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Caveat Emptor- Part Six

The Off-Season: Caveat Emptor- Part Six

By Tim Kabel

February 19, 2022

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So far, I have written five articles in this series that I am calling Caveat Emptor, which are about free agent signings the Yankees made that for one reason or another, went awry. In some cases, it was due to injury. In others it was simply a bad fit. Some of the signings are hard to second guess, even many years later. Others are not. The point is that whenever a team signs a free agent, there is an uncertainty to the deal. Nothing is guaranteed. Some signing would seemingly have a better chance for success than others. The Don Gullett signing, as well as that of Steve Kemp made sense. Unfortunately, injuries. derailed the careers of both players. There have been a few signings that made no sense on any level, either at the time of the signing, or years later. Today, we will discuss one of those.

Pascual Perez was signed by scout Neftali Cruise for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1976. He reached the Major League club in 1980. He was traded to the Braves on June 30th, 1982. He had his best seasons with that organization, going 15-8. in 1983, and 14-8 in 1984. He was capable of pitching an incredible game. Unfortunately, no one ever knew when, or if, he would do it. He sprinted full speed off the mound after striking out a batter to end the inning. He would irritate his opponents by using an imaginary finger gun to shoot opponents and he pounded the baseball into the ground frequently. To go with his mid-90’s fastball, he added a30-m.p.h. eephus pitch., which he called the “Pascual Pitch.” In 1982, he missed a start for the Atlanta Braves because he had recently received his driver’s license and wanted to drive to the game himself. He could not find Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and was lost on Interstate 285, Atlanta’s beltway. He reportedly passed the stadium three times, before running out of gas. He eventually arrived at the stadium 10 minutes after the game started.

Perez started the 1984 four season in jail. He had been arrested for cocaine possession in the Dominican Republic. He spent approximately three months in jail and was then suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. He still had a pretty good season, finishing 14- 8 with a 3.74 ERA. That same year, he incited a beanball war in a game against the San Diego Padres. His success in Atlanta ended in 1985. During a game in July against the Mets, he gave up seven runs and seven hits in a 15-10 loss. That lowered his record to 1-8. He then went AWOL for a few days and was suspended by the team. After he was reinstated, he was suspended again for showing up late for a game in San Francisco. He finished the season with a 1-13 record. The Braves cut him before the 1986 season, and he did not pitch in the Major Leagues that year.

Perez revived his career in 1987 with the Montreal Expos. He went 7-0 that year with a 2.30 earn run average in a truncated season. The following year, he was 12-8 with a 2.44 earned run average. It was his last winning year in the Major Leagues. He spent part of spring training in 1989 in a drug rehabilitation center. That year, he went 9-13 with a 3.31 ERI. At one point during the season, he was accused of doctoring the ball with his hair conditioner, which was known as “World of Curls”.

After the 1989 season, Perez became a free agent and was signed by the Yankees to a three-year 5.7-million-dollar contract. He reported late for his first spring training, partly because he was fighting a paternity suit. In 1990, he started three games. His record was 1-2 with a 1.29 earned run average. In 1991, he started 14 games and posted a 2-4 record with a 3.18 earned run average. In early 1992, he failed another drug test and was suspended for a year. His career was over. He spent 150 days on the disabled list during his Yankees’ career.

Sadly, Perez was murdered in a home invasion in the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Let’s take a moment to digest this. The Yankees spent 5.7 million dollars over three years on a pitcher who spent the bulk of the time sitting on his backside. He pitched a total of 17 games for the Yankees. He earned over $335,000 for each start. He won three games in his Yankees’ career. Think about it, he was paid almost 2 million dollars for each win. But what is really amazing is the fact that they signed him in the first place.

You have heard of the expression, red flags? Well, Perez was one giant, walking, talking red flag. He had a losing season and missed time due to substance abuse issues immediately before the Yankees signed him. Signing him was all risk and no reward. I don’t blame Perez for the signing or for his failure as a Yankee. He never should have been on the team. He was offered a contract and he accepted it. He cannot be faulted for that. He does have accountability for his substance abuse issues and his other indiscretions.

I would love to know who thought it was a good idea to sign Pascual Perez. I once had a boss who, whenever someone did something that was well, not inspired by genius, would say to that individual, “help me to understand why you did this.” In other words, whatever the person did was so far beyond the pale, and defied logic so much that it required an explanation as to how it was done in the first place. That discussion should have been held with the people who signed Pascual Perez. He is yet another example of Caveat Emptor, and perhaps in some ways, he is the best example, because there should not have been a buyer. The Yankee should not have signed him. I realize that there might have been no one else available but, in that case, you bring up a minor leaguer, you make a trade, or you roust a peanut vendor from the stands and give him the ball.

The signing of Pascual Perez is part of the reason for the failure of the early 1990s Yankees.

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