CLEVELAND: The fans are in love with Chris Perez. All he has to do is trot in from the bullpen in the ninth inning, and the crowd at Progressive Field goes wild.
The next time he blows a save — if he ever does — maybe things will be different. But ever since he ratted out the fans for not showing up in sufficient numbers, Perez has been the chosen one — by the fans he scolded. Go figure.
He delivered his 16th save of the season Thursday, giving up a hit but otherwise handling the Detroit Tigers with aplomb, as the Indians eked out a 2-1 win.
Ever since his first rant on Saturday, Perez has been getting standing ovations for merely showing his face.
“If I had blown that save [on Saturday], I still would be going out and doing my job the next day,” he said. “But I don’t think I’d have gotten the same recognition.
“Who doesn’t want to get cheered? That’s why we play. We want to interact with the fans. We’re like actors in a Broadway play. They get energy from the crowd.”
When Perez walked to the players parking lot after Saturday’s game, 20 fans were waiting for him outside the gate. That’s when he decided to give something back. He is awarding six tickets per game to fans who answer a trivia question on his Twitter account.
Thursday’s question: Who was the opposing manager when Perez earned his first save for the Tribe? The answer: Joe Torre of the New York Yankees.
Perez can’t understand why ESPN and other national media outlets haven’t paid much attention to the Indians, who have been in first place most of the season.
“They [ESPN] do their thing; they cover the Yankees and the Red Sox, and they tell people how bad the Angels are,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of star power. We just have a good team.”
Perez insists there was no more to his rant about the fans than a desire to express his feelings, but there have been some unintended consequences.
“I had no ulterior motive,” he said. “I just wanted to get something off my chest. Could it be a unifying factor for the team? That could be. I think we have some swagger now.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.