Mets lefthander Oliver Perez is reminding me more of Oliver Hardy (of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy) these days than a pitcher. Some film buffs might recall Hardy telling Laurel, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” in the film Another Fine Mess. Of course, the truth was Hardy was blaming poor Laurel for problems he himself caused. This would be a perfect explanation of the Oliver Perez Mess that is currently playing out like a melodrama at Citi Field here in New York City.
To say Perez is struggling is beyond an understatement; right now he looks like a kid who has been playing stickball plucked from the street and plopped on the mound at Citi Field. Gone is the guy I once saw pitch against the Yankees at old Shea and throw six scoreless innings. What has happened to him, I don’t know; maybe he’s not eating his Wheaties. Whatever is the case, he has got the Mets in a serious bind right now, and it looks like his team is going to keep suffering because of his selfishness.
As a starter this year Perez has looked lost on the mound. His fastball is mediocre at best, and he doesn’t have many other things in his repertoire to buttress his performance. Looking at the grim bottom line, Perez is 0-3 this season with a 6.28 ERA in 7 starts and a total 11 appearances. The guy who won 15 games in 2007 is gone, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel has faced the truth. Like poor Stan Laurel talking to Ollie, Manuel has tried to talk sense to his lefty, but to no avail.
The big drama now is that Manuel has put Perez out in the bullpen, and there seems to be no use for him except in a game that is out of reach. The team wants to activate Jon Niese to start the game on Saturday against the Marlins, and what they had hoped to do was send Perez down to Triple-A Buffalo at that time. They need the space on the roster, but Perez has refused to go down (which is his right through baseball’s collective bargained agreement).
So what are the Mets to do? If you listen to talk radio here in New York, the popular idea is to release him outright, but what’s left on his three-year, $36 million contract would be owed to him, so the Mets are not too fond of that idea. The manager (and apparently some teammates) have tried to reason with Perez. The pitch (pun intended) has been: go down to Triple-A, work on your cutter and your change and maybe another pitch, and then you can come back when you’re ready.
Perez has seen too many pirate movies, no doubt, to think that walking the Triple-A plank is a way to a safe haven. He is probably afraid he will get stuck down there if and when he makes no progress. Judging from what we’ve seen of the guy, it looks like he is indeed washed-up at 28. Is it because of last year’s knee injury which kept him out for most of 2009? Or is it, as some sports people here in NYC have suggested, all in his head?
We cannot be sure, but I am looking at it as a fan who doesn’t understand the lack of team spirit going on here. Perez is not only unwilling to do what is best for his team, the guy is not even willing to do what is best for himself. He is getting little or no work in the bullpen, and is simply becoming a nonentity out there. Obviously, no other team will take him off our hands, so the one thing he can do (according to the agreement if he has been asked to go to Triple-A) is declare himself a free agent. The catch is that he will not get the rest of his salary from the Mets if he does that, so it looks like he’s going to hang around for awhile.
Scott Boras, his agent, is supposedly working with the Mets on this one (yeah, like he did in the A-Rod deal?), but it doesn’t look promising. The team will have to send someone else down if Perez elects to stay out in no man’s land in the pen. This means sending down an effective pitcher (probably rookie Jenrry Mejia) in order for Niese to be activated.
So, Ollie, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into. Thanks for your gopher balls and your lack of team spirit, but most of all, thanks for nothing.