Major League Baseball

Salvador Perez and the Kansas City Royals are the team that never says never

April 26

By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Who had a good time in baseball last week?

Each Monday, we look at three "people" — fans, managers, players, teams, cities, fan bases or mascots — who had a good time the previous week in Major League Baseball.

What are we waiting for?

1. The Kansas City Royals

On Wednesday, the Royals won a thriller against Tampa Bay on a Salvador Pérez walk-off single. The game was a wild one, with multiple lead changes, a huge Royals comeback and yet another clutch, game-ending knock from a franchise legend.

Now, usually, I don’t watch postgame interviews. They tend to be interchangeable and generic. I’ve heard the "What were you thinking up there?" question followed by the "Not trying to do too much" answer enough. Life is short.

But for whatever reason, I kept the Royals broadcast on for a few minutes after that exhilarating W on Wednesday. So when the postgame dude with the microphone asked Pérez to describe the team’s victory, I was expecting an avalanche of clichés.

But Pérez, still panting heavily from the celebration, looked into the camera, and without an iota of cynicism in his trademark Mutumbo-esque baritone, he went: "We never quit. We’re the Kansas City Royals, man. We never quit."
 
For whatever reason, his response hit me. I’m not a Royals fan, but it really didn’t come off as corny or forced or cliché. And so all week, that sentence has been stuck in my head. "We’re the Kansas City Royals. We never quit."

It was the franchise’s forever catcher, its eternal leader, proclaiming in a voice like an upright bass that his team, the Kansas City Royals, is just built different. 

Look, I know that all baseball teams believe they are the ones who don’t quit. But there was something in Salvy’s voice that sounded different Wednesday night. The dude has been a member of the Royals organization since Oct. 10, 2006. That’s a long freakin’ time. He has grown up with this club, he has been to the top and the bottom with this club, and he has stayed with this club. Salvador Pérez is the Royals.

And those Royals? They might be decently good. When most other middle-of-the-road teams opted not to spend in the offseason, the Royals were aggressive, bringing in Carlos Santana and Mike Minor. They traded for Andrew Benintendi. They took a black arrow pointing sideways, painted it green and forced it into an upward position.

When COVID-19 hit and the minor-league season was canceled, the Royals were the first team to pay their minor-leaguers. No questions asked. Not an eye blinked. When the draft was shortened to five rounds last year, the Royals signed a heaping of undrafted free agents. 

These are all small, individual things that build into an actual cohesive team identity, an identity that Pérez has helped foster over his 15-year tenure in Kansas City. Talking to people around the club, you can tell there is a familial aspect to things that doesn’t exist in many other organizations.

As fans, we want authenticity from the teams we love and the players we cherish. We want them to care about the whole damn thing as much as we do. When that all lines up, it’s meaningful. It’s a reminder of why we do sports in the first place. So kudos to the Kauffman faithful and kudos to Salvy and his Kansas City Royals for making me get emotionally invested in a postgame interview.

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2. Franmil Reyes

History was made Thursday night: Franmil Reyes, Cleveland-based bulldozer and home-run hitter, hit his first career triple. Prior to this momentous occasion, Reyes was the active leader in MLB in career plate appearances without a triple. But after 1,135 triple-less trips to the dish, he finally made the 270-foot mad dash he’d been dreaming of.

If you want to hit yourself a triple, generally three things need to happen. (1) You have to hit the ball into the outfield, preferably down the line or in the gap or wherever triples are welcome in that particular stadium. (2) You probably need the defense to screw the pooch a little bit. (3) You can’t run like you’re on a treadmill. Footspeed is highly recommended.

For any potential triple, you get a point total from one to 10 for each category, and if the grand total is more than 20, you're probably going to make it to third.

Here's how Reyes' triple scored: 

Location of batted ball: 10/10
The ball was smashed to the deepest part of Progressive Field, but more importantly, it was close enough to Aaron Hicks that Hicks thought he had a play at it and chose not to play it off the wall but far enough away that it went over Hicks’ head. Perfection.

Defensive pooch-screwing: 9/10
There are far more embarrassing ways to give up a triple as an outfielder, but Hicks definitely misplayed this one. The relay also lacked any real verve.

Footspeed: 3/10
Reyes actually runs pretty well for a 6-foot-5, 265-pound dude built like a refrigerator, but that’s still 30th percentile in MLB. He ramped up the level of difficulty on this, too, because he didn’t get out of the box too quickly because he thought the ball was gone.

All in all, this was a great reminder that you don’t need to be fast to rack up a triple if you’re sniffing 10/10 in the other categories.

And Reyes enjoyed the experience so much that he did it again Sunday.

3. Javier Baez

A week ago, things looked incredibly stark for Báez. The Cubs' shortstop had a batting average under .200 and an OPS under .700, and he was striking out almost 50% of the time. Last year’s "MLB The Show" cover star also had a really ugly 2020 season, looking absolutely lost at the plate more often than not. So with free agency on the horizon, there has been reasonable doubt about whether Báez can get a Lindor/Tatis-style megadeal.

But Javy Báez spent the past week looking like Javy Baéz. You could hear an enormous exhale from the North Side when the electric shortstop smacked a moonshot grand slam Wednesday against the Mets.

All in all, Báez has clubbed three home runs in his past seven games and pulled off some trademark defensive gems. He’s still striking out at a mind-bending rate, and there are still concerns about whether he can reign in his free-swinging approach, but there was something quite comforting about watching Báez smash the ever-living snot out of some baseballs again.

He just looked more like himself this week, and that’s good news.

Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball analyst for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.


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