Look, it’s not that we expect to go back to the days when Phil Niekro would pitch 20 complete games—or more. Or Robin Roberts , who pitched 365 of them—but take a look at what happened to these hotshot “closers” so far in the playoffs, and they’ve only played the first of three legs.
(The World Series, one “leg” of a playoff? How demeaning can that be?) The “blown save” is a statistic in the daily box scores, but not in the official major league stats. Which should give you a view on how the major leagues rate such a farce. Check out some of the casualties in the first round playoffs: The Cardinals were in prime condition when Ryan Franklin came in to clean up. Granted, Matt Holliday didn’t make it any easier when he dropped a fly ball, but Franklin still had only one Dodger to put away. He couldn’t. Dodgers blast him, Cardinals lose a game that Adam Wainwright had gifted them, a 3-hitter when he left. Cardinals spend the rest of the autumn on Holliday—so to speak—and Franklin.
Joe Nathan is considered unhittable in Minnesota. Twins gave him a two-run lead when he came out of the bullpen. Yankees nail him, score three and another closer bites the dust.
Red Sox bring in Jon Papelbon, present him a 3-run lead, two men on base. Both score. Then that other famed closer, Billy Wagner, follows and closes the door—on the Red Sox. Angels win.
One of the saddest scenes was that of Huston Street sitting alone in the dugout, distraught, the Rockies having their last gasp because Street had blown another lead, two in a row. In Denver, Phillies take the series and down goes another closer. Street had one pitch, a fastball that kept winding up in the outfield. Basehits.
Far as I know, nobody kept the book on how many games the Braves bullpen let get away. Javier Vasquez would have been a 20-game winner. Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson were other victims of inept closers. There’s something wrong with a situation in which three pitchers work over 70 games out of the bullpen— and Peter Moylan worked over 80.
Major league managers have gone closer-crazy and sent the fans away from the ball park in grief. Two pitchers, Lincecum and Cain, both Giants, pitched four complete games. Vasquez, who might have had ten, was able to collect three. To hell with closers. Baseball is a 9-inning game. Do you ever see an NFL coach go to his “bullpen” to “save” a football game? Of course not.
I just want to emphasize that “saves”and “blown saves” are NOT official major league statistics. So there!