Sweeney tops Flanny’s ballot for Royals Hall of Fame
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For close to 20 years, I have been voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Royals Hall of Fame.
And while it has always been a great honor to have a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there is something very special about voting for the Royals Hall of Fame as well.
It is simply more personal.
Of all the Baseball Hall of Famers I have voted for, I really knew only one personally — George Brett, whom I began covering in 1991 and who was kind enough to show the ropes to a rookie ball writer back then.
The others were simply players I covered in opposing clubhouses, chatted with before and after games, but never really got to know.
It is different voting for candidates for the Royals Hall of Fame. These have been players I have known for years.
Of course, as a voter, one must remove personal sentiments toward any player when casting a ballot. Induction must be based simply on a player’s career performance as a Royal.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a sense of contentment afterward when the votes are tabulated and players I voted for get into the Royals Hall. It was that way for me when Dan Quisenberry was voted in, as it was when Willie Wilson, Jeff Montgomery, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier and Mark Gubicza earned induction.
And the guess here is that the same contentment will surface this time around regarding Mike Sweeney, who is eligible for the first time this year and who topped my ballot.
Sweeney has all the necessary statistical achievements. As a bonus, he was a true Royal who cared about the Kansas City community and was a pleasure to cover.
As for Sweeney’s stats, check them out:
— Second all-time in franchise history in batting average at .299
— Second all-time in home runs with 197
— Second all-time in slugging percentage at .492
— Fifth all-time in doubles with 297
— Fifth all-time in RBIs with 837
— Sixth all-time in on-base percentage at .369
— Sixth all-time in hits with 1,398
In his prime, Sweeney was a major offensive weapon in the American League. His 144 RBIs in 2000 is a Royals single-season record that may never be broken.
During a four-year stretch starting in 1999, Sweeney hit 104 homers, drove in 431 runs, averaged .324 and posted a .931 on-base plus slugging percentage.
And Sweeney was solid for longer than that. Over a seven-year stretch starting in 1999, he averaged .313, 23 homers and 97 RBIs per season.
A deserving candidate, to say the least.
Now, I know there will be some questions, as there always are, about Bo Jackson. This is Bo’s third year on the ballot. He got 12.5 percent of the vote his first year and 32.5 percent last year (75 percent required).
As thrilling as it was to watch Bo play — and at times he was beyond spectacular — his Royals career numbers simply don’t measure up. He isn’t in the Royals’ top 25 all-time in average, hits, doubles, triples, runs scored, total bases or on-base percentage.
One can make a better case to vote for Kevin Seitzer, which I did, because Seitzer at least is the Royals’ all-time leader in on-base percentage (.380) and is fourth in career average (.294), 16th in hits (809) and 15th in runs scored (408). He also tied for the league lead in hits in 1987 (207) and is one of only three Royals ever to have a six-hit game.
Granted, it is not a compelling case by any means, and there really should be no illusions about either Bo or Seitzer, also in his third year on the ballot, getting in.
Sweeney, on the other hand, should be a slam dunk.
Aside from Sweeney, the other first-time eligible candidates were Gil Meche, Angel Berroa and Brian Bannister.