Ending to the Percival Drama
When the Rays visited the Los Angeles Angels this past week they got some good or bad news depending on how you see the situation. During their 3-game series, Rays closer Troy Percival finally admitted to the media and his teammates what most of us knew the moment he went on the Disabled list on May 22,2008 with shoulder tendinitis. I take it as no huge surprise that he did retire, but I am so curious on why it took so long. And adding to that is the fact he has not started his retirement papers, probably waiting to see what might happen with the Rays in their chase of the postseason in 2009.
I know he can not and will not be added to the roster for the playoffs even if they make it again this season, but the fact he might be holding out for the last crumb of his 2-year $8 million contract might just be added incentive to delay the paperwork a few months. And this can finally end the speculation and the drama involved in why we have seen him only once since he went on the disabled list in late May. The only other time I have seen him in uniform for the Rays was on Saturday, June 1st, the same night as the Rays post game Three Doors Down concert. I got some exclusive photos of the recluse closer as he came back into Tampa Bay to discuss his rehab plans with the team.
But I guess with a guy like Percival, you have to take the good with the bad. But there are a few situation that rubbed me the wrong way about the feisty closer. Believe me, I appreciate the 28 saves he got the team in 2008, and that the team posted a 34-1 record when he hit the mound, but some of the negatives should also be sounded out today. Those 28 saves were the fifth largest amount in Rays history, but Percival also only had 1 save after August 13th. Add onto that the fact he collected 19 of those saves and posted a 3.54 ERA before the All Star break. After the All Star break, he only saved 9 games and posted a 6.11 ERA for the Rays.
And that 34-1 record can be a bit deceiving at times. Sure they won 34 games when he hit the mound, but people forget he did blow three saves during that stretch and the Rays offense ended up getting him off the hook for the loss. The only loss suffered in that span was during a September 6, 2008 game in Rogers Centre, in Toronto where current Ray Gregg Zaun hit a grand slam home run off Percival to seal the Blue Jays win. But another situation might keep Percival’s name on Trivial Pursuit games for the rest of time.
Anyone sitting in their seats on September 3, 2008 at Tropicana Field will not forget this game any time soon. In that contest against the New York Yankees, Percival took the mound in the final inning and faced Alex Rodriguez. what ended up happening will keep the Rays and Percival on the tips of people tongues for a long time. Percival threw a hanging breaking ball out over the plate and Rodriguez hit the ball high and over the leftfield foul pole. The umpire crew could not effectively call the shot and went to perform the first Instant Replay decision in MLB history. The replay result ended up upholding Rodriguez’s 549th career home run in the game.
But some of Percival’s action both on the mound and around the Rays in 2008, and this season did get me to question is commitment to the Rays seasons and their ultimate goals. The first might have been after his last DL stint with his injury to his right knee he seemed to disappear from sight from the Rays. This does not mean he just did not come out to the Bullpen, or even consort with his team, but disappeared totally from sight right after the season ended. Sure he was left off the Postseason roster because of his injuries, but his value to the team then should have been as a clubhouse leader to this pack of guys who had never made it to the playoff before this season.
He could have done some work in the Bullpen just sitting there chatting with your relievers Grant Balfour and J P Howell and mentored them a bit of the difference in postseason and regular season late game strategies. Instead he was probably home in Southern Cali relaxing in the leather recliner watching TBS. And because he did not have his knee operation until after the playoffs were concluded, there was no reason he could not have still been there for his teammates.
Jonny Gomes and Chad Orvella also were not on the post season rosters, but both were there in the dugout with their team mates all throughout the playoffs. It seemed a guy who was a former coach and also a veteran of playoff games would know his expertise would be a true treasure to the Rays relieving corps, but he was not there for them.
And that was only the first thing that upset me about Percival. The second was the way he used to disrespect his manager Joe Maddon on the mound. I understand passion and a fighter’s mentality of not backing down, but to be focused in by television camera and you can read the words coming off his lips to his manger are unacceptable. The only that has stayed in my mind was this season in Baltimore when Maddon went to the mound and did not even get to Percival before the argument had started and both men were seen jawing at each other in heightened voices until Maddon ended up taking the ball from Percival.
