2003 Kansas City Royals
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2003 Kansas City Royals / Franchise: Kansas City Royals / BR Team Page
Managed by Tony Pena
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2003 Kansas City Royals finished the season with a winning record, the first Royals team to do so since 1994, and the first time it had happened in a non-strike shortened season since 1993. This in spite of the fact that the Royals were out-scored by 31 runs that year.
The Royals were led by Manager Tony Pena, a former major league catcher who took over the team mid-way during the 2002 season. Pena would be named American League Manager of the Year in 2003 for the Royals' turnaround, as the Royals won 21 more games than they had the previous year. Pena's managing style could be described as "small ball," as the Royals overcame their offensive weaknesses (only the Detroit Tigers has a lower OPS+ as a team) with stolen bases (3rd in the American League) and solid hitting (their .274 batting average was 4th in the league, while they only struck out 926 times, 5th fewest in the AL). The Royals were able to combine these assets to score 836 runs, 4th in the American League.
The Royals' offense was led by a trio of players. Mike Sweeney, one of two Royals to make the All-Star team, hit .293 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI in an injury-plagued season. Angel Berroa, who was named Rookie of the Year, hit .287 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI. But the best of the bunch was Carlos Beltran, who had a solid season with a .307 batting average, 26 home runs and 100 RBI. All three totals led the Royals, as did his 41 stolen bases. The Royals also got solid offensive contributions from third baseman Joe Randa (.291 16 HR 72 RBI), left fielder Raul Ibanez (.294 18 HR 90 RBI), and outfielder Aaron Guiel (.277 15 HR 52 RBI in 99 games).
The Royals' pitching staff was not very good, as their 5.35 ERA was 3rd worst in the American League. This had to do with both a poor pitching staff and a ballpark (Kauffman Stadium) that heavily favored hitters. Only Darrell May won 10 games on a staff that had 15 different pitchers start games. May was the Royals' best pitcher, as his WHIP (1.19) and Adjusted ERA (135) were both in the top 10 in the American League. Jeremy Affeldt had a solid season, finishing tied for 4th on the team in wins (7) and second in saves (4), but his season was hampered with hand injuries. Royals closer Mike MacDougal had a good season and was named to the AL All-Star team. His 27 saves were 6th in the American League. The Royals used 29 pitchers, mostly because of injury and ineffectiveness. Only one pitcher made more than 20 starts, and only 5 pitchers made more than 30 appearances.
The Royals started hot out of the gate, winning their first 9 games and 16 of their first 19. By April 24th they had a 5 1/2 game lead on the Chicago White Sox and an 8-game lead on the defending Central Division Champion Minnesota Twins. By the End of April, the Royals were 17-7 and had a 4 1/2 game lead on second place White Sox. Their nine straight wins out of the gate were the best since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers had opened with 13 straight wins, and was not matched by any team until the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays surpassed it.
However, the Royals' hot start was completely reversed in May, as a 10-19 month dropped them to 27-26 and 2 1/2 games out of first. The low mark of the month was an 18-1 loss at home to the Toronto Blue Jays on May 16th. Two days later, they had fallen out of first place.
June was an up-and-down month for the Royals, as they rode two separate winning streaks back into first place. However, a four-game losing streak to close out the month again dropped them into second. Still, the 15-12 month improved the Royals to 42-28 and only a half game out of 1st place.
At the All-Star break, the Royals again got on a roll, as they had two more winning streaks and rode into the All-Star break at 51-41 and in first place in the American League Central. However, the rest of the month the Royals again played under .500 baseball, and closed July in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Still, their 57-49 record was still good enough for 1st place, a game ahead of Chicago.
August would be the last time the Royals would see first place, though they would remain in the race well into September. An 8-7 loss to the New York Yankees on August 20th dropped them out of 1st for the final time. The Royals again combined winning and losing streaks and finished the month at 70-64 and 1 1/2 out of first place. However, the White Sox and Twins has both passed the Royals at this point, pushing them into third.
September was the essence of the Royals season, as the team went 13-15 to finish the season at 83-79 and in third place. While the Twins were out of reach by mid-September (the Royals did not play Minnesota in September, their final series took place in late August). The Royals had a chance for their first second-place finish since 1995, but lost 3 of 4 in a final weekend series with the White Sox, who finished 3 games ahead of the Royals. Minnesota won their second straight division title at 90-72, 8 games ahead of Kansas City.
Still, the Royals had a season no one saw coming, improving by 21 games on their 2002 finish. Angel Berroa and Tony Pena won awards, and Carlos Beltran had earned the reputation as one of the game's best young players. The Royals drew 1.7 million fans, their best attendance since the 1994 strike, even though it was only 10th best in the American League. But the 2003 season proved to be more of a statistical fluke, as the Royals would lose 104 games the next season, which at the time was most in franchise history and would not finish above .500 for more than a decade.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Mike MacDougal and Mike Sweeney
- AL Rookie of the Year Award: Angel Berroa
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Angel Berroa (SS)
- AL Manager of the Year Award: Tony Pena