Mets' Oliver Perez selfish by refusing to go down to minors
Oliver Perez is 0-3 with a 6.28 ERA; worse, he has a $36 million contract
The Mets want to send Perez to Triple A, but he has refused assignment
Because Perez is contractually not required to go down, the Mets are stuck
Of all the professional athletes I have come across, few are more obnoxious, more difficult, more petulant than Brett Myers, the one-time Phillies ace now trying to rediscover himself as a Houston Astro.
To the media, Myers is a dismissive pain in the rear. To many teammates, he's a baby in need of coddling. To management, he's a headache most would rather do without (he once beat up his wife in public). To scouts, he's a disappointment -- a man with all the tools and little of the makeup.
And yet, despite his unparalleled status as one of Major League Baseball's great boogers, on June 27, 2008 Myers -- at the time 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA for Philadelphia -- agreed to a demotion to Triple A Lehigh Valley in order to work on his stuff.
"I'm doing this for my teammates, for the organization and for myself because I want to be a good pitcher again," Myers said. "The Phillies did nothing wrong asking me to go to the minors. In fact, they've shown me and my family a lot of class."
Myers, again, is something of a dolt. But he is not The Dolt. That coveted status, an illusive title bequeathed solely upon the lowest of the low, now belongs to Oliver Perez, the New York Mets' $36 million man and a pitcher who, despite an 0-3 record and 6.28 ERA, has refused his team's request of a retreat to Triple A Buffalo.
When his stubbornness initially kicked in, the general reaction among Mets fans was a dismissive, slightly agitated sigh. Though everyone who's everyone in baseball eternally raves over Perez's so-called "stuff," (To Met loyalists, he is a modern-day Bruce Berenyi -- only pricier), here in New York we think of him more as that awkward, annoying brother who just can't help smashing the antique vase and denting mom's new BMW. In other words, whether Perez sat in the Citi Field bullpen or took the mound in Buffalo, well, who really cared? His cause is a lost one.
But now, according to The New York Times, the Mets need a spot on their 25-man roster for Jon Niese, a left-handed starter coming off of a hamstring injury. Because Perez has a contractual right to refuse a demotion, Mets GM Omar Minaya is, figuratively, stuck. His choices are as follows:
A. Keep Perez on the roster and ship off someone who actually contributes.
B. Keep Perez on the roster, but dress him up in Niese's uniform and hope things work themselves out.
C. Release Perez and know that he's enjoying nightly $250 meals at Per Se on your dime.
D. Tell Perez that, if he fails to report to Buffalo, the Mets will immediately issue a press release insisting that, from this point on, Oliver Perez wishes to be known as, simply, Mildred.
Whatever the case, this ends badly. Which is unfortunate, because it doesn't have to. Throughout history, Myers is one of many athletes to accept a demotion with class and dignity. In 2000, the Calgary Flames asked Grant Fuhr -- only one of the greatest goalies in NHL history -- to play a couple of minor leagues games. He didn't balk, joining Saint John sans gripe. Four years before that the Yankees' Jimmy Key, struggling with mechanics and a dead arm, agreed to make three extended spring training starts in Tampa. The result? He returned to help the Yankees win the World Series.
From Bill Baker, a defenseman with the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, accepting the Montreal Canadians' request that he freshen up with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in 1981, to Steve Traschel slinking down from the Mets to Triple A in 2001, the list is endless and, generally speaking, optimistic.
Maybe Mildred should listen.
Jeff Pearlman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.