Thursday, September 16, 2010

If Laurel and Hardy Were Around in the Era of the Relief Pitcher

My mother was talking to my father the other night, as they are prone to do.

They were talking about baseball, as they are prone to do. In light of K-Rod's recent legal/physical issues, Mom asked Dad who the Mets' new closer is.

"Committee," Dad answered.

"What's his first name?" Mom asked.


First of all, full props to M and D for still following our beloved Metsies as the Mets play out the string and fail to play "meaningful games" in late summer once again. Further indicating their fan-tastic fanaticism, they follow the games on the internet since retiring out of the Gotham market.

Back to closer-by-committee.

What we've learned from doing Batter Chatter blog for the past four months: if a baseball term doesn't come from the food world, it probably comes from the business world, and "committee" very definitely has its roots in the corporate culture.

Closer-by-committee of course refers to a gaggle of relief pitchers aiming to get those crucial last 3...or 4, 5 or even 6...outs, managers going with specific matchups based on which side of the body you arm is on in relation to which side of the plate the batter stands on, and a pitcher's statistical record against a given batter.

Closer-by-committee usually results after the closer has been injured. The hope is that one of the three or four guys in the closer rotation will rise above, show he can get righties and lefties alike out, and claim the job outright.

The Twins tried it at the beginning of the season, with Joe Nathan on the shelf.

"We are a committee," manager Ron Gardenhire told "Our closer role is a committee."

The Orioles did it for a bit, then gave the job to Koji Uehara recently

The strategy worked pretty well for much of last year for the Rays and the Braves, writes

Two contending teams are closing games by committee, and no one has cried heresy

Alas, the strategy never seems to work for long. The Twins opted for Jon Rauch just after the season started, then acquired Matt Capps when Rauch proved to be less than Nathanesque. The Braves have Billy "Know Your Place Rook" Wagner at the tail end, and the Rays have Rafael Soriano, who shut the Yanks down last night to preserve a tight win.

Over in Camp Flushing, Hisanori Takahashi seems to have chosen committee chairman. Despite lacking the mid-90s fastball and peculiar facial hair/haircut of typical closers, Takahashi shut down those pesky Pirates last night (OK, they're not really all that pesky) to tally his seventh save.

A few more lights-out closes, and my mother might even remember his name.

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