Two weeks ago, Hall of Fame great Sandy Koufax worked with a few of the Mets' pitchers.
Koufax, a longtime friend of Mets owner Fred Wilpon, often makes this annual trip to Port St. Lucie to pass on his wisdom.
This year, it felt as if this visit by Koufax was the only hope Oliver Perez had left.
Perez, coming off a disastrous, injury-plagued year, is healthy and confident. Mets ownership is counting on Perez to win 15 games, but few in the game or the stands believe it.
When Koufax was interviewed by reporters, he made reference to his early career, where he was as inconsistent as Perez. Then, at the age of 25, things changed, and he turned into one of the game’s greats.
So, I looked up both Koufax and Perez’ numbers to see how similar they are.
Koufax pitched to a record of 36-40 in his first six seasons with the Dodgers. In his first two seasons, he only started 28 games. Perez went 45-53 in his first six seasons, only pitching in 40 games in his first two seasons. While the numbers aren’t identical, they are similar enough to see how Koufax could see himself in Perez.
In Koufax’s seventh season, his career changed. The year was 1961, and he went 18-13. In fact, from 1961 to 1966, Koufax pitched to an incredible record of 129-47, including three seasons where he won more than 25 games.
The game was different then, as pitchers went deep into games and often completed them. In the current version of this game, few pitchers in this game finish their own starts.
Back to Perez. In his seventh and eighth seasons, his record was 13-11. His eighth season was last year, when he only started 14 games.
Few believe Perez is going to do what Koufax did 40 years ago. While he is only 28 and healthy, Mets fans have heard enough about potential. Perez’ inconsistency overshadows those moments of brilliance. His 2006 October performance is a distant memory.
What makes Perez so unique is that his talent was never in question. It is his mental make-up that people worry about. Can the switch go off and Perez become the No. 2 starter New York needs him to be? Or will Perez continue to draw jeers from the crowd and a pink slip for his general manager and manager?
Two weeks ago, Koufax looked at Perez and related to the young lefty’s struggles. Koufax walked in those shoes, but seven seasons in, he figured it out and became an all-time great.
For Perez and the Mets, the hope of this franchise lands in this inconsistent starter, who could lead the Mets to October or continue to be the face of a losing franchise.