Utility infielder Tomas Perez started making his mark with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2000 season.
As I’ve previously discussed throughout this ongoing series about the worst Philadelphia Phillies club in a generation, there weren’t many bright spots during the 2000 season. Yes, we saw some promising glimpses of the future, but by and large it was mostly a disaster. And then there was the unique case of utility man Tomas Perez, a player who turned out to have surprising value for years to come.
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Perez had broken into MLB with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995, receiving sporadic playing time through the 1998 season. Toronto then flipped him to the Angels for Dave Hollins(!), but Perez never saw the field for his new organization; he spent all of 1999 at AAA Edmonton, which I’m sure was a ton of fun. Then, on December 15, 1999, he signed with the Phillies.
It was on.
Looking for anything they could get, the Phillies kept Perez on the roster to start the season. The 26-year old Perez, however, only got into five games before the team sent him down to AAA. He’d remain there until August, but after the Phillies traded regular shortstop Desi Relaford, Perez was summoned back up to the big club. From August 4 on, Perez was the team’s shortstop for the remainder of the season, with a little bit of Alex Arias sprinkled in from time to time. It was the most regular playing time that he’d ever receive with the Phillies, though he didn’t do a ton to show that he was an everyday option. Still, there was something there.
Teammates and fans alike could see the effort level and the joy with which Perez played the game, and his showing in 2000 laid the groundwork for his Phillies career to come. He’d be bumped from the shortstop spot in 2001 by a kid named Jimmy Rollins, which turned out to be a good call. Yet Perez soldiered on and provided exactly what the Phillies needed him to, frequently getting into games as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement while also spot-starting all around the infield.
Perez would stick with the Phillies through the 2005 season, routinely giving them 200+ at bats every year while not embarrassing himself (except for that one painful time) and providing a steady clubhouse presence that made him one of the most beloved players on the team. He wasn’t around when the Phils won the 2008 World Series, but he was most definitely one of the pieces that set the team in motion to that end.
I believe that Harry Kalas himself once called Perez the greatest utility player he’d ever seen, which is nice, but it’s also akin to seeing a 2005 Toyota Camry pass a horse-drawn carriage on a country road and saying “It might not be much, but at least that car is faster than that buggy”. Sorry, I live in a rural area. The point is, Tomas Perez was just one of those guys who gave you a lot more than what you saw on the stats page. Phillies fans remember him fondly, and it all started during the 2000 season.