With a week to go before the winter meetings, itâ€™s time to resume ranking the best seasons by batting order spot in Royalsâ€™ history. There are plenty of trade rumors, but Iâ€™m not going to worry about the Royals making a bad trade until it actually happens. That might be good advice for you, too. This week, weâ€™ll look at the cleanup spot. You can find the previous three rankings here, here and here.
Although I am painfully aware that the Royals have a mostly lousy offensive history (even the glory years were built on pitching, speed and defense), I was surprised to see how much they have struggled to find a consistent cleanup hitter for more than a few years. Since John Mayberry held the job for five straight years in the 1970s, no one has been the primary cleanup hitter for the Royals for more than two straight seasons. To me, it makes George Brettâ€™s career even more impressive, knowing that while he had talented hitters batting behind him, there was not really one main slugger there.
1. Danny Tartabull, 1991
515 PA, .320/.404/.610, 74 R, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 33 2B, 3 3B
Tartabull was an underrated player, I think. He gave the Royals five really good seasons (well, with the batâ€”he never was much of a fielder) before this 1991 season got him a huge raise from the Yankees. Yep, he went from $2.25 million in 1991 all the way to $5.3 million in 1992. That seems pretty funny now, doesnâ€™t it? Anyway, this is the second-highest OPS on the list, but I gave Tartabull a lot of credit for batting fourth in 120 games.Â Also, a Royal has led the league in slugging percentage only four times in history. Tartabull is the only Royal not named George Brett to accomplish the feat, and 1991 was the year he did it.
2. Jermaine Dye, 2000
678 PA, .320/.389/.560, 107 R, 33 HR, 118 RBI, 41 2B, 2 3B
Even by the offensive standards of the late 90s and early 2000s, this is a monster year. For the whole season, Dyeâ€™s OPS+ was 135. I donâ€™t take defense into account in these rankings, but of course Dye was a tremendous right fielder in his prime, and he won a Gold Glove in this season (remember, this was before they specifically gave Gold Gloves to each outfield spot; normally, three center fielders would take the awards each year). That a player this talented would only play 97 more games as a Royal and then be traded for Neifi Perezâ€¦well, it makes me want to punch a brick wall. Repeatedly.
3. John Mayberry, 1975
377 PA, .308/.416/.574, 49 R, 19 HR, 61 RBI, 24 2B, 1 3B
Big John celebrated my impending birth by terrorizing the American League in 1975 (yes, Iâ€™m old). He also spent a good chunk of time hitting third and fifth, but batting fourth was where he was most dangerous. I would also like to point out that Mayberry led the league in walks and OPS+. Probably just a coincidence he finished second in MVP voting, though.
4. Billy Butler, 2012
437 PA, .333/.396/.542, 51 R, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 26 2B, 1 3B
2012 was the year Billy was finally fully embraced by Royals fans, wasnâ€™t it? I donâ€™t care what anyone says, the booing Robinson Cano got at the Home Run Derby made me proud to be a Royals fan. It wasnâ€™t mean, it wasnâ€™t rude, it was a fanbase defending a favorite son the only way it could. And you know, Butler did finish 16th in the AL in home runs, one behind Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. So maybe it wouldnâ€™t have been that far-fetched to have him in the Derby.
5. Mike Sweeney, 2002
295 PA, .372/.434/.602, 45 R, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 24 2B, 0 3B
This is the highest OPS on the list, but I didnâ€™t put Sweeney higher because he spent less time as a cleanup hitter compared to the others on the list. This was before Sweeney became so injury-prone (although he did miss a month of the 2002 season). Â Rather, he spent almost as much time batting third as he did batting fourth. In true Sweeney fashion, he raked there, too. That man could hit.
Mike Sweeney, 1999
Danny Tartabull, 1987
Hal McRae, 1983
John Mayberry, 1973
Al Cowens, 1977
And one that stunkâ€¦
Mike Jacobs, 2009
254 PA, .210/.283/.293, 23 R, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 5 2B, 1 3B
Ugh. I donâ€™t know which is more disgusting, the on-base percentage or the slugging percentage. Or the trade of a useful relief pitcher to bring Jacobs to town. Or the large chaw of tobacco lodged in Jacobsâ€™ cheek. To be fair, I donâ€™t remember the plan being to have Jacobs bat cleanup so much, but Jose Guillen missed half the season with injuries. Then again, how much of an improvement would that have been?