I’ve spent the last few weeks in a state of not exactly not paying attention to the Blue Jays, but not paying close attention, either. Vacation, family matters and things of that ilk have taken precedence.
Getting a little distance from the normal obsession is nice. Getting most of what I know about the team from a couple of innings I catch on TV or from the morning boxscore or CP wire story, I almost felt like I was in pre-Internet times. I even reached a point at which Buck and Tabby ceased to be a constant irritation. Whether this was a result of hearing them less or my baseball brain actually regressing, I’m not sure. If my posts seem more ridiculous than normal for the next little while, I guess it may be the latter.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what seems to be a main point of contention for many people who follow the Jays: The bullpen. More specifically, I guess, the closer’s job.
I know the closer’s role is overrated. I know the bullpen’s best pitcher should be used in the most-high-leverage situation possible and that that situation is rarely in the ninth inning. I know and support those notions, but there’s also something to be said for throwing the mouthbreathers a bone, even if it’s just to shut them up. Besides, wouldn’t you rather see someone you have some faith in pitch the 9th instead of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel or whoever the latest in the long line of “firemen” is blowing his opportunity when given the role?
Somebody, I think it was Joe Posnanski, described Mariano Rivera’s meaning to the Yankees and their fans by saying that he’s not so much a closer as he is a guaranteed win. As of this writing, Rivera’s converted 584 of 637 save opportunities in his career. In other words, the Yankees win 92% of the games in which Rivera has a chance at making a save. Say what you will about the save stat (and you probably should, it’s not a good one) but a guy like Rivera, a guy who can almost be defined as “Yankees win,” has got to be a comfort for fans.
When you think about it that way, it’s easy to understand why people who don’t invest time in learning about the game beyond what the papers and the TV tell them would clamour for a reliable closer.
But who should be that closer?
Well, how about a guy who reportedly struggles with conditioning a bit much to be a starter? How about a guy with good stuff who seems to be hit or miss in the rotation? How about a guy who was drafted as a closer? Who starts out throwing hard but loses velocity after 50 or so pitches?
Yeah, if he can get it together and become a reliable option as a starter, leave him there. But if not, or if any of the many arms in the farm system really push for a job in the majors, why not give Brett a chance at doing what he did well enough in college to be drafted with hopes of being turned into a starter?
Turn Cecil loose in the 9th (or 8th or 7th, he is stretched out after all!) and let him throw without worrying about conserving energy for the later innings. Maybe it’s what he needs.
I’m not saying he’ll be Rivera, but he might be effective enough to mollify the masses.