You’re probably hearing Royals fans say, “That’s what speed do” a lot. With games on the line, they tend to slap the ball, get on base however they can, and score however they can, and that’s what the line refers to.
The origin was a game on July 27, 2013. Jarrod Dyson led off the 12th inning with a ground ball to Gordon Beckham, who bobbled the ball. The scorekeeper credited Dyson with a controversial single.
“That’s a single,” Dyson insisted after the game. “That’s a tough play. That’s what speed do. If you can’t handle the ball, put it back in the glove.”
Dyson knows speed. He once tagged up and scored the game winning run on a popup to shortstop.
If you remember the movie Major League, Dyson is pretty much a real-life version of Willie Mays Hayes. The Royals drafted him in 2006 in Round 50, which made him a long shot to ever reach the majors. He made the team in 2011 simply as a pinch running specialist, and along the way learned to hit enough to stick in the major leagues. Dyson scratched out a lot of wins by pinch running for teammates like Billy Butler and Salvy Perez, who get on base quite a bit but are probably the world’s slowest and second-slowest mammals, respectively. They would reach on a single or a walk, then Dyson would pinch run and do crazy things like score from first on a single, or steal second and third in succession and tag up and turn a popup to short into a sacrifice fly.
“You can’t steal first, but you can borrow it,” wrote a Kansas City Star columnist (probably Sam Mellinger) about Dyson sometime in 2011.
Dyson’s comment from the summer of 2013, “That’s what speed do,” stuck as a catchphrase. Speed wins games you weren’t supposed to win.
In September 2014, when the rules allowed teams to expand their rosters to 40 players, the Royals loaded up on speed. To complement Dyson, they called up a young outfielder named Lane Adams. They also called up a younger, more extreme version of Dyson. Terrance Gore hit .213 in the minors, but runs faster. Having Gore means the Royals have two pinch-running specialists to bring off the bench. Dyson will remain in the game; Gore will come out for a pinch hitter if the game goes longer and he has to bat. The Royals have pitchers who hit better than Gore, but there’s nobody who runs the bases faster.
Gore, unlike Dyson, was drafted in Round 20. In late rounds, after the best prospects are off the draft board, the Royals look for players with niche skills they might be able to use to scratch out a win here or there. And there’s always the possibility that some of them, like Dyson, will eventually become useful big-league players.
The Royals tried to use Dyson and Gore and Adams to steal the division title in September 2014. Adams pinch ran three times and scored once. Gore stole five bases and scored five runs and batted only twice, both times in blowout games. It ended up not being enough to catch the Detroit Tigers, but the duo did help the Royals steal the wild card game from Oakland to reach the postseason for the first time since 1985.
When they win a game, in postgame interviews, usually Dyson or Gore finish the interview by repeating the tagline. If they don’t say “that’s what speed do,” the interviewer makes them.