I am nowhere near ready for the Indians to give up on Chris Perez.
Although the Tribe closer is being investigated for a suspected marijuana shipment delivered to his rental home, according to the Rocky River police chief, I’m still more concerned about his strained right shoulder.
I’m more concerned about his erratic pitching than his past criticism of Indians management and Cleveland fans.
Perez has not been arrested or charged. If that happens, if the package is found to contain a large amount of a controlled substance, I might change my mind and consider this the last straw. So might the Indians.
No matter what happens, I am glad the Indians have an experienced manager in Terry Francona to handle it.
Francona might not have dealt with this scenario before, but he faced plenty of crises during the eight years he spent in the fishbowl that is the Boston Red Sox. Francona is known to be fair and compassionate with his players, and is also a close friend of Chris Antonetti and Tribe President Mark Shapiro. Francona seems more than capable of walking the line between doing the right thing for the team and doing the right thing for Perez.
Even before drug agents and postal inspectors showed up at Perez’s door Tuesday with a search warrant, the Indians faced the prospect of playing without Perez for awhile. He’s on the 15-day disabled list and was about to start throwing. But there was no guarantee he would be ready to return soon. Even before he was forced to leave a game in Boston on May 26 with what was later diagnosed as shoulder tendinitis, Perez did not seem the same. He missed time in spring training with shoulder pain, but this was not in the same area.
Francona has already been forced to make adjustments in the bullpen. Should Perez be sidelined longer because of legal issues, I feel better about the discussion Francona and Antonetti will have as they consider their options, even if it means putting Brett Myers in the bullpen when he returns from his stint on the DL.
I trust Francona will know if or when youngsters such as Cody Allen and Nick Hagadone are ready for more of a workload. I trust he can read the psyches of Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano as they slide from seventh- and eighth-inning duty to eighth- and ninth-inning duty. I trust Francona will communicate with Perez to keep him from sliding into a funk of disgrace as Shin-Soo Choo did after a 2011 DUI arrest, although Choo’s was more of a cultural issue.
Wednesday’s news made me wonder how Major League Baseball’s drug policy compares with the NFL’s. In the document on the MLB Players Association’s website, the MLB penalties seem harsher. Those convicted of use or possession of a stimulant or drug of abuse are subject to a suspension of between 25 and 50 games for a first offense. For a second offense, it’s 50 to 100 games. A conviction on sale or distribution of a stimulant or drug of abuse carries a 60- to 90-game suspension for a first offense.
But major-league players are not subject to regular testing for drugs of abuse without reasonable cause, with MLB more concerned about performance enhancing substances and stimulants.
That doesn’t minimize the possible severity of the trouble Perez faces.
It would be easy for the Indians and their fans to sweep Perez’s missteps into a pile and consider it a mountain instead. But until now, it has been Perez’s mouth getting him into trouble.
Last season he criticized Indians management for its lack of spending, former manager Manny Acta, fans for their booing and poor attendance and Clevelanders’ blind loyalty to the Browns.
“That’s what I don’t understand,” Perez told the New York Times in 2012. “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. I don’t understand it. It’s a double standard, and I don’t know why.”
Last month Perez shut down his Twitter account after criticism following a couple of poor outings.
Should the package mailed to Perez lead to serious problems and eventually force the Indians to let him go, his comments regarding the Browns might prompt some fans to applaud his departure.
I won’t be on their side. I can’t indict a player for being passionate about his work, and his work environment.
So until more is known about Perez’s legal predicament, I will worry just as much about whether he’ll return to the form that produced 75 saves the past two seasons.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.