In defense of Chris Perez

Day 1 of the Lake Erie Baseball Odyssey

Progressive Field on May 17, 2012, where the Indians hosted the Mariners and a controversy began

This past weekend, I went to three different baseball games in three different cities featuring six different teams. There’s a story with all of them, and since my trip took me around the perimeter of Lake Erie, I’m making this a series of posts called the Lake Erie Baseball Odyssey.

Last Thursday afternoon, I went to my first Indians game at Progressive Field in more than a year and a half. I had vowed that 2003 would be the last time I missed a game. But as they often do, things happened, and last year, I never got to see the Indians at Progressive Field last year (although I did see them in Minneapolis). So I was happy to see the Indians at home, and I was even happier that they managed to come back from a 4-0 deficit and walk off with a win.

But last Thursday was also the start of a controversy. Chris Perez, the Indians closer, entered the game in the top of the 10th with one out and immediately allowed a single and a walk. The fans that remained of the 12,894 tickets sold booed him, before Perez found the strike zone and got the last two outs of the inning. On Saturday, after a much less eventful appearance which resulted in a save, Perez ripped the fans that booed him, saying:

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

And you know what? I agree with him.

Good news, bad news

The Indians offense got rolling this weekend in Kansas City. Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel

Since it’s been almost two months since I last blogged, I thought I’d take a few minutes on this Jackie Robinson Day to talk about the Indians after eight games.

Haters gonna hate

Despite Carlos Santana's struggles, the Indians have surprised many this season. Next season, star Triple-A prospect Jimi Hendrix should be ready for the Majors. You can't stop this team.

It’s kind of a dirty little secret, but I haven’t written much on this blog this summer. Normally by this point, I’m not struggling for material because the baseball season is in full swing and I can write about the Indians. But this summer, while the Indians are giving me plenty of writing material, until now, I’ve avoided writing about them… because I don’t want to jinx it. Rest assured that I had posts planned, and I was ready to roll, except the Indians had to get off to a good start, and when you’re winning in baseball, even if you’re a fan, you don’t change anything. Anything. Seriously, I wore the same hat to work for about thirty days in a row.

But lately, the Indians have been slumping a bit so I’ve convinced myself that whatever I write here won’t affect the Indians (as I type this, they’re up 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. If I cut this post off suddenly, you know why). And with the slump, some fans who jumped on the bandwagon just weeks ago when the Indians were rolling are ready to write the team off, even though it’s June 22nd and the team is in first place. After the break, I’ll go over what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, and what needs to happen for the Indians improbable run to continue.

We’re building for a better tomorrow…today!

It’s often said that you can tell how good a baseball team will be by the quarter mark of the season, or after 40 games have been played. The Cleveland Indians are now 43 games into the season, and I already declared the season over on May 18th, when they were 15-21; as of the time of this writing (Tuesday night), they’re 16-27 (although, on a happier note, they’re winning tonight). (Note: as of Thursday night, they’re 17-28.)

It’s not like the Indians were off to a promising start and the recent six game losing streak killed their hope. But the fact is, the Indians being 15-21 was, all things considered, pretty good, and maybe better than we expected. But after losing their rising star shortstop and established center fielder, the Indians lack experience both on the field and in management.

Sounds like a great time for a quarter season report card, right? Read on, after the jump.

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Man, it’s good to have baseball back.

We’re three games into the season and I’m already addicted again. I originally planned on going to bed around ten tonight, but ten turned into “after the seventh”. In the seventh inning, the White Sox took the lead on a two-run homer by Carlos Quentin, and I was disgusted that the Indians bullpen gave up a lead (a sign, I was sure, of things to come). This added to my disgust at the home plate umpiring throughout the rest of the game (one particular call cost the Indians a White Sox run), and I prepared to go to bed.

As I got in bed, I grabbed my iPod and started surfing around the web, catching up on the important news and not-so-important news of the day. And like an addict, I checked ESPN, and I was sure that the Indians were still losing.

The game was tied at 3-3.

I retrieved my laptop from my backpack and resumed watching the game and watched ’til the end, when Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Luis Valbuena on a go-ahead single, Grady Sizemore added an RBI double, and Chris Perez recorded his second consecutive save in routine fashion. And now, here I am, blogging about it, knowing that I’ll pay for it in the morning.

I just watched my team take two of three from the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t the World Series; it wasn’t the Yankees; it wasn’t even a division rival that’s considered a front-runner. It was the first series of the year, an insignificant three-game stretch in a 162 game season. And yet, I’m excited.

It wasn’t that the Indians won two games; it was how they won those two games. They scrapped. They clawed. They played flawless and sometimes spectacular defense. And they recovered fully from the goose egg on Opening Day.

Asdrubal Cabrera is making me wonder why he hasn’t always batted leadoff. Grady Sizemore’s displacement to the number two spot is already paying off (5 RBI in three games). Michael Brantley doesn’t look intimidated, Matt LaPorta looks worlds ahead of where he was last year, Lou Marson is holding his own behind the plate. Jhonny Peralta looks more comfortable at third and has made some nice plays, and had the clutch game-tying hit tonight. Travis Hafner has a couple hits and has put some good swings on the ball. And I’m not worried about Shin Soo Choo’s slow start.

Justin Masterson’s outing tonight was, at times, dominant, and could have been better if not for the aforementioned umpiring. Fausto Carmona’s performance last night was just downright gutty. Even the bullpen looks decent, with Chris Perez anchoring the back end.

This might be the only series the Indians win all year. But I’m reminded that the last time the Indians were above .500, it was 2008 and C.C. Sabathia was still an Indian. So rather than focusing on how this start in no way proves anything, I’m going to focus on the fact that this start is certainly better than last year, and is certainly better than a lot of people expected. This team is going to surprise people.

This weekend the Indians go into Detroit, where the competition will be far stronger, and will give us a better idea of where the Indians are.

You never know. Maybe. Welcome back, baseball.