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9. Cheaters Never Prosper
During baseball's Steroid Era, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa racked up gaudy home-run totals while Royals fans were left to wonder: Why can't our guys use drugs? The problem: They did — they just weren't talented. Federal agents raided the home of Jason Grimsley, a well-traveled Royals middle reliever, after a human-growth-hormone delivery. Neifi Perez failed three drug tests. Jose Guillen reportedly bought as much as $25,000 worth of HGH from 2002 to 2004, and the Royals — knowing the allegations — signed him anyway. Finally, failed Royals prospect Jeremy Giambi, brother of MVP Jason Giambi, admitted to anabolic steroid use. That's right: The Royals finally had a player with a chemical edge, and he wasn't even the best player using anabolic steroids in his own family.
8. Bret Saberhagen and Herk Robinson
In economics, "diminishing returns" is a concept that occurs when you add more but get back less. It's a concept that longtime Royals fans recognize, thanks to former GM Herk Robinson's trades. In 1991, Robinson traded Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen to the New York Mets for a package featuring Gregg Jefferies, seemingly a major prospect. Two years later, Herk traded a disappointing Jefferies for outfielder Felix Jose. After two underperforming seasons, Jose was released in 1995. Meanwhile, Saberhagen won 64 games and pitched for three playoff teams. Needless to say, Robinson never led the Royals to a playoff season.
7. The Big 36
On October 3, 1985, Steve Balboni clubbed his 36th home run, setting the Royals' single-season home-run record. Since then, more than 300 players have hit more than 36 home runs in a season — none of them Royals. Six players hit 36 or more home runs in 1994, and baseball didn't even play the season's last two months due to a players' strike. Since Balboni's homer, both Cecil Fielder and his son, Prince Fielder, have hit 36 home runs in a season. Barry Bonds, the all-time leader in home runs, hit every one of his 762 homers after Balboni set his record.
David Letterman once mockingly counted down the number of hits that career banjo hitter Buddy Biancalana needed in order to pass Pete Rose's all-time hit record. But Biancalana had the last laugh, outplaying future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith for seven games during the 1985 World Series. Since then, the performance of Royals shortstops has ranged from mediocre to stat-busting awfulness. Jose Offerman, for example, couldn't really field — a job requirement. David Howard, Angel Salazar, Tony Peña Jr. and Rey Sanchez couldn't hit. Neifi Perez, Angel Berroa and Yuniesky Betancourt couldn't, either. Jay Bell played well, took a good look around and fled for Arizona after one season. Worse, obtaining or retaining these awful shortstops cost us four future All-Stars (Jermaine Dye, Jeff Conine, Danny Jackson, Johnny Damon).
5. Sweeney Over Beltran
In the early 2000s, the Royals faced a decision: which of two players to sign to a lucrative long-term contract. The team chose God-fearing Wonder Bread slice Mike Sweeney over quiet Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran for, um ... marketing reasons? The Royals traded Beltran, who later appeared in four All-Star games and two postseasons. In 2007, the Royals gave away a Mike Sweeney "Action Pose" bobblehead, one of the few times that Royals fans got to see Sweeney in action. There is no truth to the rumor that when you touch the Sweeney bobblehead, the doll strains its back and is rendered useless.
4. The Davis Brothers
Before 1990, the team rarely threw money at the free-agent market, relying instead on its minor-league system. That all changed that year, when the team signed Storm Davis and Mark Davis, a 19-game winner and the National League's best pitcher, respectively. The Royals won only 75 games that season; Storm won only seven of those. Mark was worse. The Royals tried everything but an exorcist to revive Mark's career: tinkering with his delivery, trying the longtime reliever as a starter, even hiring his pitching coach from San Diego. Nothing worked, and Mark picked up 37 fewer saves as a Royal than he had the season before we acquired him.