Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perez, Fans Need To Forget 2006 ASAP

Neifi Perez needs a do-over. He needs a clean slate in the worst way, and then maybe everyone can go on with their lives.

OK, maybe a tad dramatic, but Perez, aiming to be the Tigers' main backup middle infielder, isn't on the best of terms with Tigers' fans at the moment. After being acquired in late August from the Cubs, Perez quickly fell into disfavor, victim of a feeble batting average and average defense. It didn't help that he joined the team when it was in the throes of the 19-31 finish that robbed them of the Central division title. In fact, the slide almost coincided with Perez's arrival, so he became a symbol of the team's struggles.

Then, during the Tigers' winter caravan, manager Jim Leyland, criticized for having a fascination with Perez last year, stated that the blame should be put on him for bringing Perez to Detroit. Leyland then stated the obvious, which was that Perez didn't perform well; basically, he wasn't what the manager had bargained for.

All that didn't lessen the derisiveness that the Tigers public heaped upon Perez. He was too expensive, and not much of a help to the cause, in their eyes.

Now, in Florida, Perez seems to be making a bid to get out of the doghouse. He is exhibiting patience at the plate, and had a single after a terrific at bat in the ninth inning of yesterday's loss to the Pirates. He will most likely make the team, and thus will get his chance at the aforementioned clean slate. And if anyone needs it, it's Perez. There aren't too many goats on a defending league champion team, but if there's one on the Tigers, it certainly is Neifi Perez.

It's amazing, really, that Perez fell out of favor in such a relatively short period of time. But some of the explanation can be derived from the at bats and playing time he took away from Omar Infante, who enjoys moderate adoration from Tigers fans, and with good reason.

But it's a new season, and Opening Day has a way of washing away some bad feelings held over from the previous campaign. When Neifi Perez lines up on the third baseline at Comerica Park on Opening Day in his creamy white Tigers uniform, I hope that everyone can forget 2006 and allow him to begin 2007 fresh.

Isn't that what a new baseball season is for?


Blogger Ozz said...

OK. Clean slate it is, but he's on a short leash!

3:10 PM  

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