"Tek is somebody, I think, this organization is going to need forever," slugger David Ortiz told ESPN.
The same day the news broke about the Red Sox's captain of the past seven years, the Royals announced the signing of catcher Sal Perez to what could be an eight-year contract. The Royals are hoping they've found the same kind of guy who can be penciled into the lineup, day in and day out.
It will be 20 years next spring since George Brett retired, and while he still dons a jersey now and again, it's been too long since he has launched line drives into the gap at Kauffman Stadium. Bret Saberhagen hasn't worn Royal blue for more than a decade. It's time for the Royals to find the next guy who's got a shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame — and not just the one at 1 Royal Way.
The Royals have spent the better part of the past two decades slowly leaking away talent. Joe Posnanski long asserted that there was nothing that Carlos Beltran couldn't do in center field. There was one thing he couldn't do. He couldn't stay a Royal. Johnny Damon, a former teammate of Varitek's on that 2004 team, managed to earn World Series rings with both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Jermaine Dye hit a home run in his first at-bat (albeit with the Atlanta Braves) but then hit 324 more during his 15-year career. Zack Greinke had an admittedly complicated relationship with the Royals and the team's fanbase, but it's still difficult to see him in a Milwaukee Brewers' uniform only a year after winning the Cy Young Award.
This is a young team full of promise, and some of that promise stems from the idea that we could be seeing the same players for several years as the foundation of the franchise. Whether it's Perez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon or Luke Hochevar — the Royals need a player who can stand for Kansas City.
The Perez signing hopefully marks a step in a different direction for the Royals — one where players that have come up through the organization play a meaningful portion of their careers during seasons that matter. That's the formula for contending. That's the way that the Royals reestablish their identity in this town.