Hello all, and welcome to my first weblog. I won’t waste a post describing myself, what I do, or anything else about me for that matter. I’d rather talk about something else.
That something else? Closers. Good, bad, current, past. You see, there really is such a thing as a closer. You can’t put any ordinary man in that situation and expect him to excel. It’s so much more than just telling a reliever, "Pitch one inning and go home." It’s a different mindset altogether. However, it’s not just that way for the pitcher. It’s that way for the hitters facing that pitcher as well. After all, it’s the last chance those hitters have to win the game. A feeling of desperation begins to take hold. However, where that desperation takes them depends far more on who is on the mound than anything.
Take the Yankees’ future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, for example. Possibly the most dominant closer ever. Does any team come in down three runs and expect to pull out a win against this guy? A few years ago, people spoke of Rivera and the Dodgers’ then-closer Eric Gagne in such glowing terms as any pitcher could hear. Many references were made to the Dodgers playing 8-inning games, because no one was touching Gagne. 70+ straight save opportunities converted. Looking back at it, that’s just unreal. That’s Bonds-ian unreal.
What is it these guys have that other pitchers don’t? I can tell you that it’s not their pitches. Don’t get me wrong, each of the top tier closers has a nasty selection to choose from, but there is more to it. They have personality, intimidation, and a reputation that precedes them. Even years ago, they had the same thing. Think about the likes of Eckersley, Gossage, Lee Smith. Did anyone want to see that beard of Goose Gossage staring at them from 60′ away?
This is all leading to something, so I won’t keep you in suspense. I think we’ve found this year’s intimidator. His name is Papelbon. Jonathon Papelbon. I actually got to see him pitch a little tonight. There’s something about it. He falls off the mound every time he throws to the point where he’s barely looking at the hitter by the time the ball reaches the plate. When he strikes someone out,it’s like he knew it before the ump calls the pitch. He’s already looking to get the ball from his infielders. He’s got sass and that’s what a closer needs.
Now, if only Izzy could pick some of that up. Maybe I wouldn’t be commiserating with my fellow Cardinal fans on the ESPN boards, downing stomach medicine and wincing with every cutter that floats back over the middle of the plate.
That’s all for now.