Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ Is this the start of another long successful run by the Kansas City Royals?
When the Royals made post-season play seven of 10 seasons, capped by the 1985 comeback wins over the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series — after being down 3-1 in each series.
“Back then the Royals could compete and keep their talent, they signed Frank White, Hal McRae, myself and others to long-term contracts,” said Brett from San Francisco Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve signed Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Sal Perez long term. Are we going be able to do keep Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer? Young pitchers like Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Danny Duffy?
“It depends what Mr. Glass wants to do.”
David Glass owns the Royals and sets the budget, while general manager Dayton Moore decides where and on whom to spend.
“I’ll tell you one area where this year’s team is a lot like the 1985 team. We were young, athletic and fast. This team is young, athletic and fast.”
The 40,446 at Kauffman Stadium for in Game 2 made it sound as noisy as Minneapolis old MetroDome, as the Royals scored five in the sixth for a 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants evening the best-of-seven, 110th World Series. It was noisy in Game 1 too … but for 19 pitches as the Giants had a 3-0 lead against James Shields.
Brett said that the stadium atmosphere is better now than then.
“Let’s see we lost in five to the Yankees in 1975 in the ALCS, lost in five games the next year to them and lost in four games in 1977 to New York,” said Brett as you get the impression he’s given this receital before. “Then we lost the 1980 World Series to Philadelphia, lost the division series the next year to Oakland and got beat by Detroit in 1984.
“So by the time we got to the 1985 World Series, well I don’t want to say post-season was old hat, but our fans had come to expect it.”
Kauffman Stadium has changed more than its name since 1985. Back then a green pasture, a lonely cow or two and a freeway were beyond the outfield fence. Since renovated there is an even larger scoreboard and outfield seats, so “you have crowd noise going out and coming in,” Brett says.
”To wait 29 years, fans craved this. It’s louder. It’s electric. Our town is more into this team,” said Brett, now 61. “The younger generation feels real close to the team due to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter — you know all the stuff I have no idea how to work.”
Brett cited the night the Royals rallied from a 7-3 deficit to beat the Oakland A’s in 12 innings when Hosmer tweeted he was at McFadden’s, a downtown pub, and drinks were on him for the first hour.
“I heard the bill was around $20,000, back in 1985 we probably had some guys making $50,000,” said Brett, who earned $1 million that year, after making his debut in 1973. This year the major-league minimum salary is over $500,000.
Brett watched Game 2 from a suite along with Jason Kendell and John Wathan, preferring a vantage point where he can watch live and then being able to watch TV replays.
A Hall of Famer once told me before Brett was elected to Cooperstown “he is best player I have ever seen. And you know what makes him so good? He wasn’t afraid that everybody in the park knew he was enjoying playing the game.”
Asked about the compliment, the Royals vice president, who made hustling cool the way Kirk Gibson later did, recalls the day he retired in 1993 when he said “no one had more fun on the field than I did — and no one had more fun off the field,”
“Know how you have fun on the field? You win games,” Brett said. “Sometimes when you are losing you have to force yourself to have fun.”
Before this thought line evolves into a which came first the chicken or the egg (fun vs. winning) it makes sense if you are having fun, you are relaxed. And you have a better chance of succeeding when you are relaxed. The game is not a winger whacking someone into the boards in anger, or a border-line rough play down field tackle … or Giants reliever Hunter Strickland angrily stomping off the mound screaming after giving up a homer … as he did in Game 2.
K.C. in the post season has been an ex-Royals reunion, excluding Steve Balboni, now an advance scout for the Giants. Brett and Charlie Leibrandt, who won Game 7 against the Jays in 1985, spent time together after Game 1 and former Cy Young award winner
Bret Saberhagen has been at each Royals October home game.
When Brett hooked up with Leibrandt was there any talk of the lefty’s 5 1/3 innings in relief of Saberhagen at Exhibition Stadium and the K.C. come back against the Jays?
“There might have been, but I had not seen Charlie since he left the Royals in 1989, hadn’t seen his kids since they were five or six. Now, they’re bigger than me, taller than (six-foot-3) Charlie.”
The Royals continue to stage a Fantasy camp each spring for those over the age of 45, the way the Blue Jays used to in Dunedin.
Lately, they have struggled with registration. This year when instructors were named each one was a 1985 Royal.
“Amazing how fast it sold out,” said Brett.
Brett said Steve Farr, who he hadn’t seen in 10-to-15 years would be there. Farr was the winner in relief in Game 3 when Brett had one of the best Series games ever seen: solo homer off Doyle Alexander in the first, double in the fourth, two-run game tying homer in the sixth and a single off Jim Clancy and scoring the winning run in the eighth. He also back handed a Lloyd
Moseby grounder behind the bag and from foul ground threw out Damo Garcia at the plate in the third.
Either 18 or 19 1985 Royals will be there, which Brett says is “the most we’ve ever had together since 1985.”
The Royals are “doing this post-season up right,” bringing in all minor league coaches, scouts and wives, including Cambridge’
Scott Thorman, who coached at rookie-class Burlington this year and will manage next summer.
“They’re all a big part of this,” Brett said.
No one enjoyed hitting more than Brett, who served briefly as a Royals hitting coach. Who does he enjoy watching hit?
“I saw Billy Butler’s first pro at-bat (in 2004), I’ve known them all since they were young, I want them all to do well and represent the Royals in a good manner,” Brett said. “If we’re hitting, I’m watching.”
Brett grew up in El Segundo, Calif. when his weekly TV baseball fix was the Saturday Game of the Week, with broadcasters Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek, the only time you could see a game on TV until the post season.
“The game would come on at 10 AM west coast time, so I’m lying in bed waking up as a 10-year-old watching Joe and Tony.”
If a National League game was on he knew when he was showering for the day … when Garagiola would say “due up this inning, the 8-9-1 hitters.
“That inning would take three minutes to get out the pitcher,” Brett said. “I don’t want to see the pitcher hit. I’d rather watch Carl Yaztremski or Paul Molitor come to the plate,
“When I got to the big leagues it was the same, I’d wake up, order room service, eat, hear ‘8-9-1 due up’ and hit the shower.”
His first roomie was Jays broadcaster, his dear friend Buck Martinez.
And now when he hear’s “due up for the Royals 8-9-1?”
“I want to see our guys hit.”
Omar Infrante, with six homers, 66 RBIs and a two-run homer off Strickland in Game 2 hits in the No. 8 spot.
Moustakas, with 15 homers and 54 RBIs bats ninth.
And Escobar, who hit .285, with 31 steals, is in the leads off spot.
Brett said he hopes the Minnesota Twins hire Molitor to manage, saying “they have to give it to Paulie.”
The Royals best-ever player had one chance to manage.
“I discussed managing the Colorado Rockies with (owner) Charles Monfort, the year they hired Buddy Bell (2000),” Brett said. “That was something that appealed to me. No one has asked since.”
He would have seen some hitting in Denver.
And now as the series moves to San Francisco — for Game 3 Friday — he hopes to see more from his team.
Even in a non-DH park — where Royals pitchers have to hit.