Let’s break down the former KC Royals who will be seeing at least a second time on the ballot.
Johnny Damon (Third ballot appearance)
Johnny Damon was a Royals first-round pick in 1992 and played for the Royals from 1995-2000. Votes for Damon have increased since the first time he was on the ballot in 2017 (25%) and in 2019 (36%)
- Reasons For: As a Royal, he led the American League in scoring 136 runs and 46 stolen bases during the 2000 season. He’s on the Royals All-Time Career list in four separate categories that include 47 triples (6th); batting average of .292 (7th); 156 stolen bases (9th); and 504 runs scored as a Royal (12th). At one point the mainstay in the Royals outfield played in 305 consecutive games and was the very first Royals player to score 100 or more runs three consecutive years from 1998-2000.
- Reasons Against: Not holding it against Damon, but he was on some pretty bad Royals teams. But there are indeed others who are already in the RHOF who were also part of some pretty lean Royals years. Even during those years of bad Royals baseball, Damon never represented the team in the All-Star Game. He made two All-Star games, but with other teams. Damon also was recently cited for a DUI which also might influence some voters’ decisions.
Yordano Ventura (Second ballot appearance)
Yordano “Ace” Ventura was drafted by the Royals in 2008 and played in four seasons from 2013-2016 before his tragic death on Jan. 22, 2017, at the young age of 25. Ventura received 14% of votes in 2019.
- Reasons For: Ace was a big part of both the 2014 AL Championship and the 2015 World Series Championship teams. He was 38-31 with an ERA of 3.89 in 94 games. He is tied for the most postseason starts as a Royal with Dennis Leonard (nine starts). Ventura is probably most remembered for his gutsy performance in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series that forced a winner-take-all Game 7. In that game, Ventura went seven shutout innings where the Royals won 10-0 against the Giants in one of the most memorable postseason pitching performances since the World Series Game 7 performance of Bret Saberhagen in 1985.
Profiled in Chapter 13 of Joel Goldberg’s Small Ball Big Results, Ace did “ruffle some feathers” and was the culprit for several brawls that took place while he was on the mound. But as a fan those are the things that made him special. Even though he caused frustration, he had a flare on the mound and was noted as being loved by his teammates.
- Reasons Against: Ventura’s tragic death robbed him of several more years that could have easily put him at the top of the list of best pitchers in Royals history. Fans never had the opportunity to get an entire season to see him meet his full potential. It can be debated that he could have garnered a Cy Young Award eventually, most likely as a Royal.
Ventura deserves a place in the RHOF, but it might not be a plaque just because we didn’t see enough of him, unfortunately.