“Now, Leo, most of us are just hearing the news. And I don’t like to be the first one to say it, but I’m gonna. I think the President has got to strongly consider not running for re-election.”
“You think you’re the first one to say it?”
“You are, at minimum, the 35th in the last two hours.”
—Leo McGarry, barely tolerating party bigwigs who think they’re telling him something he hasn’t already heard, The West Wing
With all due respect to Rod Barajas, I greeted no home run Monday night with more relish than that hit by Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres in the bottom of the seventh inning. And it’s not because Barajas hit his in the top of the sixth while I was briefly snoozing.
Headley’s bomb over the distant center field fence of Petco Park should have been a loud and resounding wakeup call to everybody who has any kind of say in the Oliver Perez Affair. There shouldn’t be an Oliver Perez Affair, but there is, and it is corrosive. Sadly, the only people who can do anything to limit the corrosion are Oliver Perez; his agent, Scott Boras; and whoever it is who makes painful personnel decisions regarding overpriced, underperforming dolts who weigh down the New York Mets’ active roster by dint of their absurd contracts and inscrutable motives.
The Mets were losing 16-6 when Chase Headley homered, so the outcome of Monday night was no longer in doubt. Really, the outcome was never in doubt by my sense for these things. The Mets usually find a way to look irredeemably bad for at least one night of any San Diego stay and I had a hunch their first night would be their worst night (if it wasn’t, then we’re all in trouble). Even taking the time difference into account, we’d waited too long on a Monday holiday for a game. After five hours of ducking in an out of the Mets Yearbook marathon — ducking in and out only because I’d already immersed myself in each and every episode multiple times before — the prospect that a pregame show and a game still awaited felt surprisingly onerous. I’d already cheered for the 1963 Mets, the 1966 Mets, the 1968 Mets and so on, clear up through the 1988 Mets. By 9:30 I had little left for the 2010 Mets.
Which put me in the company of Hisanori Takahashi, among others.
Hard to get down on Hisanori Takashi for at last being the selection within that box of chocolates from which you never know what you’re going to get. Following weeks of electrifying long relief work and two shimmering starts, Takahashi was that awful chewy thing you can’t get out of your teeth. Damn imperfect box of chocolates. His four innings left us in a 6-1 cavity, and though we began to climb out — I nodded off at 6-4 — I had the sense we’d be pushed right back in. Hence, when I woke up and found Raul Valdes hadn’t held the fort and Ryota Igarashi was actively surrendering it, I wasn’t too sore. It’s the Padres. They are the personification of what Forrest Gump’s momma advised him. You have no idea from 3,000 miles east who is in their box of chocolates. Chirs Denorfia? Oscar Salazar? Luis Durango?
Doesn’t matter who they are, You just know that if you have too many of them after midnight, they’re bad for you.
It’s undoubtedly going to be a bad night. It was 6-4 for a couple of minutes before you fell asleep. When you woke up it was 10-6. As you degroggified yourself, it was inexorably becoming 12-, then 15-, then 16-6. You have inferred through your haze that it wasn’t the bullpen’s night any more than it was Takahashi’s. You try to think of the last time the Mets went to San Diego and did anything but suck and assume it’s been a while. Indeed, according to Baseball-Reference, the Mets haven’t split a series there since 2006, haven’t won a series there since 2002, have won only four series there since 1991 and last swept a series there in 1988. You decide, despite having already written off the previous ugly loss on this road trip as Just One of Things, that you’re going to be sophisticated about this. Takahashi & Co. just didn’t have it. Several of our pitchers and a whole host of those Padres are essentially unknown quantities, and sometimes such a combination results in mass quantities of runs for the wrong guys.
Yes, it was all going to be very sophisticated, until I saw Oliver Perez trot in from the Met bullpen to rescue Igarashi in the sixth. Then it all became very coarse and not a little Schadenfreudish toward fucking Ollie, his fucking agent and the fucking idiotic organization that handed him the keys to a perpetual printing press that produces million-dollars bills and is equipped with no off switch.
