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Being a little brash and not afraid to speak one’s mind are perfect qualities for a major league baseball closer.
However, Indians closer Chris Perez not only unleashed those qualities on the Miami Marlins Saturday, but also then directed his frustration toward the team’s struggling fan base following his dominating performance in Saturday’s 2-0 victory.
Not even a half hour after he struck out the Marlins side in the ninth inning with just 10 pitches, Perez launched a verbal tirade aimed at Tribe fans, frustration he admitted on Sunday began building up following Thursday’s 6-5 loss in 11 innings.
The tirade began with the comment that “after my last outing, I decided to throw some strikes” and continued, touching on the first-place team’s lack of fan support (the Indians rank last in attendance) and the reasons why free agents decline to come to Cleveland.
After meeting with Indians president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti Sunday morning, Perez then entertained the media to explain what led to his outburst.
“In 2010, I wouldn’t have said those comments, we deserved to get booed and we deserved for nobody to be here,” he said. “But we’ve been building up for this season and we’re good. We have a good team. We haven’t even played our best ball and we’re in first place. So it’s been years building up and Thursday was the last straw for me. I had it on Thursday and yesterday was my first time to talk.”
Among his answers to questions, Perez discussed his passion to win with the Tribe now.
“I'm here to win,” he said. “I want to win here, I care...We want to win. But right now, we're winning for ourselves, basically.”
Perez, who is 13-for-13 in save situations since the Opening Day debacle, said many of his Indians teammates feel the same way he does about the city and fans, but “they just won't say it.”
Perez placed some of the blame for fans’ slow reaction to embrace the team on the “weather and ownership” and “the media.”
After Perez spoke, Shapiro followed him and supported Perez as a player, but distanced himself from the attack on the team’s fan base.
“I myself and we as an organization have a lot of respect and appreciation for Chris,” Shapiro said. “I understand the emotion and the passion and the competitiveness that drives his performance.
“He’s been one of the more dominant closers in Major League baseball this year and part of what drives him to succeed in that role is that emotion and that competitiveness. I think a lot of that is what was behind what he said yesterday.”
Still, Shapiro wanted no part in alienating any fans who might have taken offense to Perez’s comments, especially given as hard as the organization has worked the last few years in attempt to rebuild the fan base that sold out 455 consecutive games at then Jacobs Field during the team’s hey day in the 1990’s.
“It’s clear that what’s behind that emotion is how great he feels our situation is,” Shapiro said. “How great he feels the team is, the ballpark is and his desire for more people to experience that. That’s the root of (his comments).”
But where Shapiro’s thoughts diverge from Perez’s is when it comes to the fans.
“Where we clearly disagree with him is about our fans,” Shapiro said. “We appreciate our fans, we respect our fans and we certainly want more to come.”
Shapiro said that despite having to put so much time and energy into winning back the fans of yesteryear, he’s not disappointed to the point of Perez’s frustration.
“Am I disappointed?” he said. “I want more people to experience what we have going here. I have that feeling in a moment, but I turn that more to resolve because I think once they get here, they’re going to want to come back again.”