Booing Perez Is In Poor Taste

“In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Indians have managed to win a few here and there…” – Harry Doyle, Major League

Frustratingly lost in the shuffle of another Cleveland Indians walkoff victory on Saturday afternoon was more undesired focus on the fans.

It was not in regards to all fans as a whole. Nor was it related to their attendance, a much belabored point because of the miniscule, pathetic, and disgraceful turnout through the turnstiles this season at Progressive Field.

Instead, it was on the actions of a vocal minority, who once again aimed audibly at the Indians two-time American League All-Star closer, Chris Perez.

In the ninth inning, Perez entered the action with a two-run lead. He retired lefty Kendrys Morales on two pitches, getting him to line out to Jason Kipnis, who barely had to move. The out decreased the batting average of left-handed hitters against Perez to .074 on the season. Just four left-handed batters had reached base against Perez on the year (a single, double, walk, and hit by pitch).

Michael Morse, the Mariners’ leader in home runs on the season, struck out on six pitches, five of which were strikes. Two down.

In stepped Raul Ibanez. Despite the odds heavily stacked in Perez’s favor, Ibanez sent a solo homer to the seats in right. In the last five days, he has homered in consecutive games twice. His sixth home run in his last seven games cut the deficit to 4-3. It was just the second blast allowed on the season by Perez, the first to a lefty, and the first since the season’s second game.

Switch-hitting Justin Smoak climbed into the batter’s box from the lefty side of the plate and crushed a 1-1 pitch nearly 400 feet to right center. His second home run of the season tied up the game. It was the second official blown save of the season for Perez.

Perez promptly came back and retired Jesus Montero on a first pitch grounder to second to end the frame. As he and his teammates walked off of the field, the closer was serenaded with boos.

What does booing Perez do? Does it make you feel better, to kick someone when he is already down? Because I can’t possibly fathom what else it could accomplish.

Do you think that there was any chance Perez was not aware he gave up back-to-back homers to tie it? The guy is a gamer, a fierce competitor who was not afraid to man up and speak up last year when NO ONE else on the roster was willing or able to.

“You can’t always make excuses when things don’t go your way,” Perez was quoted after the game in a story by Chris Assenheimer of The Chronicle-Telegram. “I made two mistakes. It was just one of those days today. It’s just one blip on the radar. I’m not going to change anything. It’s not going to be the last save I blow.”

Last season, Perez took on a leadership role that few in his position as a closer have ever tried to do. A guy who pitches in close games on occasion is generally not looked to be the first to speak up. Any of the other starting nine should be expected in that role.

As a veteran on the club, Perez embraced the role, he ruffled some feathers, but he put his money where his mouth was. His performance on the field still placed him amongst the best in the game at his position while he nailed down a career-best 39 saves in 43 opportunities.

I’ve heard the rationalization too often that Cleveland fans can boo Perez if they want to because he called them out.

Really? What did he say that was so wrong?

He was right when he said in a Jon Morosi column on September 4, 2012 that Cleveland ownership’s unwillingness to spend money helped to create the gap between the Tigers and the Indians during the 2012 season that ultimately became too much to overcome.

He was right when he said that small market ball clubs do not have room to make mistakes in trades or free agency. It is no coincidence that the Indians front office spent big money in the offseason and brought in several top tier free agents and also added through what appear to be several beneficial trades.

He was right when he expressed his confusion about the poor attendance at Progressive Field. Fans didn’t show up last year and, as a whole, have yet to show up this season, as the first place Cleveland Indians are in last place in all of baseball in attendance (even though their attendance is up slightly compared to last year’s figures). Fans have lined up in droves to support a Cleveland Browns team blindly eight times a season. I can make the exception that the Browns play just eight home games and the Indians play 81, but the case in point is that the Indians have been more competitive and at least have actually laid claim to first place for significant stretches over the last several seasons, and several times more since the Browns returned in 1999.

