"Like I always say, I wish I could retire as a Royal. That's why I try to do my best and play my hardest," Pena told MLB.com yesterday.
It's been a long time since the Royals had a culture built on players who wanted to be on the team and the front office was willing to sign. But the times, our times, may be changing.
The reality shifted slightly this spring with the signing of three key position players. Perez signed an eight-year contract extension (five years and three one-year club options). Shortstop Alcides Escobar, who currently has the highest batting average for shortstops in the American League, is signed through 2015 with two additional club options. Both stated at the time they signed that they wanted to be in Kansas City for a long time. Then, Alex Gordon inked a four-year deal in March before we arrived at the decision to keep Pena.
Those commitments from both the organization and the players are significant because they provide stability to a clubhouse. It suggests to rising stars that the Royals have a vision of the team they want to be (as to whether that includes breaking the $50 million on a contract remains to be seen). It also potentially changes the tenor of free-agent discussions. Kansas City is no longer somewhere a player ends up, but potentially somewhere he looks forward to playing. It means something to wear Royal blue, an idea that doesn't have to be explained to Pena.
The All-Star Game is two weeks away, and the best in baseball will have a chance to see what it's like to play in Kauffman Stadium. For the first time in a long time, some players might leave thinking about what it would be like to come to work there every day. And there's a core of Royals players ready to make that sales pitch.
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