Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Alex Ciepley
At what point does an exclamation point shift from being an ironic, derisive form of punctuation into a celebratory accent? Derek and I have, for a while now, referred to Neifi Perez as Neifi!, in homage to the popular spelling of Seattle's Ichiro!, a truly magnificent player. Is it possible that the slight implied in typing out N-e-i-f-i-! has inspired our cruddy utility infielder to turn from Superscrub to Superstar?
Since joining the Cubs last year, the shortstop who is arguably one of the least valuable offensive players in baseball history* has donned his red cape and been one of the most productive players on the team.
NEIFI! AS A CUB ABRHRAVGOBPSLGOPS 82 16 3 .378 .400 .549 .949
So what if he's basically hitting like Pete Rose on crack, or ludes, or crystal meth, or whatever the boys do these days. Neifi's potent combination of Death-by-Singles, No Walks, and A Couple Homers has been an entirely unexpected boon, especially in light of a certain other "N"-named shortstop's shortcomings to this point in the season.
I still giggle every time he comes to the plate, but when Neifi hit his two-run dinger last night, I realized that it's unfair to keep beating up on a guy who's played extremely well for the Cubs so far. What if Neifi + Dusty is magic? Are the pair like Scotty and Michael? Batman and Robin? Oreos and icy cold milk? Has Baker's kiss turned the toady Neifi! into the dashing Prince Neifi!?
I wouldn't hold my breath or read too many fairy tales. Neifi Perez still stinks. I don't want him to be counted on to pinch hit off the bench. I don't even really want him on the Cubs, period. But this is just a reminder that even though Perez stinks, he hasn't yet stunk as a Cub. Not one bit. And that's something that's worthy of the occasional exclamation point.
* Fewest RCAA since 1900 1 Ski Melillo -355 2 Tommy Thevenow -351 3 Bill Bergen -312 4 Tim Foli -309 5 Larry Bowa -307 6 Alfredo Griffin -306 T7 Don Kessinger -305 T7 Ozzie Guillen -305 9 Neifi Perez -302 10 Ed Brinkman -300 source: Sabermetic Baseball Encyclopedia