Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Opening Up the Closer Role
So rather than discuss the flaws and failings in Coco Cordero, let's push things forward and think about what the Jays do from here to get the last outs of the game.
The temptation after another rotten end to a game is to depose one closer and anoint another. This morning, we woke up to a Twitter feed full a queries and suggestions as to who should be next in line to be marked with the Scarlet C, indicating their closerishness. And it's understandable that people would feel that way, because that conventional wisdom is deeply ingrained in the baseball fan's psyche: You need a "shut-down", "lock-down", "proven" guy taking the ball in the ninth.
But if you look at the options for the Jays over the next few weeks - as we wait for the real lock-down-proven closer to return - we wonder why you would even fill the role. You could place that title on Casey Janssen, or Luis Perez, or Darren Oliver, or call up Las Vegas closer Chad Beck. But does having someone fill that unofficial position really get you any further ahead?
Isn't the purpose of such a move to put the fanbase at ease? And doesn't that sense of confidence get shattered with the next blown save? (And make no mistake, there will be more. It happens. There's another dozen of these games waiting for us over the next five months, so gird your loins and get ready.)
Yes, we understand that John Farrell has stated that he likes for relievers to have a rough sense of when they'll be called upon to enter the game, but is it not possible to look at the lineup that they are facing, look at the past few days' usage, and figure out from day-to-day who is the most appropriate arm to get the next few outs?
"Closer-by-committee" has become a dirty word in baseball. It's a small-minded game sometimes, and many in and around the game - fans, media, punditry, front offices and field staff - are more willing to let one guy fail at his job repeatedly than to allow a different strategy to fail once. Moreover, there's a lot more blame that falls on the shoulders of the manager if a bullpen committee fails, which probably chokes off such an approach before it takes its first breath. If the by-rote following of baseball tradition ends up in a loss, the manager can shrug his shoulders and say: "That's our guy", and we all nod along like a bunch of bobblehead puppies in the back window of a Camaro.
We're not sure what John Farrell has up his sleeve at this point, but we'd appreciate seeing him actively manage the bullpen for a few weeks rather than falling into the trap of finding a "new" closer. That's the easy way out.