Not to make 25 managers choke on their morning coffee, but the Royals won their world championship with an off-year. Starters at seven of nine positions in the batting order had average or subpar seasons offensively. The team's rightfielders and shortstops hit a collective .213, and as a whole K.C. ranked next to last in the league in both hitting and runs scored. Three of five starting pitchers—Bud Black, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza—combined to finish one game above .500. "There's no reason we can't be better," says Royals skipper Dick Howser.
There's no reason to think K.C.'s pitching staff won't be the best in baseball. The AL's Cy Youngest winner, Bret Saberhagen, unaffected by fame but for rakish new sunglasses, struggled this spring with a sore arm, but the Royals are rich in young pitchers like Gubicza, Jackson and David Cone. The Royals also are counting on Dennis Leonard's successful comeback.
The bullpen, of course, centers around newly muscled Dan Quisenberry. "You've heard of Nautilus machines?" says the Quiz of his winter training. "I worked out on one that was submerged in a swimming pool. It offers more resistance. Of course, you have to put it in the shallow end." Quisenberry, according to tests this spring, increased the velocity of his slider 15%. "This year I'll be throwing a power slider," he says.
What of K.C. at the bat? The Royals will again carry a bantamweight at shortstop. Buddy Biancalana, and perhaps another in rightfield. Their off-season search for a rightfielder came up empty, which leaves the job to Darryl Motley, who did hit .284 two years ago.
If the Royals are to become the first world champions to repeat since the 1977-78 Yankees, they'll need another injury-free year from George Brett and no further signs of aging from 35-year-old second baseman Frank White and 39-year-old designated hitter Hal McRae. History says champions rarely repeat, but don't count out any team that won it all running on just four of eight cylinders. And for added inspiration, Saberhagen's wife, Janeane, is pregnant again—and due right in the middle of the September pennant drive.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
He and Bob Boone each have a career .253 BA; Boone has a slugging edge, .353 to .350.
Led majors with 15 extra-base hits in LIP situations, but had 9th most strikeouts in history.
Started AL's only triple play of '85 by catching a looping liner by Rickey Henderson.
Did not start seven consecutive games all season until the seven-game ALCS.
Four hits in Game 7 tied Series record held by Max Carey, Rip Collins and Willie Stargell.
First player in World Series history to oppose the team with which he started the season.
Inside-the-parkers accounted for 13 of 17 HRs through '84, but all four in '85 left the park.
Managed to hit at least one HR against every team in the league but Oakland.
Batted 97 points higher (.307-.210) with runners on than with bases empty.
At 21, the youngest pitcher ever to start the 7th game of the World Series.
Had lowest home-game ERA (2.56) in AL and lowest day-game ERA (1.85) in majors.
Gave up one HR every 29.7 innings, the best rate in the AL last year.
Record included 4-0 against Cleveland, but 4-9 against teams finishing at or above .500.
Career average of 1.18 walks per nine innings leads active pitchers.