On July 28, Aaron Altherr and Cameron Rupp sent a pair of Julio Teheran offerings to baseball heaven, giving the Phillies two runs as part of a 10-3 win and the second victory of a five-game hot streak (that would be neutralized by a subsequent five-game losing streak).
Phones and tablets buzzed across the Delaware Valley, giving people the news.
Cameron Perkins is exactly the kind of player you want to see get a chance on a team that is just killing time, developing talent, and evaluating assets; a young guy, never a top prospect, bursting with energy and enthusiasm even as the team struggled for its 40th win in August. His lasting 2017 legacy will be aggressive dabbing. Because if not for that, there wouldn’t be much to talk about.
Perkins got the call from Lehigh Valley on June 20th, to the chagrin of anyone who had been hoping Nick Williams or Dylan Cozens would get the call (Williams would make his debut 10 days later). The truth was, the job Perkins was inheriting was going to be sporadic, challenging, and inconsistent; nothing to which the Phillies wanted to expose one of their more anticipated prospects. At the time of Perkins’ promotion, things were already a mess, with Cesar Hernandez on the DL, Howie Kendrick playing second base, and Perkins’ job being to split time with Daniel Nava in the outfield.
His call-up was a blessing less because of him bringing a .298 BA and the third highest OBP in the International League (.388) to face big league pitching, and more because he was replacing Michael Saunders, a free agent signing that Matt Klentak probably put together while he was clipping his toenails but wound up having slightly less value than the product of that.
Shifting Perkins into a spot previously occupied by a veteran bringing **nothing** to the lineup nightly at least gave us a sign that the Phillies were watching the same team that we were, and that changes were coming, even if they weren’t the changes we wanted, when we wanted them. At least the Phillies didn’t look at Saunders’ -0.7 WAR over three months and think, “Let’s see where he’s going with this,” and at least his departure meant we got to see some of the most infectiously joyous space-filling in the history of baseball in the form of Cameron Perkins.
Perkins is a fountain of cool trivia that in the end means nothing: He doesn’t use batting gloves. He has the same birthday as Mike Schmidt. And, yeah. He was the .gif that kept on .giffin’.
Eventually, he would get shipped back to Lehigh Valley, only to get called back up in early August when Aaron Altherr hit the DL with a hamstring injury. Perkins finished with a slash line of .182/.237/.273, 16 hits in 88 AB (5 XBH), a home run, and one catch that, if it had gone any other way, would have spent a couple of nights cycling through any sports outlets that specialize in ridicule. He did hit .333 as a pinch hitter in 18 AB and .316 with RISP which, even in a limited window, indicated a clutchness this team lacked for large portions of baseball.
At some point this season, your emotions crusted over and you became someone who felt any celebrations of anything Phillies-related was the product of pathetic naivety, and were always ready to remind everyone of how bad things were. But we didn’t need reminders of that in a 96-loss season. We needed silver linings, fun rumors, or, at the very least, images indicating that pockets of joy are possible over 162 games for a non-playoff, non-good team. Cameron Perkins gave us that a couple of times.
Currently, Perkins is doing what guys like Perkins do this time of year: he’s playing in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Through five games, he is fifth in the league in hits with 7 (he’s tied with Vlad Guerrero, Jr.!) (and three other guys!). What else can a 27-year-old, low-ceiling prospect trying to earn the attention that earns him an invitation that earns him a job do?
Just keep playing. Just keep swinging. Just keep dancing.