Chris Perez talks manager change
CLEVELAND -- Outspoken closer Chris Perez thinks the Indians need a more intense manager and better players.
Perez said Tuesday that Cleveland's second-half collapse was embarrassing and the laid-back approach of former manager Manny Acta didn't help.
He's not very confrontational. We are men, we can handle it. Last year, he had two speeches -- on Opening Day and the last day. It's not like we had yelling matches. Actually it went the other route -- seven, eight, nine days not even talking.” -- Indians closer Chris Perez, on former manager Manny Acta
"August wasn't baseball, it was pathetic -- in all aspects," Perez said about Cleveland's 5-24 slide that came after losing nine of its last 12 games in July.
Acta was fired Thursday and replaced by bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. on an interim basis.
"I'm not saying that a change earlier would have done anything," Perez said. "But sometimes we pressed the panic button. Why? A lot of things left you kind of scratching your head."
Alomar doesn't mind Perez being outspoken and said the right-hander's occasional outbursts are not detrimental if you understand his mindset. Alomar pointed out that Cleveland had controversial players while winning five consecutive AL Central championships in the 1990s.
"That's what drives him," Alomar said. "He's an All-Star player and in the clubhouse he's everybody's friend, always talking. On the field, it's a little different."
Alomar said Perez's passion to win sometimes leads him to go overboard. He would not want to douse that competitive fire.
That's fine with Perez, who hopes whoever is hired as manager will match his own intensity. He said either Alomar or Terry Francona, who led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, would be a better fit than Acta. Alomar is due to interview for the full-time job on Thursday; Francona on Friday.
Perez suggested that watching Acta not argue with umpires or get angry with underperforming players led to his own frustrations boiling over in comments to the media earlier this season.
"A lot of that went out the door last week," Perez said. "The Manny you see and the Manny we see are different."
Perez insisted he likes and respects Acta, but disagreed with some of his decisions. Most of all, he wanted him to take a stronger stand in the dugout and the clubhouse.
"He's not very confrontational," Perez said. "We are men, we can handle it. Last year, he had two speeches -- on Opening Day and the last day.
"It's not like we (he and Acta) had yelling matches. Actually it went the other route -- seven, eight, nine days not even talking."
Despite Cleveland's horrible second half, Perez thinks the Indians have a good foundation on which to build. They led the AL Central for 40 days, until June 23. A gradual fade turned into an all-out collapse to last place.
"We kind of fell off the cliff," he said. "We are better than this."
Perez said he had a "very professional" conversation with general manager Chris Antonetti and came away with a better understanding of the organization's plans. He said he wants to stay in Cleveland and be part of a winner.
"If I didn't want to play here, the easiest way to get out was to tank," Perez said. "I didn't.
"They have control of me (under contract) for two years and while I'm here I want to win."
Perez doesn't anticipate being traded, but said that is beyond his control.
"I got the impression we're going to build upon our very strong bullpen," he said. "We were not in first place on luck. We have some good players here. Not enough, obviously, because we're not in the playoffs.
"I can't see these same players jumping over four teams in our division, but we can get better."
Perez doesn't want veterans added just for the sake of getting experienced players, and he wouldn't mind seeing the Indians push younger players as they did with right-hander Cody Allen, who moved up four levels to Cleveland this summer.
"Talent plays, whether it is 18 years old or 40," Perez said. "Baltimore called up a Dylan Bundy at age 19 because he can pitch."
Perez pointed to that decision helping the Orioles clinch a playoff berth after a decade and a half of losing. He thinks a new manager can do what Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore.
"It took a couple years, but he definitely had an impact on team chemistry and camaraderie," Perez said.
Alomar said he is confident he can do that. The longtime Cleveland fan favorite as a player and coach acknowledged that Francona does, too.
"Anybody would want Terry," Alomar said. "What's not to like? I respect him, but I feel I am ready, too."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press