No I didn’t spell that incorrectly, I am talking about the one and only Neifi Perez. For those that couldn’t catch the Tigers’ Game 1 win over the Athletics, perhaps the biggest story was how Sean Casey went all Nomar on himself and strained his calf/Achilles coming out of the batters box. I haven’t heard the definitive word on the seriousness of the injury, Casey was to undergo an MRI at some point today, but at the very least he is ruled out of the lineup for Game 2. Jim Leyland announced that Carlos Guillen would move over to 1st base and Neifi Perez would move into the starting lineup at shortstop. Yeah, THAT Neifi Perez.
So what is the widely renowned worst hitter of the last decade doing on a Major League playoff roster? Your guess is probably as good as mine, but in reality, who would have thought this would have happened under a manager other than Dusty Baker? For all the criticism that I laid on Dusty Baker I was one of the few that stopped very early on asking why Neifi continued to start at 2nd base and batting in the 2 hole. I realized that when you love someone, I mean REALLY FREAKING LOVE someone you’d be willing to do almost anything for that person. For Dusty that included fucking Cubs fans raw by continuing to play that light hitting, vertically challenged odd shaped little man . . . I’ve come to terms with it. But I thought Jim Leyland would know better than that.
All indications seem to point to Jim Leyland being heterosexual; I saw him kiss his wife and daughter after winning the series against the Yankees. Another valid point is that by all accounts he seems to have a lot better baseball mind than Dusty. Dusty took a team that went to the NLCS in 2003 and managed the hell out of them to the tune of 96 losses. Leyland, in the alternative, took a team that lost 100+ games in 2003 and has taken them to the ALCS. Leyland also has a World Series ring, which Dusty doesn’t and above all else you can actually take the man seriously since he isn’t wearing sweatbands and chewing on a toothpick. All those things should add up to one simple fact: Neifi watching the playoffs from home.
I realize why the Tigers ended up with Neifi. Placido Polanco went down with an injury, it was getting towards the end of the season and the Tigers could no longer afford to coast with the surging Twins and the White Sox still hanging around. They needed a veteran utility infielder, and I have to assume that they valued experience over say things like skill, athletic ability or production. That was probably the best thing to happen to the Cubs when the Tigers came a’callin for Neifi. I can almost hear Jim Hendry on the phone: “So you want to trade for Neifi Perez, and you realize he’s under contract next year at $2.5 million? Umm, yeah do you have any coupons to Dunkin Donuts you could spare. Oh, a minor league catcher, yeah we could probably use one of those too, as long as the donuts are included.” To be fair to the Tigers, they clearly didn’t give up that much so the trade in and of itself wasn’t that bad.
That however doesn’t instantly lead to the conclusion that you include Neifi on the playoff roster. I’m assuming that is Leyland’s call, and I think its a stupid one to say the least. At first, I thought my response was just fueled by the rage of having to watch Neifi trot out there day after day, but the more I thought about it I see no reason he’s on that roster. The most likely replacement for Neifi would have been Chris Shelton, and while he isn’t exactly a major league baseball player, he makes more sense than Neifi. It appears that the Tigers are carrying THREE utility infielders on their bench. I don’t know much about the other two, but the simple fact that they are on a major league roster puts them ahead of Neifi. This isn’t a National League series, so having the three utility infielders confuses me. There aren’t going to be a lot of double switches going on so the need to have people more versatile than Shelton is really non-existent.
I also realize they went out and got Sean Casey because they had to demote Shelton who crashed back to Earth after his hot start. It’s not like an injury to Casey was unforeseeable though. He’s battled back injuries all season, and we all know those don’t come up in the cold October weather. Casey has also evidently had a history of these types of leg injuries. Anytime I hear a player say not to worry about things because the last COUPLE of times he has done this he turned out fine, well I get a little nervous. So maybe carrying a 2nd 1st baseman wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.
Now the situation is Guillen moving to 1st with Neifi at short. I can’t imagine Shelton at 1st and Guillen as being any worse offensively, seriously Neifi is epic bad, and I have to give the edge defensively to Shelton at 1st and Guillen at short. Neifi has always had pretty good numbers defensively, with a low number of errors and a range factor slightly below league average. Don’t be fooled, the man likes to pick his spots to screw his team over. After the Neifi years in Chicago, Cubs fans have coined a new term: “neifilicious”. The term could be used twofold. One, it is most frequently used to describe a truly anemic offensive performance. An example would be A-Rod stepping up to the plate in the division series and looking over matched on two fastballs before taking the third right down the middle for the backwards K. That is certainly a nefilicious at bat. Cubs fans have given the term further life by calling the intimidating tandem of Ronny Cedeno and Cesaer Izturis as the most nefilicious double play combination in the history of the game. Cedeno’s lifetime average: .252, Izturis: .259.
The second use of the term neifilicious is probably more important for the Tigers’ playoff chances. It can be used to describe a completely unbelievable play at the most inopportune time that costs your team the game. This first came into use mid way through the 2006 season. Watching Neifi boot groundballs when it mattered was one thing, but he took it to a new level. Let me set the stage for you: Two outs, bottom of the ninth, runners on 1st and 3rd, Cubs down 2. The Neifarious One steps to the plate and what does he do? Fly out? No. Strike out? No. HE TRIES TO BUNT, IT GOES DIRECTLY BACK TO THE PITCHER AND THE CUBS LOSE. Nobody that has EVER seen a baseball game could think that was the right move, but yet Neifi was all over it. Key situations brought out the neifilicous nature of a lot of the Cubs players, Jacque Jones was probably the most neifilicious other than the great Neifi himself. Jacque likes to, among other things, throw the ball into the turf ten feet in front of him when he had the chance to gun down runs at the plate or in the middle of Cubs’ rallies manage to get himself hung up between first and second.
It’s almost as if Neifi is a type of disease that spreads his uninspired, awful play to the rest of the team. For the sake of Tigers’ fans I sincerely hope he hasn’t been there long enough to spread his evilness to the rest of the ball club. Just pray he isn’t up in the late innings with a chance to drive in the tying run, because at that point you’d be BEGGING for a Chris Shelton appearance. No one wants to be in that position I would imagine.