The benches emptied on Saturday after an argument between Royals catcher Salvador Perez and White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. Anderson led off the game with a solo home run and was very excited about his accomplishment, so he celebrated. Perez took exception to this, having a few words with Anderson as he crossed home late. In the bottom of the first, Perez reached on a fielding error on a line drive to left field, then advanced to second base when Mike Moustakas walked. With Anderson nearby, Perez had some more words for Anderson, which caused the benches to empty.
Reacting to reactions to Saturday’s event, Perez shouted “Fun police!” in the clubhouse on Sunday morning ahead of the Royals’ series finale with the White Sox, James Fegan of the Athletic reports.
Perez said of Anderson, “He did it Opening Day, too. The same thing. Said a bad word. He didn’t even play in a f—ing playoff game. He doesn’t know about getting excited. You have to be in playoffs to get excited, win a World Series, to get excited. That’s a game. That’s a simple game. That’s the second time I said something to him. The first time I saw it I was on the DL. He do it again and I have the opportunity to say something to him again.”
Perez continued, “I’ve hit some homers, too. I keep running the bases. I don’t get loud like you. That’s the only thing I tell him. Keep doing what you’re doing, bro. Have fun. It’s a game, you know, but respect my team. That’s it. He was mad about that.”
Rustin Dodd of The Athletic wrote that Perez, “is among the most joyous players in baseball, a World Series Most Valuable Player who has built his personal brand on smiling and laughing and energy and dousing teammates with a big jug of a Gatorade after every home victory. He is not a grizzled veteran prone to bouts of crankiness.” Which makes this whole thing all the more perplexing. Perez has certainly — despite his claim otherwise — celebrated a home run or two in his eight-year career. That Perez thinks one should have to reach the playoffs — no, wait, win a World Series — in order to be able to express emotion on the field is truly capricious.
Perez suggested that the Royals’ pitchers intentionally throwing at White Sox batters may be a possibility. He said, “[Matt] Davidson, he has a pretty good season here. I don’t want nobody to hit him, you know? He hits the ball, homer, and runs hard. Why you gotta hit him? No. But if you’re gonna do that s–t to us, we’re gonna hit you. We will tell the pitcher, ‘Hit him.'”
There’s a part of me that thinks Perez is only using this situation as a way to energize his ailing team, which has an ugly 7-20 record. It would take a total lack of self awareness for Perez and the Royals — of all players and teams — to get upset at a player for celebrating on the field. And I give Perez enough credit to at least be self aware.
Anderson said his celebration wasn’t meant to be insulting to Perez or any of the other Royals; he was simply trying to motivate his team. He said, “I’m a leadoff guy, so my job is to get my teammates going. If they celebrate a home run, I’m not bothered by it. I’m not stunting on the pitcher or the catcher or the whole team. I’m doing it for the boys. I get excited for my teammates. That’s who I bring this energy for. That gets my teammates going. I led it off with a home run and I got excited.”
Anderson went on, saying, “They’re trying to take the fun out of baseball. This game is fun and I went through too much last year to not have fun. I’m having fun this year. It’s exciting and I’m going to continue to be me. I’m playing this game and being me, and that’s fun.”
Of course, Anderson is right. There are plenty of players around the league who think the game is best played as stoic robots. Baseball, however, increasingly needs to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience. Allowing players to show their emotions and personalities is a great way to do that.
The two clubs don’t meet again until mid-July, just before the All-Star break. Hopefully the two and a half months in between will be more than enough time to let the dust settle.