The 99th Greatest Royal of All-Time is Rey Sanchez
The Dirty Sanchez
Rey makes the list almost wholly on his defense. In 1999, he nearly hit .300 (.294), but it was the emptiest .294 you'd ever seen as he drew just 16 walks and had just 23 extra base hits. This was at the height of the offensive explosion, so his OPS+ was just 78, despite hitting .294.
But his defense was outstanding. His committed just 17 errors in his two full seasons in Kansas City, and his Range Factor/game in 1999 was third among AL starting shortstops, well above that of Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel.
The Royals signed Rey in the winter of 1998 after surviving the three-headed monster of Mendy Lopez, Shane Halter, and Felix Martinez at shortstop. After being a utility guy in the National League, Rey jumped at the chance to join the lowly Royals as an opportunity to play every day, and make some good money.
"We've had problems at shortstop," Royals manager Tony Muser said. "We were trying to strengthen the shortstop position."
That was an understatement akin to the likes of "Lindsay Lohan may have a bit of an alcohol problem." In 1998, Royals shortstops combined to "hit" .228/.277/.302, a line that would have made Jackie Hernandez proud.
Sanchez provided an excellent glove and a non-embarrassing bat in the lineup for a decent price. Unfortunately, that made him one of the better players on the team.
Having a great defensive, albeit light-hitting shortstop hypnotized General Manager Allard Baird into believing this was the key to success. So in Rey's contract year, he traded All-Star slugger Jermaine Dye to the Oakland A's in a three team trade for solid fielding, no-hit shortstop Neifi Perez. This was despite the fact that Sanchez was still on the roster, and prospect Angel Berroa was having a great season in AA Wichita. In his very first fielding play as a Royal, Neifi Perez whizzed a throw past the first baseman.
"Without a high-quality shortstop, you don't have a chance to win."
-Manager Tony Muser, upon the acquisition of Neifi Perez
A week later, the Royals finally dealt Sanchez to the Braves and were left without a high-quality shortstop.
Since Neifi Perez did not make the list of 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time, I want to take this opportunity to elaborate upon how much I hate Neifi Perez. I was in England when the Dye-Perez trade went down. When I first read about it on the internet, I thought it was a joke - a cruel joke perpetuated by ESPN.com parodying how clueless Allard Baird and the lowly Royals truly were. There was no way Allard Baird could POSSIBLY be that stupid, could there?
Many lopsided trades in history were actually well received at the time, or at least made sense. The David Cone-Ed Hearn trade was the worst in franchise history, but at the time, few thought it was a bad deal. The Neifi Perez-Jermaine Dye trade was considered to be so bad at the time, it managed to sour perpetually optimistic columnist Joe Posnanski:
I'm not even going to go into how much I despise this trade, how much I detest this trade, how much I loathe, abhor, revile and reject this trade (a while ago, I promised a reader I would stop using the ugly verb "hate" in columns. Otherwise, I would really hate this trade, too).
It couldn't even be justified as a salary dump. Neifi Perez made $4.1 million in 2002. Jermaine Dye made $7.1 million in 2002. In other words, the Royals could have afforded to keep Jermaine Dye had they simply refused to pick up Brent Mayne and Chuck Knoblauch. If they did want to dump salary, then at least the could have picked up some good young prospects for Dye. The players Colorado received in the deal - Mario Encarnacion, Todd Belitz and Jose Ortiz - didn't pan out, but would have been far more acceptable than the overpaid out-machine known as Neifi Freakin' Perez.
To sum up, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate Neifi Perez. I hate that he cost us Jermaine Dye. I hate that he cost the Royals $4.1 million to play like a turd. I hate that he posted and OPS+ of 47 and 40 in his two seasons in Kansas City. I hate that his defense was not even as spectacular as advertised and that he was a pretty mediocre defensive player. I hate his attitude. I hate that Allard Baird and Tony Muser seemed to like him. I hate that teams still employ him despite years of evidence that he sucks.
I hate Neifi Perez and if I ever see him I would consider challenging him to a fight. After all, I know he can't hit.