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September 2, 1999

From The Mailbag

Ben Christensen and Neifi Perez

by Baseball Prospectus

BEN CHRISTENSEN

BRAVO!! Thank you for having the guts not to soft-peddle the behavior of this lout. If he wasn't an athlete, he'd be in prison right now... which is exactly where he belongs. Yet another case of preferential treatment for an athlete who might be able to make someone else a few bucks. A fact which, I believe, goes a considerable way toward answering the question, "Is Society Dead?"

I think that I agree with your "best case" scenario for Christensen--that he strike it rich and be forced to pay a sizeable chunk of his money to Molina. For that reason alone, I'd just as soon not see him get hit in the Adam's apple with a Randy Johnson fastball. Now, a cup check might be in order...

--Scott

Scott,

Anyone who knows me knows I've got no shortage of guts. I think Gary Huckabay and I have cornered the market on them, though both Cecil Fielder and Eric Gregg might have something to say about that.

Weighty issues are no problem for us.

--Dave

I enjoyed your article on Christensen and might have a little more to add to it. I run volleyball camps with a girl who went to Wichita State with him for a year. She knew many of the baseball players, Christensen included.

I didn't know she knew him until we were discussing the baseball program there. She mentioned some names and Christensen was one. I told her that I thought he was the guy who beaned the guy in the on-deck circle. When I told her this, she couldn't believe it. She said she could have seen some of the other players there doing it but not Christensen.

She knew him there as a freshman and I am wondering if the baseball program has "brainwashed" him to a degree, teaching him that what he did is acceptable thing to do. If so, then you are right that the program needs to be investigated by the university.

I'm not trying to offer an excuse for Christensen at all. He needs to be held responsible for his actions, by the law if neccessary. When I tried to look up the information for my friend I was appalled when I found the quote by Christensen after he was drafted. He obviously has no remorse.

--Eric

Eric,

I don't think there's any doubt that Brent Kemnitz, Wichita's pitching coach, had something to do with the beaning, and he should be punished accordingly. As you say, there's a possibility (not a good one, because this hasn't happened before to the best of my knowledge, but a possibility nonetheless) that Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson has some sort of baseball assault plan for opposing batters who time pitches or steal signs or whatever. Though it isn't likely Stephenson had much, if anything, to do with the beaning, it is troubling that the incident wasn't taken seriously enough by the proper authorities to be investigated more fully.

Thanks for the interesting information on someone who knew Ben Christensen before the incident. Not a lot of that material made the news.

--Dave

Professional sports don't care about character, lifestyle or jail time (potential or not). Professional sports only care about what the person can do for the team at the immediate time. This has been proven soooooo many times in the past decade how could anyone ever think otherwise? Chances are you will see Ben in the big leagues if his stuff proves worthy. That is the way it is, like it or not. I don't like it. My only recourse is not to spend my money on MLB. I have yet to spend any money on new MLB paraphernalia since the Roberto Alomar incident.

--Craig

Craig,

We just call them like we see them. I don't blame MLB for the Cubs drafting Christensen, but I'm not attending another Cub game for a while. To be honest, I think a lot of the lack of outrage on the Christensen incident is due to the fact that it didn't get scads of press; everyone knows Roberto Alomar spit on an umpire, but lots of people who consider themselves baseball fans don't even know who Ben Christensen is at this point.

We're doing what we can to change that. If Alomar spitting on an ump is enough to keep you from buying major league merchandise, who knows how many people will be compelled to change their purchasing habits once they hear that a guy who is centimeters from being a cold-blooded killer is pitching for Chicago tonight?

--Dave

NEIFI PEREZ

I do not want Mr. P to take this the wrong way, but get a clue. My idea is not to let him evaluate the Colorado Rockies, and more importantly Neifi Perez. The "execrable Neifi Perez" as P says, is one of the few bright spots the Rockies have. He is a young (24) number two hitter (that the Rockies insist on batting leadoff) who plays superb defense (great range and minimum errors for a SS) and does not cost an arm and a leg.

With this is mind, any idiot could see why Colorado would want to get rid of Perez for a more prominent SS like Edgar Renteria (errors!!), Mike Bordick (sucks), Rich Aurilia (errors!), or any of the other shortstops that belong to teams like KC, CHa, CHn, Ana, Oak, SD, Hou, etc., etc., etc. There are only three super shortstops in the game, and you are the only person to state such an asanine comment. Come on Mr. P, shortstop is the toughest position on the field, and a player like Perez would be perfect to help build a young team around. Believe me P, you definitely opened your mouth to remove all doubt about being an idiot.

--Baseball Fan and potential analyst if you are getting paid for this piece of work.

Didn't know Bob Gebhard read this site.

First of all, if there's a glaring error in that piece, it is my underestimating the resolve (and the offense) of the Snakes, which I've done all year. I'll take my lumps for that.

When evaluating any player, it is important to take into account what they do both offensively and defensively, and you are correct on two points: defense at shortstop is pretty important, and Neifi Perez is pretty good with the glove. What I don't think you realize, Bob, is just how bad Perez is with the bat. It cost you your job, so pay close attention.

Take a look at Clay Davenport's latest EQA report. Specifically, note the section on shortstops. See Perez' entry? I'll include it here:

Name  Team Lge Pos    Out  PA    EPEQA  EPER    RAR   RAP
Perez   COL NL  SS    399. 578.   .221   45.8  -4.8 -12.7
Despite the fact that Perez is hitting .283 with 11 home runs as I write this, he's a sub-replacement shortstop with the bat. Just a terrible hitter, and unfortunately for both yourself and the Colorado Rockies, he's swinging the bat as well as he ever has. If you've got this guy as either your leadoff or number two hitter and you aren't playing in a beer league, you're either misallocating resources or likely to get blown out by a real team. Neifi Perez is to weak groundouts what N'Sync is to prepubescent females--it's tough to imagine the former existing without the latter.

Perez' defense is solid, but there are a bunch of guys in the minors with no stick and solid defense who could contribute as much as Perez does, and don't have the service time Perez has. When a player has a bunch of cheap alternatives to him freely available from the minor leagues, he earns the following honorifics:

  • "replacement level"
  • "execrable"
  • "Rafael Belliard"
  • "Chris Kahrl on Andro"

I'm not surprised you think the way you do about Perez, because his raw numbers aren't bad. But that's sort of the point: the Rockies have a bunch of guys with reasonable raw numbers, and they're going nowhere with them because the field they play in masks the fact that they aren't very good. Perez is young and he can play defense, which is what separates him from truly useless players like Fonzie Bichette. The Rockies shouldn't trade Perez instead of someone like Bichette, but Perez's strengths should make him easier to trade. And in the scheme of things, he's about as important to the next good Rockies squad as Bichette is.

Perez is Juan Melo plus two years, a reputation, and quite a bit of luck. He's a Pokey Reese clone. He doesn't have a great chance to put up a year better than Mike Bordick's best. Ever. If you're excited about a guy like this, considering another line of work is probably your best option.

--Dave

We'd love to hear your thoughts on anything baseball-related at info@baseballprospectus.com. We'll publish the best of what we get periodically at www.baseballprospectus.com.

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