Year Inducted: 1999 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 488/497)
Kansas City has had a long baseball history. In the 1800’s, it was a hotbed for semi-pro teams, and then had one of the greatest Negro League teams of all-time, the Kansas City Monarchs. When the Philadelphia Athletics moved, they relocated to Kansas City as one of the furthest west teams in the game. In the 1960’s, the A’s relocated again to Oakland, leaving a city with a rich history without a team for the first time in nearly a century. Then, in 1969, the Kauffman family successfully petitioned the league to expand into Kansas City once again, and the Royals were born. So, to say that Kansas City doesn’t have many Hall of Famers isn’t really insulting, since they haven’t had their own franchise for very long. In fact, KC has only one Major League player wearing their insignia in the Hall. That would be the greatest player the Royals have ever had, George Brett.
Brett played his entire career in Kansas City, all 21 seasons of it. In that time, Brett slashed .305/.369/.487 with a wRC+ of 137. Brett was the best American League third baseman of all-time, and can only realistically be topped by Mike Schmidt. In his career, Brett collected 3154 hits, including 317 homers, 665 doubles and 137 triples. With Brett in the lineup, along with Bret Saberhagen in the rotation the Royals had their longest period of sustained success in their history. From the mid 70’s until the mid 80’s, the Royals went to two World Series and made the playoffs another five times in addition to winning the World Series in 1985. Brett’s 1596 RBI and 1583 runs scored keyed the most successful run of baseball Kansas City had ever seen.
In addition to his strong bat, Brett was a solid baserunner. While he was only +1.2 runs above average as a baserunner, he did manage to steal 201 bases in his career. In his prime, Brett was a good defender at the hot corner, but as age set in he began to decline to the point where he was 10.2 runs below average defensively overall. He also spent a lot of time towards the latter third of his career at first base and DH, which affect his overall defense rating as they are easier positions to play than third base. Despite the low defense rating, Brett was one of the best players of all-time.
Brett retired in 1993 and among all third basemen ever, he ranked 1st in RBI, 1st in runs, 1st in doubles, 6th in homers and 3rd in fWAR (behind Schmidt and Eddie Mathews). He also is still the only player to win a batting title in three different decades, doing so in 1976, 1980 and 1990. And, despite not having the power of Mathews, he ranks higher due to his better on-base abilities and being able to play slightly longer than Mathews did. Brett was one of the easiest selections ever for the BBWAA, and will always be looked at as not only one of the best third basemen ever, but the best Royal of all-time.
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On deck 12/9/16:
#23- This legendary second baseman had a team named for him.
#22- The Mechanical Man