November 24, 2014

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Indians’ Chris Perez turns criticism on owners, GM

CLEVELAND — Chris Perez has criticized Indians fans, a few opposing teams and some of their players, while even confronting a fan in Oakland, throughout a tumultuous and highly outspoken season for the two-time All-Star closer.

Perez

Now he’s taking on Cleveland’s ownership and front office.

During an interview with FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi in Detroit — where the Indians completed a three-game series Wednesday — Perez cast blame for his club’s free fall in the Central Division standings on owner Larry Dolan and general manager Chris Antonetti.

“Different owners, it comes down to that,” Perez told Morosi, when asked the difference between the contending Tigers and the fourth-place Indians. “(The Tigers) are spending money. (Owner Mike) Ilitch wants to win. Even when the economy was down (in Detroit), he spent money. He’s got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don’t. But most of the time you do.”

The Indians’ payroll, which has consistently ranked toward the bottom of the majors during Dolan’s 13-year tenure, was there again to start the season at $65 million. That’s compared to just more than $133 million for the Tigers, who landed marquee free-agent Prince Fielder in the offseason to go along with high-priced superstars such as pitcher Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera.

Perez didn’t limit his criticism to Dolan and his failure to spend, though. He also implied that second-year GM Antonetti has done an inadequate job putting the team together.

“You can’t miss,” Perez said. “You have to be right. That’s why I say it’s not just ownership. They don’t make the trades. It’s the GMs. It goes hand in hand. The GMs can only spend the money the owners give them, but they pick who they spend it on or who they don’t. They pick. The owners don’t pick.”

Perez singled out Cleveland’s inability to sign free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham this offseason. It was reported the Indians balked at adding a third year to a prospective contract for Willingham, who received a similar three-year deal from Minnesota, where he was hitting .261 with 33 home runs and 98 RBIs in 129 games through Tuesday. Willingham told a Cleveland reporter that he preferred the Indians over the Twins.

“Josh Willingham would look great in this lineup,” Perez said. “They didn’t want to pony up for that last year. That’s the decision they make, and this is the bed we’re laying in.”

If it is Perez’s wish to be traded, he’s paved the way with his critical comments. Along with right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the right-hander was rumored to be on the market at this year’s trading deadline, and it would not be surprising to see both dealt prior to the 2013 season.

Perez (0-4, 3.51 ERA), who made the All-Star team for the second straight year and has converted 34 of 38 save opportunities, is being paid $4.5 million under a one-year contract this season, but is under Cleveland’s control in 2013.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Content copyright The Chronicle-Telgram.