Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Perez vs. the fans

     I have to admit I was a little surprised by the greeting Chris Perez received when he entered Tuesday's game in the ninth inning. I figured the best Perez could hope for would be a 50-50 mix between boos and cheers. After ripping Indians fans over the weekend, this was Perez's first appearance in a game since then.

     Surprisingly, the greeting Perez got was almost all cheers. If there was any booing it was so minimal it was impossible to hear. I guess one explanation for the lack of booing is that the fans at the game are not the fans Perez was criticizing. He was criticizing the fans who DON'T come to games. Maybe those people were home booing their TV sets when Perez came into the game.

     Ripping your home fans in any sport is almost never a good idea. The fans will always have the last say because the athlete must continue to play after the fact, and as such, is always a ready target for booing. Plus if the athlete's performance slips, or he goes into a slump after the fact, he's likely not going to get as much patience or sympathy from the fans as would a slumping player who hasn't taken pot shots at the fans.

     Anyway, the storm clouds seemed to pass for Perez on Tuesday. He said what he felt needed to be said over the weekend, he made his first appearance since then, and he was not greeted rudely or derisively by the fans. Both sides seemed to take the high road.

     That's good for the fans, good for Perez, and certainly good for the Indians' front office, which had to engage in a couple of days of damage control over the weekend.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Manny Acta's great day

     Monday was one of Manny Acta's best days as the Indians' manager. The Indians were playing the Chicago White Sox, a division rival, in a doubleheader, and Acta decided before the games began that he wasn't going to use his two best relievers, no matter what. Acta decided that Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano had both been used heavily over the weekend and needed a day off.

     It's easy to say you're going to give your two top relievers a day off, but when it gets to crunch time _ and the Indians were faced with crunch times in both games of the doubleheader _ it's another thing entirely to stick to that decision.

     The Indians won both games, by the scores of 8-6 and 3-2. Both games required the use of the bullpen, and both required a reliever to get the final outs and record the save. Acta resisted what had to be a powerful urge to use Perez and Pestano. When you get to within three outs of winning the game it's hard not to put your best relievers in the game, but that's what Acta resisted that temptation.

     The gamble paid off because the Indians' short-handed bullpen was able to close out both games as victories for the Tribe. It was the kind of managing that is easy to overlook, especially since the Indians won both games. If the Indians lost both games, Acta probably would have taken a lot of heat for not using his two best relievers.

     Managers get paid to win games, but they also get paid to consider the big picture. And Acta felt there was still too much season left to play for him to risk over-working two key relievers, even if it was a doubleheader against a division rival.

     Sticking to your principles while in the heat of battle is not easy. Acta was ready to concede those two battles in order to win the war. But in showing admirable leadership and forsight Acta wound up winning the battles, and keeping the Indians in good shape in their attempt to win the war.

     Not all managers would have done that.

     Acta did, and for that he deserves credit.