If you want an example of how much of a hypocrite I can be, look no further than the Kansas City Royals.
I have long been a staunch opponent of bandwagon sports fans, and believe me, I see my fair share of them around Chicago. But admittedly, I'm no saint in the matter: after a lifetime of apathy towards the Royals, I found myself screaming and hollering at the TV during their recent World Series runs, wildly rooting for them to win.
I felt defeated when the Giants bested the Royals in the 2014 Fall Classic (did the Giants really need another title?) and just as ecstatic when they finally won it all, beating the Mets the following year. All this despite the Royals barely registering on my radar prior to about three years ago. Such a bandwagoner.
But like so many other smaller-market teams, Kansas City has long been home for many middling players in transition and/or one-time stars on the downswing of their respective careers, which makes their Short Term Stops roster a formidable one.
1984 Fleer #352 Gaylord Perry
"Short Term Stops" Royals Accolades:
Gaylord Perry (1983 Royals, 14 games, half-year stint, sunset season)
Gaylord Perry -- seen here doing his best Uncle Sam impression on what would turn out to be his only true sunset card -- finished out his career as a Royal.
Perry found a home in Kansas City shortly after having been released by the Mariners midway through the '83 season. He'd collect the final four of his 314 career wins across 14 starts with the Royals on his way to Cooperstown.
Though both Topps and Donruss featured Perry on combo cards in their respective '84 checklists, Fleer was the lone company to give him a true ride into the sunset, all by himself.
2008 Topps Triple Threads Sepia #79 Hideo Nomo /525
Hideo Nomo (2008 Royals, 3 games, sunset season)
This is, without a doubt, one of the strangest cards in my Short Term Stops collection.
I still have absolutely no idea how Hideo Nomo -- a guy who hadn't pitched in nearly three years at the time of his brief 2008 comeback -- snuck into a high-end set like Topps Triple Threads, a checklist normally reserved for big-name rookies and stars. Even more confusing is the fact that it turned out to be Nomo's only card as a Royal.
Following a dismal 2005 season with the Dodgers, Nomo pitched in the Venezuelan League for a couple years before attempting a comeback with the cellar-dwelling Royals in 2008. In short, it didn't go well: Nomo posted an ERA of 18.69(!) across three appearances before being released and retiring for good, likely before anyone even noticed he was back in the first place.
I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Topps Triple Threads.
2015 Topps Update #US-304 Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto (2015 Royals, 13 games, half-year stint)
In your classic rent-a-player scenario, the Royals acquired ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds at the 2015 trade deadline in preparation for their run at the World Series.
Cueto turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment in his 13 starts after the swap, going just 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in the second half. He did, however, pitch a complete-game two-hitter against the Mets in his only World Series start to help the Royals capture their elusive World Series title.
You could say 2015 was a good year for Johnny Cueto: he'd get a World Series ring with the Royals and a fat contract from the Giants the following offseason, truly the best of both worlds.
2011 Topps Heritage #164 Jason Kendall
Jason Kendall (2010 Royals, 118 games, sunset season)
A fan favorite during his time with the Pirates, Jason Kendall would jump around a bit during the later stages of his career and eventually wind up with the Royals in 2010.
He'd play in 118 games with Kansas City that year -- quite an accomplishment for a 36-year-old catcher -- and hit .256 in what would turn out to be his final season.
Though Kendall received many terrific action-packed cards during his career, his 2011 Heritage finale provides for a nice, tranquil ride into the sunset.
2006 Upper Deck #641 Doug Mientkiewicz
Doug Mientkiewicz (2006 Royals, 91 games)
Three things I know about Doug Mientkiewicz:
1) It took me about twelve years to learn how to spell his last name without having to consult a secondary source.
2) The Twins released David Ortiz in order to make Mientkiewicz their first baseman of the future.
3) He long refused to give up the ball he caught for the final out of the 2004 World Series when he was part of that historic Red Sox team.
I do not, however, remember the 91 games Mientkiewicz spent with the 2006 Royals -- does anybody?
2013 Topps Update #US-170 Miguel Tejada
Miguel Tejada (2013 Royals, 53 games, sunset season)
Miguel Tejada would probably like you to forget about his time as a Royal, but for better or worse, I'm here to record it for all of history.