“Their whole thing is, ‘We want a winner.’ Well, why do you support the Browns? They don’t win. They’ve never won. They left. You guys blindly support them,” Perez was quoted in a New York Times story by Tyler Kepner published on June 25, 2012. “I don’t understand it. It’s a double standard, and I don’t know why. It’s head-scratching. It’s just — they don’t come out. But around the city, there’s great support. They watch it in the bars. They watch it at home. They just don’t come.”

If there is anything we know how to do well in Cleveland, it’s lose!

Don’t let me tell you how to spend your money. I’m grateful the attendance has slowly climbed over the course of the last few games. It’s fantastic to see some people beginning to recognize that the Indians are playing some good baseball right now and are enjoying it in person. They may very well be the hottest team in all of baseball.

They have won 16 of their last 20 games. Any time you win 80% of your ball games over any stretch of the season, it can be called a pretty good run.

Luckily for Perez and the Indians, the first four Cleveland batters reached base successfully in the bottom of the ninth Saturday, earning the team their second consecutive walkoff win and third straight win overall.

It also guarantees, at worst, a series split with Seattle. The Indians have not lost a series since they were swept by the Boston Red Sox a month ago and have only lost three series on the season (including series two of the season versus Tampa Bay and series three versus New York).

The Indians have been able to accomplish this feat because of the far more balanced team they field this season. But even though they are more balanced, some common themes will occur from time to time over the course of a 162-game baseball season.

Offenses will have quiet days or slumps at the plate.

Starters will struggle at times to make it through five innings.

Bullpens will allow runs.

Closers will blow saves.

It all has happened before; I guarantee it will all happen again.

For what it’s worth, the man who was booed by SOME of the 17,574 in attendance on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon is also third in the storied history of the Cleveland Indians organization with 105 saves.

Bob Wickman spent parts of six seasons representing the Indians. He donned the Indians’ cap in the All-Star game in 2005. He never once completed a season without blowing a save and blew five saves in his 45-save 2005 season. Only twice in his stay in Cleveland did he have an ERA below three. He is the team’s leader in saves with 139 in 156 opportunities (89.1%).

For those who watched Wicky time, you likely recall being on the edge of your seat night in and night out while he made the ninth inning an adventure.

Doug Jones spent parts of seven different seasons on the shores of Lake Erie, including a brief return in 1998 to Jacobs Field. He was a five-time All-Star, three times in Cleveland, and accumulated 129 career saves.

Like Wickman, it was not always smooth sailing. He lost ten games in 1989 and blew nine saves. He blew eight more saves the next season on the way to saving 43. In his Cleveland career, he converted 129 of 163 save opportunities (79.1%).

The math alone says that Jones had his fair share of misses, despite owning the team’s saves record until the early portion of the 2006 season when Wickman stole the crown.

With Saturday’s blown save, Perez has now converted 105 of his 121 save opportunities in an Indians uniform. His 86.8% conversion rate is one of the best in the history of the franchise, trailing Mike Jackson’s 89.5% amongst all Cleveland relievers who have had at least five save opportunities since saves and save opportunities officially became tracked statistics in 1969. In the last three years, he has converted 89% (81-of-91).

By comparison, Mariano Rivera has saved 89.5% of his chances in his career. Trevor Hoffman, second all-time in saves, converted 88.8%. Former Indians pitcher Dennis Eckersley was able to lock down 92.6% of his career saves.

Perez, so far in 2013, has a 2-0 record and has earned saves in six of his eight chances. His 1.80 ERA, tarnished by the two home runs against Seattle, jumped from 0.64 entering the day. He has a strikeout in each one of his 15 appearances on the season and has 16 strikeouts total. While his May numbers have been slightly higher than his April effort, he still is sporting a 1.13 WHIP on the year. Only twice this season has he given up more than two hits in a game.

In both of his blown saves, the Indians have come back to win the game. His first blown save of the season came on a solo home run in Toronto against Jose Bautista, hardly putting him in rare company. In what could have been a blown save against Oakland during Cleveland’s last homestand, the Indians were able to earn a win via instant replay failure.

He is 8-14 in his Cleveland career with a 3.00 ERA.

