Yeah, that Percival. The guy who has been lauded for his leadership abilities and for being a "good teammate" all season. The one who was main figure in many stories, including some of my own, about how several new veterans—Cliff Floyd as well—have helped to instill a winning culture in the Tampa Bay clubhouse while offering leadership to the Rays' younger players.
Seriously, how many stories have focused on how his veteran leadership has played a major factor in the turnaround of the Rays' bullpen?
Percival really came off as the ultimate team-first guy.
Well, at least until he started to struggle on the mound.
Sure, he has been hurt. This has played a major part in his poor performance. But, even when healthy, he has been ineffective, a shell of the closer who once threw in the mid-90s for the Angels back in the day. After the All-Star break, his command and stuff were more consistent with someone his age, he nearly walked a batter per inning and posted an ERA closer to a touchdown than a field goal.
While much was made about his health status, the fact of the matter is that the Rays would have been foolish to leave David Price or Edwin Jackson off the ALCS squad even if Percival was healthy. Pleasing veterans is nice. Winning, however, is better.
As I wrote the other day:
There is a lot of talk about whether or not Troy Percival will be put on the Tampa Bay Rays' ALCS roster. Well, if it were up to me, I would decline that offer. Percival is a veteran who has World Series experience, two factors which have led several mainstream analysts and writers to talk about how he is an essential piece to the puzzle and needs to be on the roster. To their credit, he certainly has had a tremendous positive impact on several of the Rays' young talented arms, all while helping to instill a culture of winning in the clubhouse. However, based on his performance in the second half—6.11 post-All-Star break ERA, 16 walks in 17.2 innings pitched—and an obvious decline in his command and stuff, Joe Maddon can no longer trust him with a lead late in the game. Period.
As critical as I was, I still thought that Percival would come out to the ballpark to be with his team.
He says that he wants to be with his family. I get that, to an extent.
Plus, he probably would not make that much of a difference if he was actually headed to Boston to cheer on his teammates the rest of the series, anyway. Baseball is really more about talent than anything else, especially being a cheerleader.
But, for him—of all people—not to go has unquestionably put his team-first, leader reputation at risk and reflects poorly on him. Which has left a bad taste in my mouth. It must hurt knowing that the Rays do not need his servies with so much at stake, choosing instead to go with a youngster like Price even though he made it clear that he wanted to be put on the roster. Especially for someone as proud as Percival, who is one of the all-time best closers in the history of the game.
He should be with his team, cheering along with Eric Hinske and Jonny Gomes and the other Rays left off the ALCS roster who are making the trip up to New England. Period.
As a high school basketball coach once told me, "It is easy to be a leader when things are going right. When times get rough, however, real leaders must step up and do the right thing."
To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.