Royals fans are going nuts as Mike Moustakas closes in on Steve Balboni's home run record
Records are made to be broken, and there is a Royals team record that Kansas City fans hope Mike Moustakas will smash this year: Steve Balboni's team record for home runs in a single season.
It's a sore spot for Royals fans. Just as the Padres have never thrown a no-hitter, the Royals are the lone Major League team without a 40-homer season to their name. Balboni -- the beefy mustachioed slugger that would have launched 1,000 memes if he played today -- topped out with 36 in 1985.
For comparison's sake, there have been five D-backs players to hit 36 or more homers in a season, and that franchise started playing 29 years after the Royals did.
Barring catastrophe, the record looks ready to finally fall this year as Moustakas has 29 home runs as of July 27. At his current rate of a home run every 3.4 team games, Moose is on pace to break Balboni's record during a Royals road trip to Cleveland at the end of August.
Though the chase isn't quite McGwire/Sosa, it has sparked the imaginations of Royals fans with #BalboniWatch and #BreakingBalboni trending on Twitter all season long.
A podcast was renamed in #BalboniWatch's honor:
And fans track the chase through charts uploaded to the Royals subreddit every week:
Though the chase for Balboni's record is not new, the fact that people are following along this late in the year is.
"It's happened in previous seasons," Greg Smith, better known online as @ConradMcGorkin, said in a phone call with MLB.com. He explained that, because the Royals don't have many home run hitters in their past, "we haven't had the excitement around it [in the past] like we had this year, with Moustakas hitting 25 before the All-Star break."
Moose isn't only chasing Steve Balboni. He's now after Bob Cerv as well.- Conrad McGorkin (@ConradMcGorkin) July 25, 2017
30+ HR seasons by Kansas City MLB players: pic.twitter.com/XBho0dmh1I
Despite Balboni's folk hero status -- he "looked like a post office worker" according to Smith -- fans are eager to see the record fall.
"I just want it broken," said Nathan Thurnau, a co-host of the Balboni Watch podcast. "It's nothing against Steve Balboni. That mustache is legendary enough on its own. He doesn't need to be a home run-record holder to be a legend in Kansas City."
Of course, there may be something else at work that explains why the chase has become such an important narrative this season: the many losing seasons that Kansas City had before their recent run of success.
Even though he's recently witnessed a Royals World Series title, Thurnau says that most of his life as a sports fan "has been pain, misery, self-deprecation and everything you have to do to cope with the fact that your teams aren't going to be that good and they're never going to be that successful. Now that the Royals are good, there's this weird 'Oh, we can be positive about our team and be encouraged by watching them.'"
"That's all we had in the early years before the Royals started getting good -- being stupid on Twitter," echoed Jeremy Scheuch, a baseball artist.
Moustakas the Big-Hearted Moose. pic.twitter.com/TL11suI6gT- Jeremy Scheuch (@jeremyscheuch) July 17, 2017
That's a lot of culture that can't be lost, no matter how many dingers Moustakas hits. That's why the Balboni Watch podcast has already registered the Moose Watch podcast Twitter account.
"Going into next year, if Moose is back, a big part of it is going to be, can he break his own record? Can [Salvador Perez] break Moose's record?" Thurnau said. "Can dark horse candidate Jorge Bonifacio -- who we have affectionately named Balbonifacio -- can he break the record?"
It could be much simpler than that, though. "Us being stupid," Scheuch said, "we'll probably still call it the Balboni Tracker."