Perez hardly deserved the ridiculous reception he was greeted with when he left the field Saturday afternoon. He has been one of the better closers in the league since he took over the role in Cleveland and has made a quick ascent to the top of the all-time leaderboard in the organization.

If you don’t respect the man for the manner in which he approached sensitive team matters last season, so be it, but he deserves more respect for the quality closer he has been for the city of Cleveland far more often than not.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. I understand that his numbers overall are pretty good. I have also been a big fan of Perez since he has been here, but he has been shaky this whole season. We have a better team this year, so the blown saves have been winnable, but he should have 3 blown saves this year (thanks umps!). Not to mention he continues to let tons of runners on the bases and make games close. From a fan perspective it is tough to see someone like Ubaldo struggle (and recognize that struggle) but still give 6 quality innings, only to not truly feel like your all-star closer can get the job done. Fear is what Perez should strike in hitters, but instead he strikes that fear in fans. The booing may not be right, but you can’t blame a cautiously optimistic fanbase for being angry when every win is a big deal.

    1. I understand fans are cautiously optimistic. But Perez (and few other closers!) are going to go out and not allow a runner to reach base in the game’s waning moments every night. In 1/3 of his appearances, he has faced the minimum. In over half of his appearances, he has faced four. Guys are going to get on at times. The key to a good closer is that he does not allow those runners to score. He has allowed four runs, three earned, and all three of the earned were home runs. The other unearned run, in Detroit, would never have crossed if Swisher made a clean catch of an otherwise routine throw at first. I would venture more than a fair share of major league hitters still fear Perez.

  2. Very good story, Mr. Toth. I was at the game yesterday and as Perez was walking to the dugout, instead of booing, I sent him a tweet reminding him he was OUR All-Star. He’s a hell of a pitcher who made two mistakes. Those same fans who booed him coming off the field “fair-weathered” it when we got the run back in the ninth. Fans are fickle, and Cleveland fans are the worst.

    1. Really?? Really? He ruined a fantastic outing by McAllister. I’m sure he would be the first to tell you he deserved it. He’s lost his edge and he knows it. Hopefully Francona has the balls to do something about it. 3 blown saves out of 8 is NO ALL STAR!!! YES 3. Umps gave him one. This team has an edge this year. The fans of Cleveland want sit back and let him blow it!!!

      1. A pair of blown saves hardly indicates losing one’s edge. Francona will do exactly what he needs to in the next save situation, put Chris Perez right back in the center of the diamond to close it out. It’s a shame that McAllister was not able to earn the win in a game he deserved the W, but if he’s the ball player I assume he is, he is far more excited about the team win than a personal stat. In all three of these blown saves, the Indians picked up their closer and got the win. That’s what matters. Even when Perez has made his mistakes and allowed the opposition to tie the game, his teammates got the job done.

  3. Booing is a way for fans to show they are not pleased with results. Writers are amazing. They want people to show up and shut up. Amazing.

    1. I absolutely disagree with your statement. You’re entitled to boo. You booed my story. You’re welcomed to that. Players know that stepping on the field will subject them to criticism just as I know putting my words and thoughts out here subject me to critique. It’s just a shame when a guy’s own fans rain this kind of sentiment on him. Perez had a bad game. In reality, he had two bad pitches! They’ll happen! Was I disappointed in the ninth inning? Absolutely! I was there in person to witness it. But I didn’t lash out at the guy. Fans and their blinders forget the other 105 times he stepped on the field and finished off the opposition, more than any other Indians pitcher EVER not named Bob Wickman or Doug Jones, and instead dwell on the couple of mistakes he has made. THAT is what is amazing.

  4. Fans can never express their feelings in Cleveland. Every time we do something its wrong. We don’t show up to games because the team is winning….its our fault. We boo, its our fault. The player gets mad. So the owners spent money for a change and we suppose to hop onboard and kiss their ass. After they kicked us in the gut for years. Man please. If he pitched like crap and he talked mess last year about us, he gets what he gets. Man up and take it. Didn’t we all learn from Lebron that kissing ass don’t get you anywhere?