Add that to the public display that came after the Sunday May 4th game in which a fan did not see Rays third baseman Evan Longoria coming into the third baseline seats just beyond the visiting dugout for a foul pop up. The ball ended up only going about three seats deep and Longoria did come over for the ball and did not voice a peep to his intentions. A fan in that area then made a play on the ball not hearing any vocal announcements and kept the ball from Longoria. Now you have to consider that first, the guy was not looking at Longoria and was trying to get the ball for his 6-year old son. Granted, if Longoria had made some sound, the guy might have pulled back from the ball and this sutation might not have happened at all.
Well, Longoria is throw a few choice words at the guy and gave a few stares after the play, but it was forgotten by Longoria. Not to be outdone, after the last out of the game, Percival again began to yell at the guy with a few choice blue words towards that area of the stadium. The fits of rage towa
rds the fan by Percival as uncalled for as a professional athlete. Sure the guy made a mistake, but you just saved the win for the team and the guy might have gotten the message. But for Percival to deliver gestures and a few blue-colored words is beyond professional. But what did I expect out of a guy who says the same thing to his team manager.
But since Percival had left the team in 2008 after going on the DL late in the season, why would I think the situation would change in 2009/ When the team did put him on the disabled list on May 22, I like so may other Rays fans knew that he would not be back. Something told me that moment that the closer was not going to be able to rehab his back situation in time to be productive for the team in 2009. He appeared in only 14 games this season garnishing 6 saves and a 6.35 ERA. Now we all know this is the second year of his $8 million contract, and even if he was put on the DL, he would get that contract fulfilled by the Rays.
But from the moment he went on the DL, to his announcement on Tuesday, we never knew 100 percent where he was headed, or what he might do in the way of rehab or trying to get back to the Rays roster. ”I still wish I was out there playing and what have you,” he said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, ” but at least my mind is clear that I know I just physically can’t do it.” Adding to that statement was the fat that up until a month ago he had not even comtemplated any Bullpen sessions to see if he might indeed have to finish his dreams of retuning to the mound. Percival said he began Bullpen session about a month ago after a call from Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, but after 6 sessions over a Friday-Sunday schedule he knew what the outcome was going to be for him.
He would throw on Friday with little or now pain, then on Sunday would be in extreme pain and finally realized he could not help the Rays again in 2009. “Every Sunday was just awful,” Percival added in a story by Marc Topkins of the St. Petersburg Times. “I could throw okay on Friday but the Sunday one was bad. So it’s just not going to work.” And so the idea of retiring again as a player resurfaced in Percival’s mind. “I’ve got so many ailments now I don’t see that I can go out an compete at this level anymore,” he said. “I can do it once in a while, maybe once every four or five days, but that’s not good enough at this level.”
But even with the announcement that he will not be back with the team again in 2009, Rays Manager Joe Maddon think the team should have a special day for Percival to ‘celebrate what he has done for the club.” What? Are you serious Joe? You want me to celebrate a guy who will not put in his retirement papers until after the season to garner the last $1 million on his contract. You want me to again show some sort of hand clapping for a guy who has now abandoned his team twice in two years.
You truly want me to celebrate the ‘Tampa Bay” career of a guy who berated a man and his son after they made an honest mistake during a home game. Most of Percival’s player success happened even before he put on the Rays jersey. Maybe he needs to be celebrated in Anaheim and not Tampa Bay, where he made his reputation. Sorry Joe, I know you had a front row seat to the post season records set by Percival when he was with the Angels, but here in Tampa Bay, I still see his legacy as an unfinished story. If you really want an ending, maybe he should submit those retirement papers and release the Rays from holding a 40-man roster spot with his name on it. I know he has a million reasons to not consider that option. But, I think that is what you would expect a true professional to do.