The final word on Oliver Perez
Don’t believe players when they say that personnel issues aren’t distractions. They are, plain and simple. Whether such distractions are generated by the media, by fans, by management or by the players themselves often varies from case to case, but a distraction is a distraction is a distraction.
Contrary to popular belief, Perez was genuinely liked in the Mets clubhouse. “It’s one thing if a guy comes in and he doesn’t do anything,” teammate Mike Pelfrey said after Perez’s release Monday. “That pisses guys off. But he continued to work.”
The roots of Perez’s charred reputation in New York probably stemmed from February of 2009, when he reported to camp out of shape mere weeks after inking the largest contract of his life, the three-year, $36-million pact that runs through this season. Before that spring, Perez was enigmatic, with electric stuff and a frustrating inability to harness it. After it, he was overpaid and lazy. Perceptions can change just that quickly.
And reputations can be difficult to shed. In the wake of Perez’s release, several players admitted that the left-hander’s presence in camp had indeed become a distraction, regardless of their personal opinions of the man. That does not mean that inviting him to Spring Training was a mistake — with $12 million on the line, the Mets had every right to exhaust all options before cutting him lose. All it means is that now, with Perez officially gone, the club can move on. Can really, honestly, genuinely move on.
Manager Terry Collins spent a solid five minutes Monday raving about his other bullpen options (remember them?), something that would have carried little interest one day earlier. Over the past week in particular, thoughts of Perez and Luis Castillo have so dominated camp on a day-to-day basis that nothing else seemed to matter.
Now, everything else matters.
“At the risk of sounding bad, there’s a little bit of closure,” said Jason Bay, a teammate in New York and Pittsburgh who, like so many others, referred to Perez as a likable teammate.
“We love those guys,” shortstop Jose Reyes said of Perez and Castillo. “It’s not like they were bad teammates. Everybody loved those guys in the clubhouse.”
Perhaps that’s another reason why closure is important. Over the last four and a half years, for good and for bad (and admittedly, mostly for bad), Perez had been an integral part of the Mets. Now he is an ex-Met. Now the Mets can move on, without making any allowances, without making any exceptions and — perhaps most importantly — without answering any more questions.
Now, in other words, the Mets can play baseball.
“It’s time to move on,” Collins said. “It’s time to turn the page, and now let’s talk about who is going to be here and what this club’s going to be about right now.”
—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.