Eric picked this up early on, and I saw the comments posted on MotownSports as well. Jim Leyland was interviewed today on the Stoney and Wojo show on WDFN. Mike Stone asked Jim Leyland, “what does Jim Leyland see in Neifi Perez that we as fans and media members don’t?” The response wasn’t the typical fluff you’d expect. Here is the transcribed version of what Leyland said.
Well that’s a good question because he played terrible. And what had happened was we got reports from our scouts, and I had known him from the past. We were kind of in a panic situation. We had lost Polly and we needed someone who could come in and play second, and play shortstop as well because Carlos needed some time off. And up to this point it looks like we made a mistake.
So Neifi’s going to have to prove us wrong this spring because has not been a good acquisition up to this point.
But that was my fault, and the scouts. And I like said we had to have somebody. And I hope Neifi’ll prove us wrong. I think he’ll be much better than what he showed last year because he showed absolutely nothing when he came over.
Now this reads like he was slamming Neifi something fierce. He was very gruff and matter-of-fact, but it’s a little softer when you actually listen to the interview (available on WDFN podcast page). And in typical Leyland fashion he was more than willing to take responsibility.
That said I thought this was a little bit much to call out a player like that in the media in January. I love that Leyland didn’t pull punches and was honest, but what did they really expect from Perez in the first place? Perez pretty much performed up to reasonable expectations given his history.
I’ve definitely done my share of Neifi-bashing in the past, but I tried to direct my frustrations less at Neifi and more at Jim Leyland’s insistence on playing him. Perez didn’t ask to come to Detroit, and it’s really not his fault that teams keep giving him playing time. I actually feel a little sympathetic towards Perez right now. Weird.
But the good news for Tiger fans is that it looks like the Tigers definitely aren’t committed to keeping Perez on the roster and that Infante will have a pretty good shot at making the team.