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While the KC Royals may not be plentiful in the MLB Hall of Fame, one prior players says that if he got the chance, he would wear a Royals hat into history.
When thinking of past KC Royals players, there are likely many names that come to mind. George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, and Mike Sweeney, might be a few, along with many others. Another name that may come up, though not as much, is Johnny Damon.

While Damon might not be many fans first thought for a prior Royal, the fact remains that he was a Royal from the start. Kansas City drafted Damon in round 1 of the 1992 MLB Amateur Draft from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida.

Damon spent a few years making his way through the Royals minor league system, and during the 1995 season, made the jump from AA ball to the majors, never looking back.

Damon found success with the Royals, putting up stats that may not have put him in the front of the MVP race, but were enough to keep him on the field as a productive player for multiple years.

Damon spent the first portion of his career in Kansas City, playing with the Royals until 2000 where he saw one of his best seasons. Damon led the league in runs (136) and stolen bases (46), while batting .327, his highest BA during his time with the Royals, allowing him to finish 19th in the MVP race.

In January of 2001, Damon saw his time with the Royals come to an end when he was traded with Mark Ellis to the Oakland A’s as part of a multi team trade. From here, Damon saw his career take him through many teams, including the A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Rays, and Indians.

Not long after leaving the Royals, Damon saw 2 All-Star games (2002 and 2005), finished with MVP votes in three more seasons (2004-2006), and won 2 World Series with Boston (2004) and New York (2009). Johnny Damon finished up his career after being released by the Indians in August of 2012.

In 2018, Damon was on the ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately was not named on 5% of ballots and was removed from the ballot for future elections.

Recently, though, Damon discussed his career and the Hall of Fame voting in a recent interview over at Radio.com/610 sports radio. Though he wasn’t a Royal for his entire career, he made an interesting comment regarding if he ever made it into the Hall of Fame.

People ask me and I tell them that I’d like to wear the Kansas City Royals hat. It was my team, unfortunately I didn’t win a championship with them but I always wanted to come back, always wanted to put that Royals jersey back on but they had their young guys coming up and I was just getting older, they ended up doing a fantastic job.

Damon didn’t finish his career in Kansas City, but it is where he got his start. While some of his best days came with other teams, Damon always felt that the Royals were his team, and still remains a Royals to this day.

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After the acquisition of Andrew Benintendi last week, the Royals’ starting lineup is all but completed. However, it is possible General Manager Dayton Moore is still looking to add an impact reliever to the bullpen. If the Royals want to double down on their “win now” mentality, here are four names that could bolster the pitching staff.

Trevor Rosenthal
The hard-throwing right-hander is not only the best closer on the market, you could make a case that he’s the best pitcher available. Rosenthal dominated in 2020 with both Kansas City and San Diego — posting a 1.90 ERA with 11 saves. He was a perfect 7-for-7 with the Royals in save opportunities.

If the Royals can reach a deal with Rosenthal, they would add one of the top closers in baseball to a pitching staff that ranked sixth in the American League last season. The question is, does Kansas City think it’s necessary to put them over the top?

As things stand, the Royals’ closer will be Greg Holland with Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow setting him up. Holland returned to form last year — nailing down all six of his save opportunities and he recorded 13-straight scoreless outings to close out the season. On paper, the Royals have a reliable closer on a cheap one-year contract. On the other hand, Holland just turned 35 and doesn’t pump out the same velocity he used to. That didn’t hurt him in 2020, but can he do it over the course of 162 games?

Jeremy Jeffress
If you’re struggling to remember the name, this will help you out — Jeffress was part of the Zack Greinke trade. The right-hander was acquired by the Royals in 2010 in a deal that sent Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and Jake Odorizzi. Jeffress never panned out for Kansas City, as he pitched just 28 2⁄3 innings with the Royals over two years.

In 2018, Jeffress was back with the Brewers and became one of the most electric relievers in the National League. In the midst of a pennant race, Jeffress logged a 1.29 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 76 2⁄3 innings. He also became an All-Star for the first time in his career. The right-hander slumped in 2019, but bounced back with the Cubs in 2020 — collecting eight saves with a 1.54 ERA.

Jeffress is a few years older than Rosenthal, but would be cheaper on a one or two-year deal.

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Holland’s case may be even stronger than Soria’s. He will continue to add to these numbers in 2021. This season Holland can close the gap between himself and Monty and Quis, or perhaps the wheels fall off and he’s DFA’d in July. Regardless, the six full seasons and one covid season he has had with the Royals have been superb, with an ERA under 2 in three of those seasons. This one is too early to call.

I would love to make a section here for Wade Davis but having played only 4 seasons for the team I don’t think he really has a case. Regardless, 2014-2016 Wade Davis was one of the most dominating runs by a reliever ever seen in the sport.

Salvador Perez, C: 9 seasons, 18.1 WAR, 99 wRC+, 6x All-Star, 5x gold glove, 3x silver slugger, World Series MVP (2015), Royals lifer (so far)

Statistically, Perez has an interesting case. A 99 wRC+ is not exceptional overall, but league average offensive production is more than can be asked from most catchers. Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs disagree strongly on his value, as B-R credits him with 24.2 career WAR, while Fangraphs gives Perez just 11.9 WAR. Frankly, though, I do not believe these stats are particularly relevant to his case. Perez is a beloved player that could be argued as the face of the franchise. He has tenure and he has the hardware. I think Perez has a strong case to be the first catcher inducted in the Royals Hall of Fame.

Danny Duffy, SP: 10 seasons, 16.2 WAR, 94 ERA-, Royals lifer (so far)

Duffy may be best known for bear-related garments and “Bury me a Royal,” but he is also currently the longest-tenured player on the roster (he and Perez debuted in 2011 but Perez missed all of 2019 with injury). Duffy has never received MVP or Cy Young votes, nor has he ever made an All-Star team. Aside from 2014-2017 – a stretch in which Duffy started between 24 and 26 games each season with a stellar 83 ERA- – Duffy has had pedestrian numbers for his career. His off-field issues may hamper his case as well. He may have a shot at the Hall in the mold of Leonard or Split by spending his entire career with the team, but I wouldn’t consider it likely.

Lorenzo Cain, OF: 7 seasons, 22.4 WAR, 107 wRC+, 1x All-Star, ALCS MVP (2014)

Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas each played 7 seasons for the Royals (well ok, 7.5 for Moustakas). The only position player in the Hall with a shorter tenure was John Mayberry, and he averaged over 3 WAR per season with well above average offensive numbers. Hosmer may have the hardware, and Moustakas the short-lived team home run record, but I will only make an argument for Cain as his production was easily the best of the three. With his bat-to-ball skills, speed, and defense in center field, Cain was one of the American League’s premier centerfielders and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2015. He accrued 22.4 WAR despite playing in more than 100 games in only five out of his seven seasons with the team and more than 130 games just three times. Had he stayed healthy these numbers could be even more impressive, and perhaps he would not have been repeatedly snubbed for gold gloves. I don’t believe Cain’s chances are exceptional, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eventually inducted.

To the six people that read this, what are your thoughts? Which of these players will eventually see the Hall? Is there anybody with a strong case that I missed? Why do you believe Frank Schwindel, Dusty Coleman, and Aaron Brooks should be inducted? Share your thoughts in the comments!