There is, perhaps, no unhappier player than a closer on a crappy team. His one marquee statistic, saves, is all-important come contract time. But if a team's not winning, he's not getting the opportunities, and that'll hurt him in his free agency winter. So Craig Calcaterra's theory that Chris Perez is just openly trying to force a trade at this point may not be so off the mark.
Perez gave some comments to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, serving as color in a larger story about the challenges of small-market teams. Specifically, he addressed why the Indians can't compete with the Tigers:
"Different owners," Perez said frankly, in reference to Detroit's Mike Ilitch and Cleveland's Lawrence J. Dolan. "It comes down to that. They (the Tigers) are spending money. He (Ilitch) wants to win. Even when the economy was down (in Detroit), he spent money. He's got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don't. But most of the time you do."
And on trades:
"You can't miss," Perez said. "You have to be right. That's why I say it's not just ownership. They don't make the trades. It's the GMs. It goes hand in hand. The GMs can only spend the money the owners give them, but they pick who they spend it on or who they don't. They pick. The owners don't pick.
"Josh Willingham would look great in this lineup. They didn't want to (pony) up for that last year. … That's the decision they make, and this is the bed we're laying in."
There's not one thing Perez said that you can point to and go "that's wrong" or "that's unfair." But a story that might better be headlined "Baseball Player Tells Truth" is making the rounds as "Chris Perez Blasts Indians Management," because there are certain truths that aren't pleasant when spoken aloud. Especially not when spoken by one of the cogs in the machine, who's supposed to just shut up and do his job and tell the media that everything is hollyhocks and rainbows.
Things are more complicated than Perez makes them out to be, of course. While the Tigers have more money going out, they also have more money coming in. Mike Illitch is a pizza magnate billionaire. Larry Dolan bought the Indians only because the NFL wouldn't let him buy the Browns, because his net worth wasn't enough. The Detroit TV market is larger than Cleveland's. And maybe, just maybe, Dolan would rather turn a profit than field a winning team—blasphemy if you're a fan, but just good business sense if you're the guy that actually owns the team.
Or maybe Perez just hates the city. He's called out Cleveland fans for not showing up to games, and for being blindly negative toward any team that's not the Browns. If he's trying to piss everyone off with his truth bombs, consider the fans, front office, and ownership down, only his teammates left to go.
Before yesterday's game, Perez was asked about his comments to Fox. He didn't want to go into it any further, but he certainly wasn't walking it back:
"That's all online, right? Well, there you go."
Perez doesn't hit free agency until 2015. Don't count on the Indians keeping him around that long. But if they trade him away now, while he's still under team control for a few years, they'll actually get a fair haul for him—exactly what smart small-market teams like Oakland do to stay competitive.