Another day, another set of pointed comments by Chris Perez, the Cleveland Indians’ outspoken closer.
Last month, shortly after an ugly encounter with a fan in Oakland, Perez blasted the Indians’ ownership and front office, comparing the Indians’ situation to the Detroit Tigers’, specifically citing Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and his willingness to spend and the Indians’ failed pursuit of then-free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, who would sign with the Twins.
Today, Perez sounded off again, telling reporters that “they don’t know the whole story” in regards to those comments, adding that the frustration that inspired his recent outburst “walked out the door last week.” Perez then made it crystal clear that he was referring to recently departed Tribe manager Manny Acta, telling reporters Acta meshed better with with the media than the players themselves. Perez then went further, saying that he felt how the team handled him in the offseason would be a sign as to the direction the team would head for next year, and that he wishes to stay in Cleveland but that it wasn’t up to him.
Perez has said a lot this season (and probably should have been suspended after the Oakland incident). But this is new—it’s the first time I’ve been utterly confused by what he’s saying.
I don’t doubt that the comments in September were rooted in frustration. The Indians were starting to scratch their way from the brutal August combustion, and instead of talking to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi about the Indians’ playoff chances, he was talking about Oakland’s vault into contention and why the Indians had floundered.
He lashed out at an easy target, and it made sense at the time when the Indians front office failed to make an impact deal for a team that was very much alive at the July 31st trade deadline. No major reinforcements were coming from the minors, either. The Indians were on their own. So, I get it if Perez felt abandoned or however you’d want to describe his feelings.
But today he threw in a remix, blaming Acta for the team’s lethargic attitude, which is a 180-degree spin from what he’d said last month. He’s good with the front office (Perez said he spoke with GM Chris Antonetti on Monday), and wants to stay in Cleveland—this coming from the same guy who ripped Cleveland fans in May for their poor attendance, although he had a point.
People can change their minds, but if we’re to believe what Perez said Tuesday, most of what he said to Morosi less than a month earlier wasn’t true and Perez was just letting off steam. To a national baseball writer. Whoops, sorry about that! Acta was the real problem, and now that he’s gone, things are cool?
Sorry, I don’t buy it.
I’d like to state, very clearly, that I am a fan of Chris Perez. He’s a great closer. I like an athlete who speaks his mind and avoids cookie-cutter quotes. And Perez seems to be reasonably intelligent. I like the guy, and I like having Chris Perez as the closer for the Indians. He’s a fun guy to root for. But the type of behavior he’s exhibited this season, especially since August, is baffling.
I don’t doubt that Acta wasn’t as liked by the players as he was by the media. And certainly, one could have made a valid argument for his dismissal (I didn’t, but our own Lewie Pollis did quite well). But Perez is claiming here that Acta was the main reason he and the rest of the team couldn’t recover when they started to spiral out of contention in August. I find it troubling that Perez allowed Acta to get so under his skin that he’d blast ownership to a national sports network and flip out at an opposing fan. Even if he did totally backpedal from those comments less than a week after Acta left.
It’s always easy to kick someone when they’re down. I gotta give it to Perez, his timing with his comments is almost diabolical. Hop on the Acta Hate Train before it departs for good, and establish some goodwill with the fans and potentially the front office. This is a crucial offseason for Perez as he is eligible for arbitration and will probably be in line for a pay raise after a good season, and probably realized that his comments about the front office were pretty stupid since, y’know, they kinda decide his paycheck.
Perez’s comments Tuesday seemed to shift almost all the blame on Acta’s management style (or lack thereof), If I ran the Indians, I’d be nervous about getting involved in any kind of multi-year contract with Perez, both due to volatile nature of relief pitching and the volatile nature of his personality. Perez’s actions and comments have been, quite frankly, crazy. And relievers grow on trees. Giving Perez any kind of large payday is incredibly risky, and trading Perez may just be the best way to improve this club for 2013.
So if the Indians weren’t sure of what to do with Perez before now, the answer should be simple after hearing these comments. If they want to avoid overpaying him in arbitration and the risk of a multi-year deal, trading Perez this offseason is probably the best thing for this team.
I’ll miss him, but if Chris Perez isn’t traded this offseason, he was wrong; the Indians problems ran far deeper than Acta. And Perez will have no one left to blame.