Do you recognize the man to the left? (Apparently, the people in the background don't, because they're cheering for him.) It's none other than our very own Oliver Perez, who is now pitching for his hometown Culiacan Tomateros in the Mexican Pacific League.
In an effort to hone his eroding baseball skills, which is a polite way of saying that he's trying to improve enough so that he can get another major league contract that doesn't involve cleaning out the toilets in the clubhouse, Oliver Perez has taken his impeccable ability to throw balls to Mexico.
He is not letting his ball-throwing fanbase down. In 4.1 innings of work, scattered over four relief appearances, Ollie has faced 20 batters. Eight of the 20 have reached base (three walks, five hits) for a .400 on-base percentage. The eight baserunners over 4.1 innings actually represent a slight improvement over his numbers for the Mets in 2010, when he allowed 96 baserunners (54 hits, 42 walks) over 46.1 innings of work.
Right now, Oliver Perez couldn't hit a CC Sabathia-sized piñata if he was standing directly underneath it. He can't retire 40% of opposing batters in the Mexican Pacific League, so what chance does he have of getting the job done as a Met in 2011?
Oliver Perez used to be a decent pitcher with a lot of potential. Now he's just an expert at throwing ball four. His potential has never been realized in the major leagues and he's certainly not realizing it as a Tomato Picker (which is what "Tomateros" means in English).
One more thing. Remember the photo you saw at the top of this post? It's actually cropped from the photo below (courtesy of the Tomateros website):
The only way for Oliver Perez to get to the pitcher's mound unscathed is to run with a kid by his side. This would definitely come in handy on the date when the Tomateros have their "Free Tomato Day" giveaway.
Oliver Perez is in the last year of his three-year, $36 million swindle, I mean, contract. For his own sake, he better re-learn how to throw strikes. If not, he may just be a Tomatero for life.