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Say It Ain't So Neifi!

There is probably not a bigger Neifi Perez fan in this world (Mr. and Mrs. Perez included) than myself.


Neifi was always a fantastic and graceful fielder, for a position player with a career average below .270, this was something of a necessity. But when he first came over to the Cubs at the end of the 2004 season and the beginning of 2005 Neifi was a hitting machine. He would consistently slash doubles down the line, bloop singles in front of outfielders, bunt his way on and slap high bouncing grounders to the shortstop for infield singles. Over that astounding four month stretch he must have hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .330 and even made a little write in noise for the 2005 all star game. This was a remarkable achievement for a player who had no discernible hitting skill. It was like watching a submarine fly, or a hippo dance, everything you ever learned in life tells you that this should absolutely not be happening. But it does happen, repeatedly, and the whole experience is magical. dhippo.JPG

About the middle of June 2005 Neifi’s magic wore off and everybody slowly started to turn on him. By the time he was traded to the Tigers the following year every Cubs’ fan with vocal cords or internet access (sometimes both) was screaming/typing bloody murder for Dusty Baker to stop playing Neifi. Every Cubs’ fan but one.

I stuck by my Neifi. I even started a web site devoted to Neifi. There was something about his slick fielding, colossal failures at the plate, unusual first name and the giddy exuberance with which he played the game of baseball.

Then it turns out that his giddy exuberance was most likely the result of a steady and voracious diet of amphetamines. This is hard for me to deal with.

My initial thought was that it was a set up, that the Tiger club house was closely aligned with Omar Infante and any other utility infielders he beat out for a roster spot this spring. We’ll find out slowly enough, with baseball’s lengthy appeal process, but it seems most probable that his signature hyperactivity was mostly the result of shoveling zip loc bags full of greenies into his system.

Neifi gets a 25 game suspension from baseball, I get to ponder over a few questions:

a. If I liked Neifi while he was so pepped up on amphetamines, does that mean that I really like amphetamines and not Neifi?
b. Would I start a web site in devotion to an illicit drug?
c. Did I ever really even know Neifi?
d. Was there something I could have done to prevent this?
e. Do I continue to root for Neifi

Answer key:

a. Possibly
b. Probably not
c. No
d. No
e. Hmmmm?

I’m having fits over that last question. I don’t have an enormous computer sitting in my living room that has flashing lights (think George Michaels Sports Machine), whistles and an extensive database of all the relative merits and demerits of every baseball player and runs them through complicated mathematical models to spit out a piece of paper with my favorite player printed on it
(complete with electronic computing sounds and steam venting violently through an ad hoc pipe attached to the top).

I have to make these calculations myself!

Neifi’s best attribute was the joy factor I got from watching him hop around the field at 100 mph and the reliably pathetic but sometimes brilliant performances he put on at the plate. The Neifi experience is going to change come August 4th when he makes his triumphant return. I imagine him slowly trudging around the dugout listless and strung out with a lifeless expression on his face. Ghost like and confused, he’ll boot routine ground balls, fall asleep at the plate and generally continue his unique take on being a major league baseball player but in a manner diametrically opposed to his previous (chemically altered) nature.

Personally, I welcome the new Neifi, this could possibly be the sort of career reinvention that keeps perpetual celebrities fresh and new in our constantly changing pop culture. Neifi is like (/will be like) the Madonna of MLB.

I can live with this, and it still beats cheering for Barry Bonds.



This page contains an article posted on July 11, 2007 12:38 AM.

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