OBSERVATIONS: When is a closer not a closer?

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while shaking my head over and over and over again when I think about the seven games the Reds have lost in the last few innings. They should call it ‘The Lost Season’ and put a trademark on it.

—What has Tony LaRussa wrought? Something rotten, unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

It was LaRussa, when he managed the Oakland A’s in the 1980s, who brought upon the baseball earth the first true closer.

His name was Dennis Eckersley and LaRussa used him mostly in the ninth inning to close out games, hence ‘closer.’

Baseball folks are great copy cats. With the success of Eckersley, every team searched for a guy with nerves of platinum and cold beer in their veins to pitch the ninth inning when their teams were one, two or three runs ahead. Close the door for us, buddy.

So now, no matter the situation, no matter if the closer is suffering from nervous jitters and his veins are frozen, the manager brings him into the game in the ninth inning.

That brings us to one Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds. The Closer? Closer in name only.

The poor guy has struggled mightily for two years, melting in sweaty puddles during high-leverage situations.

Yet, there he is, standing on the mound to start the ninth inning.

The latest happened Thursday night. He was brought in to protect a 4-2 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit the first batter. He walked the second batter. The third batter singled, filling the bases. The fourth batter singled off Iglesias’ body, scoring a run. Then Iglesias, acting like Nervous Norvis, balked in the tying run.

Eventually Iglesias took the walk of shame to the dugout, removed from the game. That isn’t supposed to happen, ever, to a closer.

Yes, the Reds lost, 5-4.

What makes this all so absurd is that Lucas Sims replaced starter Sonny Gray and retired five straight, striking out the first three. Why not leave him in?

Amir Garrett replaced Sims to face one hitter, Matt Carpenter. He struck him out to end the eighth inning. Why not leave him in?
Instead, it was ‘Closer Time,’ time for Iglesias and he failed again. Why was he in there? Because he is the closer and Tony LaRussa says that’s the way it is done.

It would not be a question if Iglesias was Mariano Rivera or Dennis Eckersley or Trevor Hoffman or Goose Gossage or Billy Wagner or Rollie Fingers or Lee Smith or Bruce Sutter.

He isn’t.

—QUOTE: From Mariano Rivera, baseball’s all-time best closer: “I get the ball, I throw the ball, then I take a shower.” (But that shower never came until the game was over and he finished it.)

—With no apology to Trevor Bauer, seven innings of no runs is not a shutout. And it is not a complete game.

Because he pitched in two seven-inning doubleheader games and pitched seven shutout innings, Bauer is credited with two shutouts and two complete games.

No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. Nine innings is a complete game.

Under today’s convoluted rules, MLB gives credit for seven-inning shutouts and seven-inning complete games. But if a pitcher throws a seven-inning perfect game or even a seven-inning no-hitter, it doesn’t count.

Now does that make sense? What does make sense in baseball these days?

Don Sutton had 178 complete games and 58 shutouts, all nine innings. Those are REAL complete games and REAL shutouts.

—QUOTE: From former pitcher Don Sutton, when accused of applying a foreign substance to baseballs: “Not true. Vaseline is manufactured right here in the United States.”

—They should change the name of the San Diego Padres. How about Slam Diego Padres?

The Padres set a major league record this week, four grand slams in four straight games.

It all began with the grand slam Fernando Tatis Jr. hit on a 3-and-0 count with a seven-run lead. Will Myers did it next, then Manny Machado, then Eric Hosmer.

All four came against the Texas Rangers — four swings, 16 runs. If I’m a Rangers pitcher and the bases are loaded, I pull a Nuke LaLoosh and throw a pitch over the backstop. The lets in only one run and leaves only two men on base instead of three.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson: “When I gave up a grand slam home run to Pete LaCock, I knew it was time to quit.” (Are there four pitchers ready to quit this week after giving up grand slams to the Padres?)

—What is it about baseball’s new fashion statement. . .powder blue road uniforms? They are worn by Philadelphia, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Texas, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Minnesota. And the old Montreal Expos used to wear them. Remember the one-year existence of the Seattle Pilots? They wore powder blue road uniforms.

The blue hue is not new. Back in the 1940s, the Brooklyn Dodgers wore (are you ready?) blue satin uniforms for night games. Yes, satin. Knights in blue satin.

—Ask the St. Louis Cardinals about the absurdity of trying to play even a shortened 60-day season during a pandemic.

The Cardinals missed two weeks because of COVID-19 and when they were able to play they had 11 rookies make their major-league debuts. Eleven.

In their first 14 games they’ve used 25 different pitchers. They used 23 last season over 162 games.

—QUOTE: From the movie ‘The Rookie’: “You know what we get to do today, Brooks? We get to play baseball.” (And 11 St. Louis Cardinals rookies were ecstatic about it.)

—If Trevor Bauer wants to wear a pair of custom-made shoes, instead of trying to wear a pair inscribed with “Free Joe Kelly” he should wear a pair inscribed with, “I Love Rob Manfred.” It’s a lie, but he would be able to wear them.

—QUOTE: From singer/actress Bette Midler: “I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world.” (Clearly, in addition to ruling the pitcher’s mound, Bauer would love to rule the world.)

4 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: When is a closer not a closer?

  • August 21, 2020 at 12:14 pm
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    .” Last season’s slogan: “New record for losing one run games.” – This season’s slogan: “Wasted starting pitching… (I turned it off after first 2 batters reached in bottom of 9th – after bases left loaded top of 9th.)

    Reply
  • August 21, 2020 at 8:49 pm
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    BUT ONE CANNOT FORGET THAT DAVID PALMER WAS CREDITED WITH A LEGIT 5 INNING PERFECT GAME—-BECAUSE OF RAIN. THE VAGARIES OF BASEBALL RECORDS

    Reply
  • August 26, 2020 at 12:16 am
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    Pete LaCock was the son of Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall. Not a great hitter.

    Reply
  • August 26, 2020 at 3:02 pm
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    Well, according to some people in Glengary Glen Ross, it’s when they are given crappy leads. “Coffee’s for closers ONLY!”

    Reply

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