Is Salvador Perez, at just 24, the best catcher in Kansas City Royals history?
It’s not far-fetched, but probably a little too soon to make the proclamation.
Perez has made the American League All-Star team the past two seasons. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 and should win another this year. He’s also a dangerous offensive player, although his average has fallen some this season as his work load increases.
Perez might well be the most indispensable Royal because of the combination of his talents. It’s no coincidence that the quality of Kansas City’s pitching staff has improved with Perez behind the plate. He has often said his idol is Yadier Molina, the perennial All-Star for the St. Louis Cardinals, and they are both among the game’s top three or four catchers.
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And let’s face it - the Royals don’t have a great catching history. Only three Kansas City catchers have made the All-Star team and one of them - Ellie Rodriguez in 1969 - was the team’s only representative (because each team has to have one) in 1969, the franchise’s inaugural season.
Darrell Porter was a three-time All-Star for Kansas City from 1978-80. He still owns the best offensive season in history for a Royals catcher, having batted .291 with 20 homers and 112 RBI in 1979. Porter was a mainstay on some of the best Kansas City teams in history; the Royals played in 18 postseason games during his four season and lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 World Series.
Porter was going through personal issues during his time with the Royals. He became addicted to cocaine and told the Associated Press that during the winter of 1979-1980, he became paranoid, convinced that baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, known to be tough on drug use, was aware of Porter’s problems and was trying to sneak into his house. Kuhn, Porter was convinced, planned to ban him from baseball for life. Porter found himself sitting up at night in the dark watching out the front window, waiting for Kuhn to approach, clutching billiard balls and a shotgun.
During spring training in 1980, former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe visited the Kansas City clubhouse. He asked the players 10 questions, the point of which being if a player answered three or more of the questions with an affirmation, the player might have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Porter affirmed all 10 questions and checked himself into a rehabilitation center, admitting he had abused alcohol, cocaine, Quaaludes and marijuana.
Porter eventually straightened out his life - at least for a time - and became heavily involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His five seasons in St. Louis went smoothly on and off the field, though Porter was never able to duplicate the offensive numbers he established in Kansas City.
Porter spent the 1986 and 1987 seasons with the Texas Rangers before retiring. On Aug. 5, 2002, after he told family members he was going to buy a newspaper and go to a park, Porter was found dead later that day in Sugar Creek, Mo., outside of his vehicle. An autopsy revealed that Porter had died of “toxic effects of cocaine."
He was such a big part of Royals history, and he also made his mark in St. Louis with the Cardinals. It was Porter who caught the final pitch of the 1982 World Series from Bruce Sutter, a strikeout of Gorman Thomas that preserved a Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Top 5 Royals catchers
1. Darrell Porter
2. Mike MacFarlane (11 seasons from 1987-94; 1996-98,.256 average, 102 homers, 393 RBI)
3. Salvador Perez (destined for the top spot)
4. John Wathan (10 seasons from 1976-85, .262 average, stole 64 bases combined in 1982 and 1983)
5. John Buck (six seasons from 2004-09, 70 homers, 259 RBI)
Royals Gold Glove-winning catchers
Salvador Perez, 2013
Bob Boone, 1989, at the age of 41
Royals All-Star catchers
Salvador Perez, 2013, 2014
Darrell Porter, 1978, 1979, 1980
Ellie Rodriguez, 1969