After not appearing in the bigs at all in 2012, Tejada came out of the woodwork to become a utility guy with the Royals the following season. It wasn't a terrible stint -- he hit .288 with three homers in 53 games -- but what makes it dubious is the fact that Tejada was suspended for a whopping 105 games following two positive drug tests for amphetamines in August of 2013.
He never did serve the suspension, as he never played another game in the big leagues.
2002 Upper Deck Vintage #83 Neifi Perez
Neifi Perez (2001-02 Royals, 194 games)
I don't have a great binder nominee for the shortstop position on this roster, so here's a card of gloveman Neifi Perez -- who played in parts of two seasons for the Royals -- that I hope does nothing else than remind you that Upper Deck blatantly stole vintage Topps designs for a few years in the early 2000s.
2010 Topps #387 Josh Fields
Josh Fields (2010 Royals, 13 games, sunset season)
I'm also a bit thin on third base nominees, so I'm forced to go with Josh Fields, a one-time top prospect for the hometown White Sox who never lived up to his potential and briefly resurfaced with the Royals in 2010.
Fields would fade into a string of stints that took him to Winston-Salem and Albuquerque and Mexico and even Japan before retiring from baseball in 2015.
1981 Topps #473 Jose Cardenal
Jose Cardenal (1980 Royals, 25 games, half-year stint, sunset season)
If Jose Cardenal is remembered for one thing these days, it's his legendary 'fro -- and if he's most assuredly not remembered for one thing, it's the time he spent with the Royals at the end of his career.
The Royals acquired Cardenal from the Mets (I still can't figure out if he's wearing an authentic KC cap or an airbrushed Mets cap on this, his only sunset card) late in the 1980 season for a stretch run that would eventually take them to the World Series, where they'd lose to the Phillies.
Jose hit a robust .340 in 25 games for Kansas City to close out the regular season before going on to become the rare player to have played his final games in a World Series, going 2-for-10 in the Royals' six-game defeat.
1992 Fleer #157 Kirk Gibson
Kirk Gibson (1991 Royals, 132 games)
Kirk Gibson played for four teams in his career: two of them (Tigers, Dodgers) cemented him in the iconography of the franchises' respective narratives, and the other two (Royals, Pirates) were almost completely lost to history.
The injury-prone Gibson enjoyed a rare full season with the 1991 Royals, though the numbers were a bit slim. He hit just .236 with 16 homers in 132 games with Kansas City in a stint that I'm sure passed many fans by completely.
He'd play in 16 even more forgettable games with the Pirates the following year before returning to the Tigers for the final three years of his career.
2010 Topps National Chicle #152 Rick Ankiel
Rick Ankiel (2010 Royals, 27 games, half-year stint)
In one of the more improbably transitions in baseball history, Rick Ankiel transformed himself from a flamed-out pitcher to a legitimate big-league hitter in the span of a few years.
He signed with the Royals for the 2010 season, hitting .261 with four homers in 27 games before being dealt to the Braves. Ankiel would bounce around the bigs a bit before retiring after the 2013 season, ending his career as a hitter seven full years after it started. Unbelievable, considering his checkered past.
This is one of Ankiel's few cards as a Royal, hailing from Topps's one-and-done National Chicle release in 2010, a set I never thought got the credit it deserved.
1976 SSPC #168 Harmon Killebrew
Harmon Killebrew (1975 Royals, 106 games, sunset season)
Any weaknesses on this Royals roster are immediately negated by the presence of Harmon Killebrew.
Killer as a Royal is one of the ultimates in the long history of Short Term Stops. He spent just a single season in Kansas City at the tail end of his career, hitting a paltry .199 and smacking the final 14 of his 573 lifetime homers in what turned out to be a forgettable year.
For some reason, however, Topps neglected to grant Killebrew a true finale in their '76 checklist, which robbed collectors of seeing him as a Royal on a Topps card. But against all odds, the oddball SSPC brand was there to pick up the slack, giving us what I'm pretty sure is the only card in existence to feature him as a Kansas City Royal.
For that, we are all infinitely indebted to SSPC.
That just about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.
Thanks for tuning in.