Don’t panic! It’s just a headline.
Prior to yesterday’s game, Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez tweaked a knew. That is the entire extent of what anyone currently knows: a ‘tweak’. While he could still crouch, Perez left the field with a ‘noticeable limp’. After examination today, we should know whether this is a minor day to day thing, a semi-minor week or two rest thingy, a somewhat major but not season altering might-effect-opening-day event or a gut wrenching see-you-later-this-year-maybe catastrophe.
Modern medicine has turned knee injuries into almost routine surgery. What was once career ending might now wash out less than a season. What was once season ending might only take six weeks. That Salvador Perez is just twenty-one years old and a physical specimen can only help shorten the time frame of any recovery.
But, don’t panic. For all we know, Salvador Perez need a night’s rest, some ice and an aspirin and will be behind the plate tomorrow.
Of course, besides the general excitement about the upcoming season fueling speculation on pretty much any news about anything regarding anyone at rates we are not used to here in Royalland, an injury to Salvador Perez is going to generate a pretty high level of anxiety. This is the guy who was slated to catch 140+ games this year, just signed a long-term deal and was already perceived to be a leader on the club. We get fairly snarky here in the blogosphere when it comes to terms like presence, leadership and intangibles, but Salvador Perez seemed to have his share of all of those.
So, yeah, pardon us if we get a little jittery when he limps off the field in March.
While an injury to Eric Hosmer would be a catastrophic public relations nightmare, not to mention the hole it would create in the lineup, the Royals were likely better prepared for an injury there – or anywhere else on the diamond – than they are for any extended absence by Salvador Perez.
Brayan Pena is the back-up catcher, but the prevailing thought was that should an injury strike Perez, another defensive whiz (Manny Pina) would probably take most of the innings. The problem, as you well know, is that Pina is himself injured and not likely to get back on the field until around the time the Royals break camp.
That brings us back to Pena: a great guy, a switchhitter and, sadly, a borderline terrifying defender. His back-up, right now, would by Max Ramirez (“did you hear he’s hit 4 home runs this spring!”), who is a catcher in the sense that he knows how to put on the equipment and owns a catcher’s mitt.
Quantifying defense is still the greatest challenge in the sabermetric world. Defining catching defense is somewhere beyond that. Undeniably, however, we all know (basement dwellers, small children, elderly mothers and true baseball men) that what the guy behind the plate does when his team is in the field is tremendously important. Define it however you want, but Salvador Perez does it behind the plate. Brayan Pena and Max Ramirez, by most accounts, do not.
So, let’s panic a little and go doomsday scenario. We find out this morning that Salvador Perez is out for the bulk of the season, what do you do? Should Dayton Moore just grit his teeth, remind himself that the 2012 Royals probably were not really contenders anyway, and watch Pena/Ramirez/Pina not field and maybe not even hit for a season? Do you, gulp, suit up Jason Kendall and see if there are any fumes left in an already empty tank? Or, do you go out and make a trade for someone to catch?
I don’t know who this year’s Matt Treanor is (maybe it’s Treanor), and I think it would be bad luck to look until we have to, but if Perez is out even until the All-Star Break, does Dayton Moore maybe have to go into the market and get one? If Lorenzo Cain can really hit, Hosmer becomes a star, Moustakas slugs home run after home run and the starting pitching suddenly becomes competent, the Royals might still be able to hang around even without Perez if they just had some level of moderate competency replacing him.
Without question, you are not going to find anyone close to what the Royals expected to get out of Perez, but it might be possible to get a veteran guy who can handle pitchers and maybe throw out the occasional baserunner. Would you give up a reliever to get him?
But, don’t panic.
Maybe Salvador Perez is jogging without pain into the clubhouse as we speak. Maybe everything is fine…..but what if it’s not?
Okay, panic just a little.