If you’ve ever found yourself mediating a discussion between fans of the two baseball cities in Missouri, you probably wanted to bang your head against the wall at some point. There’s not a lot of love lost between fans of the two franchises. It seems to me that there’s a general feeling from Royals fans that those who cheer for the Cardinals often wear a sense of self-righteous entitlement like a cloak. An ultra-arrogant cloak that gives any wearer a significantly more punchable face. There also seems to be a general feeling from Cardinals fans that those who support the Royals are caustic individuals who are merely jealous of the Cardinals’ success and only get joy from trying to bring the Cards down to their level.
The Royals really haven’t had a lot to be proud of, particularly in the last decade or so. But now they’ve got some solid young talent on their roster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not star-struck. There are some gaping holes on this roster as we head into the off-season. But it is definitely nice to feel solid about several positions. Five years ago I wanted to treat the team like a video game at the end of each season and cut all but maybe three or four players. Not very realistic, but a lot better for my piece of mind.
Now, despite my dislike for the Cardinals or, rather, my dislike for a large portion of their fans, I have no problem giving great baseball players their due and calling Yadier Molina the most complete catcher in baseball isn’t exactly a risky stance to take. He’s always been sharp defensively but at this point in his career, he’s put multiple above-average offensive seasons together as well and become even better than I think even most Cards fans thought he would be. He’s the face of the franchise these days.
But the Royals have their own rising star manning the backstop these days and regardless of how you feel about Molina, I think we would all agree that if Sal’s career takes a Yadi-like track, none of us will be too upset about it. After Salvy’s first few years, I’d say the future looks pretty bright.
Molina entered the league in 2004 and played 51 games as a rookie before averaging around 121 games the next two season. Over the course of those first three seasons he had a slash line of .238/.291/.342/.632. Those aren’t very good offensive numbers, but in his fourth season, he put up a line of .275/.340/.368/.708 before averaging .300/.355/.429/.783 from 2008-2013.
Could Salvador Perez break out in his fourth year in the league? He played only 39 games as a late call-up in 2011 and averaged 107 games over the next two seasons (primarily due to an injury that kept him out of a significant number of games in 2012). Over the course of his three years in the league, he’s put up an offensive slash of .301/.331/.451/.782 coupled with stellar defense.
Perez’s career has definitely started a little hotter on the offensive spectrum, but Molina has maintained offensive stability for many years in a row. My main concern is Sal’s free-swinging mentality. Generally, patience at the plate is a better indicator of consistent results, but hey, I’m not going to complain until Perez begins to regress.* And so far, he hasn’t.
*Knockonwoodknockonwoodknockonwood. Please don’t regress, Salvy.
Who knows? Maybe in six or seven years we’ll be talking about Perez as the best catcher of the decade. That would be nice.