Oliver Perez was, for a time, one of my favorite pitchers on the New York Mets. That time has passed. Ollie’s time on the Mets has passed in every conceivable way except contractually. Contractually, Ollie is a Met through the 2011 season. Ollie gets to dress in a Mets uniform every day until then, whether there is a need or a constituency for it. There is neither right now. Ollie is as 12th man on the pitching staff/25th man on the roster as it gets. Ollie is 20,000 leagues under Elmer Dessens and Gary Matthews, Jr., at this point in his checkered career. Ollie is who is used by Jerry Manuel when there is one out in the sixth and the Mets are down by nine.
That, apparently, is when Ollie Perez and Scott Boras think Ollie can work out whatever’s been plaguing him for a season-and-a-third. That, apparently, is when Oliver Perez has a chance to revert to the 2007 and 2008 form that earned him the $36 million he is in the process of collecting through 2011. Perez and Boras have to root for the Mets to fall behind by nearly double-digits so Perez can take the mound and ratchet up his velocity and hone his command and find himself. That, apparently, is the plan Perez and Boras have for curing Ollie’s ills. Ollie can’t go to St. Lucie or Buffalo. The Mets, in deference to Ollie’s veteran status, can’t make him, and he ain’t gonna volunteer.
Team Ollie has apparently convinced itself that its client is more highly decorated than Bobby Jones and Steve Trachsel, two former All-Stars who were failing as Mets and accepted temporary minor league assignments en route to recapturing credible major league form. Jones went down to Norfolk in 2000 useless and returned a reliable starter who threw a one-hitter to nail down a Met playoff series. Trachsel went down to Norfolk in 2001 worse than useless and returned a reliable starter who persevered as a staple of Met rotations clear through 2006 when he pitched their only division-clincher of the past two decades. Jones and Trachsel could have said no to the Mets’ suggestion that they seek a cure for whatever was ailing them somewhere besides the major league roster. They, like Perez, had the service time to say no, and they, too, were going to get paid no matter where they went. But they had the wherewithal to say yes. They helped themselves and they helped their club.
Oliver Perez is helping nobody. There is not a Mets fan to whom this is news. There is not a Mets player to whom this is news. Every Met decisionmaker from Jeff Wilpon to Omar Minaya to Jerry Manuel (if he indeed gets to weigh in on personnel matters) knows Oliver Perez is nothing more than a useless lump of goo right now. An expensive lump, to be sure, but one whose meter gets fed no matter how much goo he has turned into. He could be trying to reshape his goo-like career into that of a serviceable starting pitcher again, but his braintrust says otherwise. It says, No, Ollie, you’re a major leaguer. Your contract says you are, so just stay put. You refuse that temporary assignment that might make you useful to somebody — the Mets, another team, yourself. You just sit in the bullpen for days on end and wait for the Mets to fall hopelessly behind so your manager will feel inserting you into a game can’t do anybody too much tangible harm.
This is a latter-day bonus baby throwing a tantrum. In days of yore, bonus babies — hot and heavily compensated prospects of the Stephen Strasburg variety — had to be carried on major league rosters or the team that signed them risked losing them. It’s how an underripe Sandy Koufax survived on the 1955 and 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers despite Walter Alston choosing to use him only 28 times in two years. Bonus babies couldn’t be sent down. Baseball realized eventually this was folly and the rule was changed. The rule that allows Baby Ollie to prohibitively resist minor league assignment relates to his experience, not his lack of it. He’s been a major leaguer for more than five years. He doesn’t have to go anywhere he doesn’t want to go. Neither did Jones. Neither did Trachsel. But they did. They (and their agents) understood they weren’t getting any better sucking up roster space with the Mets, not if their manager, Bobby Valentine, wasn’t going use them in any meaningful capacity.
Ollie Perez made fourteen starts in 2009 before his season ended, murkily, on the Disabled List. He wasn’t what you’d objectively call good in more than five of them. He made seven starts before being pulled from the rotation in 2010, and was undeniably dreadful in five of them. His ERA as a starter over the past two years is 6.53. Perez has now made four relief appearances in which he has faced a total of 26 batters. Thirteen of them have reached base via hit (7), walk (5) or hit by pitch (1). He was getting worse and worse as a starter. He isn’t getting any better as a reliever. He won’t consent to a professional intervention. And he gets paid regardless.
I’d love to be the one to tell you something different from what you’ve already figured out for yourself. But my conclusion is likely the same as yours:
Let Oliver Perez go collect his enormous fucking paychecks somewhere else.