Turn Back the Clock: Neifi Perez


We all love sweet nostalgia, which is why I am periodically going to turn back the clock to remember a forgotten Rockie.  I’m busting out my old baseball card collection and picking out some of my old friends from different eras of Rockies baseball history.

This week, my focus is on one of my childhood favorites, Neifi Perez.

1994 Upper Deck #545 – Neifi Perez
1994 Upper Deck #545 – Neifi Perez /

First, a quick history lesson:

Rockies fans always think David Nied was the first Rockie ever because he was the first pick in the 1992 Expansion Draft.  In reality, the organization had already made a number of transactions before the expansion draft took place.  The theoretical first Rockie was some guy named John Moses.  I hadn’t heard about him until I wrote this article and I assume you hadn’t either, probably because he was only part of the organization from May 1991 to July 1991.  The first game in Rockies history was on April 5th, 1993.  It couldn’t have been good for his self-esteem to get cut from a team that decided that having literally nobody is better than having him.  He was released before the “2nd Rockie ever” title was handed out.

Aside from this ghost signing, we made a few actual moves before the expansion draft as well.  We participated in the Amateur Draft in June 1992.  Then in the weeks leading up to the expansion draft, we signed a few free agents.  The most notable pre-draft pickup was the legendary, large feline named Andres Galarraga.

One of the members of this group of signees was Neifi Perez.   He was added eight days before the expansion draft.  Perez was also the Rockies’ first amateur free agent signing ever, which I must admit, must have taken some pelotas.  Imagine some amateur scout in a brand new Rockies hat trying to convince a bunch of Dominicans at a tryout that he is, in fact, from a Major League Baseball team.  Those guys probably had never heard of the Rockies.  Neifi could have potentially been getting offers from the Yankees or Cubs, but he instead signed with a team who never played a game and didn’t even have their rosters filled out yet.  It’s like hopping onto a startup company on the ground level.

It paid off for Perez.  He debuted on Blake Street in 1996 before taking over the starting job in mid-1997.  He then managed to hold it down for 4 consistently unremarkable years.  Despite the fact that every Rockie within an arm’s length of a baseball bat was hitting .300 during this period, Neifi could not (he hit .287 in his best full season) .  He also somehow managed to have minimal power during his time in Colorado, hitting only 36 home runs over those four years.  I don’t feel like using the algorithms, but I imagine this would translate to something like a .150 batting average and negative 3 home runs per year in a pitcher-friendly park.

Neifi somewhat offset his offensive shortcomings by making himself valuable in the field. The mid-90’s was still the dark ages of defensive metrics so I couldn’t find his DRS or UZR numbers (which is a shame.  You all know how much I love them).  However, all anecdotal commentary indicates that he was above average with the mitt.  I knew little about fundamentally-sound defense as a small child so I cannot speak from personal experience.  However, he won the Gold Glove in 2000, and that has to be worth something.

Embed from Getty Images

What I do remember about Neifi was his style.  That is where he provided real value to those late 90’s teams.  I mean, just look at the guy.  Skinny as a twig.  Rocked the double sweatbands.  Always wore shades and they were often the flip-ups, which are always a good look.  He even rocked a “Ring of Fire” facial hair arrangement for a while.  Perez led the team in SAR (Swagger Above Replacement) all four years that he was on the team.  Point being, Neifi didn’t need to be good because he was cool.

Once Neifi left the Rockies, his career went downhill as he jumped between a few teams  He ended up being one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2002, managing to pull off a -2.9 WAR season for the Royals, then hovered around replacement level for the rest of his career.  His career ultimately ended after numerous suspensions for amphetamines in 2007.  Whether or not that is positive SAR or negative SAR is ultimately up to the sabermetrician, and I will keep my hands off of that one.

For most people, Neifi Perez is remembered as one of the worst players in recent history.  It’s hard to argue given how little he hit during the  fireworks show that was the Steroid Era.  His legacy to me, however is that of a man who always seemed to be cooler than everyone else on the diamond.  We’ve had tons of better players on the team over the years, but he will always be stuck in Logan’s Rockies Hall of Fame.

If you have someone you want me to talk about in a future post, shoot a recommendation to @AltiTwo or to altitwotalkshow@gmail.com.

Next: Rockies Extend LeMahieu

I love Coors Field.  I’ve been to all different kinds of stadiums – old, new, big, small – and Coors Field stacks up with the best of them.  And for that, I would like to thank the fans.