Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Sad Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Perez

The New York Mets have tried to convince pitcher Oliver Perez to accept an assignment to their Triple-A farm team in Buffalo, but Perez has refused. Rather than eat the remainder of the contract agent Scott Boras conned them into giving Perez a year ago, the team opted to put Perez in the bullpen after consecutive bad outings. Until Saturday's game against Milwaukee, Perez seemed to adjust pretty well to his new role, but, as is the case when he has been a starter, Perez has been prone to fits of misfortune on the mound, and the New York press was all over him like a cheap suit. The New York Post, in Monday's edition, citing an anonymous teammate as a source, seemed to push for the Mets to go ahead, eat the contract, and send Perez on his way.

The Mets knew what they were getting when they traded for Perez in July 2006. He had a horrid record that season, but showed flashes of brilliance, including a heroic effort in the NLCS against eventual World Series champ St. Louis. In the nearly 3 1/2 seasons since, it's been more of the same. Given a choice between Perez and Pedro Martinez prior to the 2009 season, the Mets ended up getting swindled by the greedy Boras and re-signed Perez. Martinez signed in mid-season with Philadelphia, and could conceivably do so again this summer, pulling a Roger Clemens ploy in waiting until the 2nd half. If the Mets are really serious about being players in the NL East, then they need to correct the one mistake that conceivably could've put a pox on them last year, and that would be to cut Perez and make a major mea culpa to Martinez. Sure, Martinez might not be in the best of health, but he showed in his brief stint with the Phillies last season, and before that in the World Baseball Classic, that he's still a money player. The Mets are simply erring on the side of caution, what with Martinez missing chunks of the 2007 & 2008 seasons because of injuries. Screw caution. If they can stick it to the Phillies by taking Pedro away from them, so be it.

Another option would be to trade Perez across town to the Yankees for their troubled hurler, Javier Vazquez, who proved he can still pitch in a National League park by dominating the Mets at Citi Field on May 21. Vazquez gave the Mets fits last year when he pitched for Atlanta, and you have to believe the Yankees are having similar dilemmas with Vazquez as the Mets have with Perez. In two tours of duty with the Yankees, Vazquez has had the same kind of inexplicable problems that others have had (i.e. Ed Whitson) pitching in the Bronx, and yet the Steinbrenners were willing to put the past aside and give him another chance. Going into a series against Baltimore, Vazquez is 3-5, with one of those wins coming in relief. Putting Vazquez in Mets orange & blue and Perez in Yankee pinstripes could be the cure-all for everyone concerned.

But will it happen? The key here is convincing Perez that it is in the best interests of both the team and himself that he has to accept a trip to Buffalo to straighten himself out. The Mets have done this with other pitchers, most notably Steve Trachsel & Aaron Heilman, with mixed results. If Perez remains defiant, then it's over for him. His ego and wallet are getting in the way of bringing the team back to respectability in the division. Unfortunately, he is the only one who doesn't understand.

No comments: