While watching Detroit’s Jose Valverde pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, I started thinking about how, for some people, the All-Star Game is the highlight of their career. I’m speaking specifically about Carlos Perez. Remember him?
Perez’s Histrionic Career
Before Valverde entered the league, Perez was the mascot for mound histrionics. He would celebrate after every strike.
Some of his outlandishness included fist pumps, handgun shooting motions using his index finger and thumb, jumping up into the air, spinning, crouching very low to the ground and hopping in a semicircle, and making the strikeout signal in unison with the umpire.
He would also throw his hands wildly above his head, pat the mound in frustration, high-hurdle the foul line for good luck after each inning, and dance off the mound.
Perez knew he was outlandish; he compared himself to Dennis Rodman. Perez loved the attention he was getting from the press and from opposing batters. The words crazy and loco were used to describe him a countless number of times.
Using the antics as psychological bait to get inside batters’ heads was an effective strategy. Perez made the 1995 NL All-Star team as a member of the Montreal Expos in his debut season. Despite an unspectacular 0.1 inning in the seventh after giving up a single and a walk in the game, Perez became a national sensation with his fist pumps, vocalization, jumping, and spinning.
He made for good television. Unfortunately, he peaked at the All-Star game.
Headline-Grabbing Off-Field Incidents
Later that season, Perez was accused of rape and aggravated sodomy. He sat out the entire 1996 season with a partial tear in his shoulder joint, and his subsequent years brought him stints of success but nothing lasting or long-term.
Right before Perez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998, he crashed his Mercedes into a lamppost and suffered a broken nose. The next year, Perez allegedly had a knee injury but never explained how it occurred.
That was the same year that Perez blew up in the Dodgers dugout by swinging his bat in fury and frustration at two water coolers after getting taken out of a game. In 2000, he got arrested for a DUI, and apparently grabbed a flight attendant by the hair, shook her, and threatened to beat and cut the hair off of another flight attendant.
The Dodgers finally ended their tumultuous relationship with Perez by releasing him in 2001 while still owing him $7.5 million guaranteed money. The tabloid-filled years of Perez in a Dodgers uniform led Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke to call Perez’s resume a “flaming diaper.”
Carlos Perez never played in the majors again after his release. Though some said he had the talent to make a comeback, Perez never had the work ethic or desire to work his way back.
Valverde Separating Himself From Perez
Valverde takes after Perez with his excessive mound celebrations. Valverde entered the 2010 All-Star Game in the top of the ninth inning and threw three quick strikes, including a nasty split-finger, to get Michael Bourn to strike out swinging. Then, Valverde immediately hunched down and lifted his cap off to the crowd.
When Chris Young stepped up to the plate, Young first took a ball, and then swung for three consecutive strikes. Valverde’s signature splitter once again got a batter swinging for a strikeout. And once again, Valverde hunched down and lifted his cap off to the crowd.
It took Valverde eight pitches to get Marlon Byrd to strike out; but when it happened, Valverde nearly danced off the mound. He wiggled his body in exaggerated motions as he walked off the field.
Valverde’s celebratory antics are standard and have been a part of his personality since he began his Major League days. However, unlike Perez, the celebrations are not for his opponents; they are an outlet for his competitive spirit and passion for the game.
“It’s a fight over there,” Valverde told Fanhouse last week. “It’s [getting] excited. And I enjoy my game.”
Perez and Valverde are both pitchers from the Dominican Republic who are more extroverted on the mound than their colleagues. Hopefully, that’s where the similarities end.
Valverde’s ride hasn’t been completely smooth since he entered the league in 2003. He hit a rough patch in 2006 when his former team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, attempted to tone down his behavior on the mound.
What followed was an ERA of almost 6 and six weeks in the minors to work things out. Since then, every team he has played for has accepted Valverde’s ritual as a tradeoff for his dominant performances.
However, Valverde, unlike Perez, has managed to keep his on-field rituals strictly on the field. Perez let the mind games get to him mentally. Eventually, the antics leaked into his personal life, resulting in gossip-laden, entertainment-related news.
As long as Valverde continues to celebrate after every strikeout within the grounds of a stadium, his pitches will continue to dominate, and the distant memory of Carlos Perez will be just that – a distant memory.