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A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Salvador Perez

With Venezuela facing an uncertain future due to the terminal illness of President Hugo Chavez, native son Salvador Perez is increasingly being viewed as the probable successor.

Salvador Perez, a leader of men
Salvador Perez, a leader of men
Ezra Shaw

Kansas City Royals phenom Salvador Perez might have more than catching duties on his plate in upcoming months. With President Hugo Chavez rumored to be in the last days of his life due to a long battle with cancer, and no successor in view, many people in Venezuela are calling on Perez to assume the office of President.

"Is there anything that Perez can't do?" asked Eduardo Otis, a native of the capital city of Caracas. "He can hit for average; he can hit for power; and he just might be the best defensive player in the league right now. Adding the office of presidency would not be a stretch for somebody with so many skills."

Chavez has been a controversial figure during his time as president. An unapologetic Socialist, some view him as a tireless advocate for the poor, while others see him as a strongman bent on ruining the nation's economy for his own personal gain. Chavez has handily won re-election twice, but human rights groups have expressed grave concern over his treatment of members of the opposition.

"We are a very divided nation right now. If the wrong person takes over for Chavez, there's no telling what might happen, including civil war," said Gabriel Cowens, a journalist from the city of Maracaibo. "That is why Perez is clearly the right man for the job. He has shown the ability to to unite a divided Kansas City Royals fan base. Trust your gut scouts and sabermetricians alike love him. Look, even Lee Judge and Rany Jazayerli, as polar opposite in baseball views as you can get, are both big fans of Perez."

Some potential concerns about Perez would include both his inexperience and the unknown nature of his political views. What are his political views and would they be a fit in Venezuela? Does he have the experience to handle running an oil-rich South American nation? Perez's teammates think he is up to the task.

"It's amazing how bright of a guy Sal is," said Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. "One minute he's discussing the pitching plan for tomorrow's game, and the next minute he wants to debate Gerard Debreu's theory of economic quasi-equilibrium."

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon also is a big fan of Perez. "Look, there's no other way to say it: Sal's a genius. Whenever our team gets into a debate of economic theory, Sal is in the middle of it. He quotes Hayek just as easily as he quotes Keynes. It's almost as if he takes the opposite side on any debate just to prolong it. I'm not sure what his own personal views are, but he has a strong grasp on various sides of economic theory. Sal just loves discussing ideas."

Perez has also won over Royals manager Ned Yost. "Initially, I was concerned by Sal," said Yost. "He came up from the minors and was reading all these big fancy books. I thought he needed a clear head to play the game, but he has shown the ability to handle it. I mean, during the afternoon he reads all these thick books with no pictures, but at night he gets a couple of hits and throws out a couple of runners. If it's working, what can I say?"

Royals General Manager Dayton Moore initially expressed concern with how Perez could fit in playing for the Royals while being president of a country, but after talking with Perez, his concerns were alleviated. "Sal assured me that if he would be president, it would not affect his play. Catcher would be the perfect position for this, as he would usually have one or two off days a week to devote to Venezuela, and he also would have the off season. If there's anybody who can handle it, it's Sal. I just hope we're not placing too unrealistic of expectations on him."

Well known Royals fan and sports writer Joe Posnanski, however, is not concerned about unrealistic expectations for Perez. "Unrealistic expectations? Look, for a catcher who will be better than Johnny Bench and a president who will be better than George Washington, I don't think you have to worry about expectations. The sky is the limit for Perez."

For all the speculation surrounding him, Perez is insisting he is remaining calm. "I can't control who may or may not end up as president. For now, I am focusing on the upcoming season while reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu. My two main goals for the upcoming year are to lead the Royals to the playoffs and bring peace and healing to my native land."