It is possible that Lucas Duda, the newest member of the Royals after signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal Wednesday, could hit 40 homers in 2018, and Kansas City fans will still not think of him as the guy who hit 40 homers for them. It is also possible that Lucas Duda could hit .205 with 11 homers and 130 strikeouts, and Royals fans will still have fond feelings when they think about him.
I think we all know why.
Video: WS2015 Gm5: Duda on his throw home, WS experience
Duda's error was not the reason the Mets lost that World Series to the Royals in 2015 -- that game went 12 innings, and Kansas City did win by five runs -- but it is certainly the moment the team's fans remember most vividly, the moment when Matt Harvey's dominant night turned into something else entirely: A night of Royals immortality.
The play is forever etched in Royals history, so no matter what happens this year, Duda's place in Kansas City lore is safe. In case there were any doubt about this, he was actually introduced Wednesday under a commemorative Sports Illustrated cover celebrating the Royals' championship he had a large hand in making happen.
Which got us thinking: What other moments in which an opposing player is the unfortunate patsy whose failure is immortalized in a title team's crowning highlight, played endlessly for decades to come, ends up, later in their career, actually playing for that team? Imagine if Bill Buckner had ended up playing for the Mets one day? Or if Mitch Williams had pitched for the Blue Jays? Or if Tim Wakefield had pitched for the Yankees?
Here are five examples throughout baseball history of players who went through the Major League equivalent of being dunked on by history, only to ultimately join the team that posterized them.
Fred Merkle (1917-20 Chicago Cubs)
That's right: The infamous Merkle's Boner play eventually ended up with Merkle on the Cubs. To remind, Merkle's Boner was a baserunning mistake by the New York Giants' 19-year-old rookie starting his first game, in which he came to the plate with a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game. Merkle lined a single into right field and the runner advanced to third. The next batter, Al Bridwell, smashed a pitch up the middle for an apparent game-winning walk-off hit.
But Merkle was so distracted by all the fans coming on the field that he ran toward the dugout rather than touching second base; Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers (of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance fame) realized what was going on and called for the ball from the center fielder.
What happened next was never quite clear. Some claim a Giants player intercepted the ball and threw it into the stands. Some say Evers grabbed that ball, or substituted another ball, and tagged the base. No one disputes Merkle didn't touch second base, though the runner claimed an umpire told him not to bother because the game was over. (This could have all been settled had they just called the replay desk back in New York. No idea why they didn't do that.)
Regardless, the game ended up called by darkness tied 1-1. As it turned out, the Cubs and Giants tied for the National League pennant, so they had to replay this game -- one New York would have won had Merkle touched second -- to decide the pennant. The Cubs won 4-2. Merkle did not play.
Anyway, nine years later, Merkle would join the Cubs and play for them for three years, including going 5-for-18 in the 1918 World Series loss to the Red Sox. (Merkle would play in five World Series and somehow lose all five.) You can still go to Merkle's in Chicago: There's a picture of him on the bar. (There is no Merkle's in New York.)
Stan Belinda (2000 Atlanta Braves)
Belinda was 24 years old when he threw what would essentially be the last relevant Pirates pitch for more than 20 years.
Video: '92 NLCS, Gm 7 PIT@ATL: Bream beats Bonds' throw
Francisco Cabrera, Barry Bonds and especially Sid Bream are the boldface names from the end of the 1992 NL Championship Series, but it was Belinda who threw the pitch. Belinda was reportedly devastated by the way the game ended, and the Pirates traded him at the Deadline the next season, with perhaps Game 7 still too fresh in their minds. Belinda hung around baseball for another eight years, eventually landing with the Braves, for who he appeared in 11 games with a gruesome 9.82 ERA before retiring at the age of 33.
Here's the fun coda to that story: Last year, the Braves drafted a college pitcher named Jacob Belinda in the 10th round.
Jacob is Stan's nephew. He told his local paper, "I've never been to Atlanta, but I'm pretty excited to go there. I love the organization. My uncle played for Atlanta at the end of his career, and I'm excited to pick up where he left off." He threw 29 2/3 innings in Rookie ball in 2017.
Mark Wohlers (2001 New York Yankees)
Wohlers was fantastic for the Braves in 1996, notching 39 saves and striking out 11.6 batters per nine innings in an era with a lot fewer strikeouts than today. And when the Braves brought him into the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, with a 2-1 lead in the series and a 6-3 lead in the game (a contest they had once led 6-0), they had to feel like they had the Fall Classic by the throat.
Wohlers then gave up singles to Charlie Hayes and Darryl Strawberry before getting Mariano Duncan to ground into a forceout. Then up came Jim Leyritz, a backup catcher who had only seven homers on the season. The count was 2-2. Wohlers made a mistake.
Video: BB Moments: '96 WS, Gm 4: Jim Leyritz Turns The Tide
The Yankees won in extra innings and never trailed again in the series. The Braves' dynasty was over. The Yanks' was just beginning.
Though it was over by the time Wohlers, never quite the same after that homer, arrived in The Bronx in 2001. It didn't go well for him; he struggled so much he even changed his uniform number to adjust his luck. It didn't help: He'd join Cleveland in 2002 and retire the year after.
Edgar Renteria (2005 Boston Red Sox)
Yes, Renteria does have a World Series walk-off hit in his life, but he'll live on a lot longer for making the last out of the 2004 World Series.
Video: WS2004 Gm4: Red Sox complete a four-game Series sweep
Renteria wouldn't be away from the Sox after making that out long: They signed him to a four-year, $40 million deal a month and a half after the World Series. He had a lousy 2005 season for them, though, especially in the field, where he made an MLB-high 30 errors.
Boston shipped Renteria off to Atlanta the next offseason, even agreeing to pay a third of his salary. He made the NL All-Star team the next year, but rattled around the rest of his career. However, Renteria had one more postseason highlight left in him: Winning the 2010 World Series Most Valuable Player Award with the Giants.
Carlos Beltran (2012-13 St. Louis Cardinals)
The meanest joke I ever heard about the end of the 2006 NLCS was that maybe Beltran was afraid he was being attacked by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and therefore, his only choice was not to budge a muscle.
Video: NLCS Gm7: Cardinals win NLCS, advance to World Series
Also, never forget who lurked in the background of that pitch.
Beltran would join the Cardinals (and play with Adam Wainwright) six years later; and he was terrific for them, even reaching the World Series in 2013, where he'd lose to the Red Sox. The story has a happy ending: He won the World Series last season with Houston and then retired. Well, it has a happy ending for Beltran. Not the Mets so much.
Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.