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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | April 21, 2014

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Perez Rages During Game and After Game About Fans, Attendance

By Mike Brandyberry

Chris Perez doesn’t like being booed.

Perez was throwing gas on Saturday, both at the Miami Marlins and the Cleveland fans. Perez closed out the Indians’ 2-0 victory with a 10-pitch inning, striking out the three hitters he faced. After the game, he threw some gas in the direction of the fans.

“I’m tired of getting booed at home, so I figured I’d throw some strikes today,” Perez said in regard to his effort on the mound. The comment was made in a joking manner.

Perez proceeded to answer a few questions and make comments about the game, mentioning ,” in regards to locking down Jeanmar Gomez’s victory that, “It was big since we blew his last start. We don’t forget that in the bullpen.” He proceeded to talk about how it is easier to attack hitters with a two run lead versus a one run lead. He mentioned how he has to be very fine in a one run game to make sure he doesn’t allow a home run.

Most of the media had walked away and most recorders were off when he was asked if it bothers him to be booed.

“It doesn’t bother me. It pisses me off. I don’t think they have a reason to boo me,” Perez said. “They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on. It feels like I can’t even give up a baserunner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It pisses me off.”

Perez, who blew a three run lead on Opening Day, has saved his last 13 opportunities. The game he was referring to was Thursday afternoon against Seattle. Perez entered with one out in the top of the 10th inning. He proceeded to give up a single to Justin Smoak and walk Casper Wells to put runners on first and second base.

He then got John Jaso to fly out to right field and struck out Jesus Montero to end the inning, work out of the jam and keep the game tied. Perez’s day was done. Joe Smith worked the 11th inning, allowing a run before the Indians scored two in the bottom half of the inning to cap a 6-5 victory.

His treatment by the fans on Thursday was still fresh in his mind.

“I’m not calling out the fans. It’s just how it is,” Perez said. “That stuff is reserved for road games. We don’t want to deal with that crap. Here, good fans are supposed to help you try to get through the inning and say, ‘Hey, you’re only one pitch away, or hey, it’s all right.’ And then after I struck out Montero, the mock standing applause just adds to it. You see their true colors.”

Despite Perez’s 13 consecutive saves since Opening Day, he has been the target of fans outbursts toward the team. Perez is very personable, friendly and available to media and fans alike. He interacts with fans via Twitter and always answers questions from the media, on both good days and bad. After previous blown saves, fans have tweeted terrible messages to the closer, including telling him they wish he was dead.

“They could’ve booed me Opening Day, and they did, and I totally deserved it,” Perez said. “That’s a different thing. I got two guys on (against Seattle). Yeah, my release point was all over the place, but really? I’ve got two guys on. They haven’t even scored yet and you’re booing me? You’re saying, ‘Get this bum off the mound?’ Come on.”

While Perez can handle the pressure of the ninth inning, fans clearly have gotten under his skin. And while his timing could not have been worse—after two straight games with attendance above 29,000—he’s absolutely right about the way he’s treated.

The loss of Mariano Rivera for the season combined with Perez’s ability to close games probably has him as the early candidate to close the All-Star Game for the American League if the situation presents itself. He doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed when two runners reach base, or even when he blows a save. Fans who cried for Vinnie Pestano to replace him as closer after Opening Day would not have a first place team without Perez.

No one deserves a death threat because of their job performance, regardless of their salary.

In regards to his comments about attendance and not wanting to play in front of 5,000 fans, he’s right again. The Indians have been in first place for much of the first 40 games, however, attendance has remained low until this weekend and is embarrassing. Cleveland always is regarded as a passionate sports town, a town that once had 455 consecutive sellouts, yet the Indians remain last in attendance in Major League Baseball?

Fans often point to ownership’s inability to pursue major free agents as a reason they don’t attend games. Perez directly addressed what he felt were Carlos Beltran’s reasons for choosing to sign in St. Louis instead of Cleveland.

“Guys don’t want to come over here and people wonder why,” Perez said. “Why doesn’t Carlos Beltran want to come over here? Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans. We know the weather sucks, but people see that. Other players know that.”

“You had a choice of playing in St. Louis where you get 40,000 like Beltran chose to do, or you can come to Cleveland. It’s going to take more money to get him to come to Cleveland. That’s just how it is. That’s another thing that you have to go against. It’s not only the payrolls of the (American League) East teams, but that kind of stuff.”

Again, Perez is right. Players don’t want to play in front of 5,000 fans. They want to play in front of 40,000. It isn’t fans responsibility to show up regardless of the product on the field, but what message does it send to free agents when a first place team draws so poorly?

While Perez’s comments were accurate, his timing could not have been worse. Clearly his treatment from Thursday and the last six weeks has  raged inside of him, but exploding on the fans just minutes after the crowd was into the game and ecstatic for a hard fought win will only fan the flames to the uneducated fan who most likely will boo him even louder now.

What Perez lacked in timing, he thrived in truth. Both he and the Indians deserve better treatment from Cleveland fans.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images