I’ll bet you have no idea who was named the most valuable player of the recent World Series.
For the record, it was Royals catcher Salvador Perez. He batted .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles, two RBI and three runs scored while playing terrific defense.
No problem if you didn’t know that. Not many people, except hardcore baseball fans and Kansas City folks, even know Perez exists.
Yet there is something telling about this detail, about the way an essentially anonymous athlete (except to baseball insiders, talent scouts and management) can rise up and seize the moment, playing his or her best at the grandest moment, and how such performances are why teams win championships.
We in Chicago pretty much lost interest in the World Series once the Mets swept the Cubs out of the National League Championship Series. Watching the Mets lose to the American League champion Royals was a nice, if somewhat slight, thing. (Seeing your enemy defeated isn’t the same as winning something yourself.)
But let’s think about this for a moment.
The Royals, one of the bona fide small-market teams in baseball, just won the World Series. And they lost in the World Series to the big-market Giants last season. And they show no signs of slowing down.
Conversely, the Cubs haven’t played in a World Series in 70 years or won one in 107. And the Cubs are a big-market team.
That the Royals had gone 30 years without winning a World Series was made into a big deal. In truth, that they ever won a championship again is amazing.
What advantages, for instance, do they have over a team such as the Cubs? None — unless you consider low expectations and country quiet to be assets.
The Royals came from behind in eight of the 11 victories they needed to win the title, but they weren’t a surprise. They finished the regular season with the best record in the AL at 95-67. In 2014, they went
89-73. In 2013, they went 86-76.
Before that? How does 17 losing seasons in 18 years sound? The Royals were so inept, cheap and irrelevant and let so much of their young talent go to other clubs that critics often called them the Yankees’ Class AAA farm club. Former Walmart CEO David Glass bought the team for $96 million in 2000. If that doesn’t say small-time, I don’t know what does.
But the Royals did so much right that most big-market teams in the majors should be embarrassed. In midsummer, they traded for pitcher Johnny Cueto and infielder Ben Zobrist. They drafted players such as Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, dealt for players such as Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain and scouted, studied and signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales (22 home runs, 106 RBI in 2015) last offseason.
There were other moves that worked out, and, of course, good luck was involved. Signing Perez as a 16-year-old amateur free agent from Venezuela in 2006 was pretty fortunate, for instance. But maybe it was just hard work and baseball savvy that made that pan out.
The Cubs — and White Sox, for that matter — say they’re dedicated to winning it all. And they might be. But so are other teams.
Ten teams have won the World Series since 2000 — one being the Sox but none being the Cubs. Eight major-league franchises never have won a World Series, and only the Mariners and Nationals (formerly the Expos) never have played in one.
The Cubs, of course, have those teams crushed in the futility department, having not been to the big finale since 1945.
Finance and math whiz John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox — who had a futility record almost as bad as that of the Cubs until winning the World Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013 — has said that getting to the playoffs is what a team needs to do. After that, it is a crapshoot, with the probabilities unpredictable and nothing guaranteed.
So that’s what you do: Get there year after year and go for it.
Like the small-market Royals.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.