Steve Balboni is as baffled as anyone that his name is still in the Royals record book.
It was 28 years ago that Balboni clubbed 36 home runs and set the team’s single-season record.
Since then, baseball’s steroid era has come and gone. Expansion has taken the number of teams from 26 to 30, adding pitchers who otherwise would have been in the minor leagues. On average, teams hit 25 more homers last season than in 1985.
Through it all, Balboni’s record has endured.
“I usually don’t think about it until somebody calls me and says somebody is on a pace or something,” Balboni said by phone. “Other than that, I don’t think about it much. It is surprising, the way people have been hitting home runs in the years since I retired. It does seem unusual that 36 is still the record.”
The next lowest team record is the Mets, whose 41 is shared by Todd Hundley (1996) and former Royal Carlos Beltran (2006). Beltran? Yeah, that hurts.
There are 19 teams that have a record of 50 or more, including Baltimore where Brady Anderson had 50 in 1997. His team record is under assault by Chris Davis, who had 37 homers at the All-Star break.
Yeah, that’s one more than the Royals mark.
How is it possible the Balboni’s record remains?
“It seems like guys were on pace a few times,” Balboni said, “but they seem to taper off at the end and not getting there.”
Notable pursuits came from Gary Gaetti (35 in 1995), Dean Palmer (34 in 1998), Danny Tartabull (34 in 1987) and Jermaine Dye (33 in 2000).
Kauffman Stadium (nee Royals Stadium) seemingly always has had a reputation of being unkind to home run hitters, and Balboni believed that was true — at certain times of the year.
“Really, early and late, the spring and the fall, it seemed like it was worse,” he explained. “The ball just didn’t carry as well. It seemed like in the summer when it was hot, the ball, it seemed to carry better. I never said, ‘I hit that one pretty good, it should have gone out but it didn’t.’
“But I do remember early in the spring and in the fall when things started to cool off. Especially in left center to center, it just kind of died. You’d think you hit it a little better than you did. The balls I hit good — I didn’t hit great — but I hit good, normally that was enough to get out of most ballparks.”
That power stroke earned Balboni the nickname “Bye Bye,” which he embraced.
“That was what I needed to do,” said Balboni, who is now an advance scout for the Giants. “That’s why I was playing in the big leagues. Home runs was what I did. So I expected to hit 30 every year. I felt like if I hit a ball really good, it was going to go out in any ballpark. I was just trying to get better.”
Balboni's record looks safe for another year. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer each have nine homers, putting them on pace to share the team lead this season with 16. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that Balboni set the record in 1985, the last year the Royals made the playoffs.
“I have mixed feelings about (the record),” Balboni admitted. “It’s 36 home runs. I don’t feel like it’s anything special. It’s nice to have, but I also feel like I would like to see the Royals win, too.”
Are home runs connected to victories? It has been this season for the Royals, who are 43-49 overall.
They are 26-16 in games in which they hit at least one homer. That makes them 17-33 when they don’t.
The Royals' 60 homers are far and away the fewest in the AL this season. The Twins are ahead of them with 86 (To be fair, they are behind the Royals in the standings).
Here’s the Royals homer/record breakdown this season: