John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The year was 1983 and Eduardo Perez, who seems to be emerging as a serious candidate for the Mets' managerial job, was spending most of his summer at Veterans Stadium where his dad, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, was playing with the Phillies, reunited with former Big Red Machine teammates Pete Rose and Joe Morgan.
The way Eduardo has told the story to friends, he was always hanging around the dugout, even during games, when one day Rose called him over to sit beside him and said, "If you're going to be here every day you're going to learn something about this game."
And from there, Rose made a point of tutoring young Eduardo, teaching him how to de-code the opposing team's signs, how to look for the various ways that pitchers can unknowingly tip pitches and how to pick up a pitcher's patterns that can tell a hitter what to expect at crucial moments in a game.
Already passionate about baseball, thanks to his dad, Eduardo took to Rose's advanced teachings and began absorbing the sport more like a scout than your average 13-year-old kid, which surely helped him reach the big leagues and last 13 seasons as a utility player of limited talent.
Indeed, people who know the 50-year-old Perez say he has a keen eye for the finer details of the game, and enough experience in all phases of baseball, working in the Cleveland Indians' front office, coaching with the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins and managing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, that he'd check a lot of boxes for the Mets.
"I think he'd be a better choice right now than (Carlos) Beltran," says a hitting coach from a major league team who has known Perez for several years. "He's got a lot more experience. Don't kid yourself--managing in those winter leagues you've got to deal with a lot of stuff."
"Eduardo's got a great feel for the game, he's very knowledgeable about hitting, and he has a good way with people. He's a guy who can communicate, which is what GMs want now, a guy who can take the information from the front office and present it the right way to players."
"And I think he's secure enough, as someone who has known his way around a big league clubhouse since he was a kid, that he wouldn't be overwhelmed by managing in New York."
In addition to the various baseball jobs Perez has held since retiring as a player in 2006, he's had a couple of stints working as an analyst for ESPN, which is what he's been doing since 2014.
Veteran ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian has been calling games in the TV booth with Perez the last few years, and he says the experience has given him great appreciation for the analyst's baseball acumen.
"I've never seen anybody better at spotting pitch-tipping or picking up a team's signs," Kurkjian told me Tuesday. "He has a tremendous eye for the game. When you sit and watch a game with him you realize that he sees so much that other people don't see."
Kurkjian, who also worked games for years with Aaron Boone, likens Perez to the current Yankee manager as someone who has the people skills, in addition to the baseball knowledge, to adapt quickly to managing in New York.
"I think he'd have no problems making the in-game decisions, and he's as good a people person as I've ever seen," Kurkjian said. "He establishes relationships very quickly, and he's been around the game forever, so he knows everybody.
"I think he'd fit well in New York. I've seen him in settings where he just naturally takes control of a room, even with people he doesn't necessarily know. He has a presence that would make him good with the media, and while he takes his work seriously, he doesn't take himself too seriously, which I think is important because you're going to get criticized as a manager."
I asked around a little more about Perez, and the only questions that popped up from baseball people were those wondering about his job history, and why he hasn't worked in the game since 2014, when he resigned from the Astros in January after being moved from bench coach to first base coach under then-manager Bo Porter.
"I've never heard anything bad about him," said one long-time team executive. "He just hasn't had a very high profile as a managerial candidate."
One person who is close to Perez said he got out of "a bad situation" in Houston at a time the Astros were tanking, losing 100-plus games a year, deciding it wasn't worth being away from his wife and two daughters so often on a dead-end ballclub.
"He's been looking for the right situation since then," the person said.
As such it's believed Perez reached out to Omar Minaya, a long-time acquaintance, and that got him a phone interview with GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and then an in-person interview with the Mets' brass, according to SNY's Andy Martino, indicating that he's a serious candidate.
"I can see how they'd be impressed by him," Kurkjian said. "I'm sure he went in prepared. I've talked to him for years about managing. It's something he really wants."
Why not? In a way he seems to have been preparing for it since those days as a kid sitting in the Phillies' dugout, enrolled in a Masters class of sorts taught by Pete Rose.