    1. One of the points I made was that he was right in what he said last year. As a player, he spoke up and emphasized the effect that fans in the seats cheering the team on can have on a team’s morale. He then defended your same mindset about the lack of spending and effort from the owners. He knows the fans are out there, he said it himself. It’s just a shame that a guy who fought to improve the roster, to improve the coaching, to improve the atmosphere and the support of the Cleveland Indians is the very same guy that fans throw under the bus the very first chance they get. Stubborn Cleveland fan took Perez’s words as a stab. It should have been a challenge. Ownership stepped up to his challenge, brought in Tito, Swisher, Reynolds, Bourn. The front office built it, but the fans still don’t come. And that’s fine. The team has to earn the trust back of this long suffering fan base. In the meantime, people are missing some damn exciting and fun baseball. Their loss. Not mine.

  5. You save a game you get cheered, you blow a save you get booed. Simple as that. Thats baseball, thats life. We all still love Perez hes a great closer, happy to have him on the team for a long time. …. And as far as attendance; if this team keeps going the way they are the fans will be there. Fans have been unhappy for a long time with an ownership who admittedly tried to pocket their ticket money, without spending the money to put a winning team on the field. Now that they (ownership) have hopefully gotten the message, you cant just expect the fans to forgive and forget in a few weeks. Before you criticize, remember that fans sold that stadium out for more than half a decade. “455 The Fans?” Remember? Dont forget to remember those numberstoo. Go Tribe

    1. I never forget those numbers. They’re also close to 15 years old though. I do understand Cleveland fans being cautious about this team – the Indians have been in contention for a couple of seasons and fallen apart badly before the year was done. This team feels different, but I know it takes time, and nothing guarantees the same thing happening this year as in each of the last few years. I couldn’t agree with you more though; if this team keeps winning and playing very well-rounded baseball, the fans will come out to the yard. Attendance versus Seattle was definitely up through the first three games. That may be a sign some people are starting to come around.

    1. Congratulations on being the first of many today. I was waiting. I knew the internet wouldn’t let me down.

      1. Basically I just wanted to be the first. I had just read the story and agreed with it. It’s hard to imagine the guy who was once the backbone is the reason why we can’t close out games. One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, three is a pattern.

        I would like to call it a funk – and I hope it gets it back together.He is clearly frustrated. I want the Pure Rage of old back!

    2. haha, horri-awful, i’m definetly stealing that one. my problem isn’t with what perez said last year (it was all true!), but rather with his borowski/wickman-esque seeming refusal to pitch a clean 9th inning. certainly expecting perfection is ridiculous, but i’d prefer a few more 1-2-3 inning and a few less where he gives up a leadoff double and then walks or beans a guy before finally realizing he’s actually on the mound.

      as far as the booing goes, i don’t see how booing a guy for not doing the one thing he’s tasked with is in poor taste. that’s just reality for a ballplayer. i mean, at what point does it become acceptable to boo him? how many does he need to blow? 5? 10? 15? fair or not, professional sports is a “what have you done for me lately?” world. what perez did last year, or hell, last week, is irrelevant in the context of booing someone. i can tell you i sure wasn’t thinking “well, he has 105 saves as an indian, so blowing this one is OK, i guess”.

  6. Somebody who fails to put in the effort, and or acts like he doesn’t give a damn, he may deserve to be booed. I don’t feel that it is cool to boo when a guy gives his all but happens to lose the battle because the opposition successfully counters with equal effort. That is what makes games interesting, and we’ll, and “games”.. We get excited because it could go either way. And who can do better than Perez for the Tribe next week? Get behind him… Encourage, build home field advantage for crying out loud.

  7. My beef is with closers in general. It happens all too often that a closer enters the game, gets in trouble, is obviously having an ‘off’ night, and the manager sits in the dugout watching it all unravel without getting someone up in the bullpen. I’m not indicting Tito as it seems like this happens throughout baseball. My closer’s in the game – my job is done.

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