this team, I exclaimed aloud, “Hideo Nomo???” when I saw his name, so yeah, that’s certainly a strong enough response. Even though he only pitched 4.1 innings as a Royal, it’s wild to think that Nomo’s extremely successful 12-year MLB career ended on a failed comeback with Kansas City at age 39.
2007: Jason Smith
Back before every team in baseball opened their hearts to the usefulness of advanced statistics, you’d get a player like Smith every once in a while. Smith stunk, and yet, Smith played for eight teams as a utility infielder over parts of nine seasons until he was 31 years old. He accrued -0.9 fWAR during that time. I couldn’t remember this man’s face if I tried, and I tried.