If you can’t tell, a year plus of relying on Joe Borowski to close out games for the beloved Tribe caught up with me this week. The only solace I’ve found is knowing that I’m not alone. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve been there. You never feel safe watching any game unless your squad has more than a 3 run lead. Your closer comes in and never gets ahead of hitters. He puts a lot of runners on, and isn’t afraid to let a few runs cross the plate. On some nights, you know that there’s no way in hell he’s closing it out. He eats your soul. Every night the other team knows they have a shot if they keep it close. Bloated save numbers combined with equally bloated ERAs provide the warning signs. And in big games, forget about it.
Joe Borowski isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. Here’s a list of a few doozies cut out of the Borowski mold, and the teams they closed for. We’re sticking to guys who closed for at least full year, and not including terrifying short term experiments like Fausto Carmona (before he was a stud starter, he had a miserable stint as the Indians’ closer). This might bring back terrible memories for some, my condolences. Please let us know of any we missed, misery loves company.
Armando Benitez: Mets, Giants, O’s, Marlins — Armando was no soft thrower, but as any Mets, O’s or Giants fan can attest, he was a nightmare, especially in the postseason. Baseball Library.com sums him up pretty well. “But though he owned the raw stuff to overpower batters, Benitez struggled to master the mental side of the game and picked the worst moments to suffer meltdowns on the mound.” In his career, Benitez has 4 postseason saves, and 6 postseason blown saves. Ouch.
Mitch Williams: Phillies, Cubs — When your closer’s nickname is “The Wild Thing,” well, that’s not good. Williams managed to be “just wild enough to be effective” until the 1993 World Series (besides when he blew Game 5 of the 1989 NLCS). He got shelled and took the loss in Game 4 against the Blue Jays, and then gave up the famous Series ending home run to Joe Carter in Game 6. You don’t bounce back from something like that.
Stan Belinda: Pirates — If I recall, Belinda was in a closer by committee situation with the Bucos. I’ve never met a Pirates fan who felt good about things when Belinda entered the game. His most memorable collapse came when he gave up a two run lead (tough situation, though, the bases were juiced with none out when he entered the game) in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. The final play involved a hobbling Sid Bream.
Jose Mesa: Indians, M’s, Phillies, Pirates — Joe Table blew game 7 of the 1997 World Series against the Marlins. A little piece of me died that evening. I wasn’t shocked though. Joe Table might have saved a ton of games, but it was rarely easy. The dude has a career 4.36 ERA (5.40 in the playoffs), and he was a closer. He’s an ex-president of the nibble at the corners club.
Brad Lidge: Astros — Lidge was dominant in 2004 and 2005, and then came the 2005 playoffs. Lidge went 0-3 with a blown save in the playoffs and gave up walk off homers to Albert Pujols and Scott Podsednik. Scott Podsednik! The same Scott Podsednik who has 27 career home runs in 2,481 at-bats (and I’m pretty sure at least 24 of those were of the inside the park variety). Lidge produced a 32 save season in 2006, but posted a 5.28 ERA. I know he killed you Astros fans that year. He’s currently shutting things down for the Phillies.
Mark Wohlers: Braves — Wohlers was great in 1995, but in the 1996 World Series he gave up a huge 3 run homer to Jim Leyritz, and was never the same. In 1997, he racked up 33 saves, but his 5-7 record tells me that he was anything but automatic. He bottomed out when he posted a 10.13 ERA in 1998.
Byung-Hyun Kim: Red Sox — In 2002, Kim saved 36 games in low pressure Arizona. Then he went to Boston. Bad things happened, bad things, man.
Mike Fetters: Brewers — Fetters was the closer for the Brew-crew from 1994-1996. Two of those seasons, he gave up more hits he had innings pitched. That means he absolutely loved putting runners on base, just to freak out the good people in Milwaukee. He was more famous for his pre-pitch routine than his closing ability.
Doug Jones: Indians, Astros, Phillies, Brewers, A’s – Jones pitched a long time (from 1982-2000), and threw a lot of junk. I like junkballers, just not in the bottom of the ninth. Jones managed to keep his ERA down, but in the 14 seasons when he had over 30 appearances, he averaged over a hit per inning pitched 9 times. In comparison, Mariano Rivera has done that zero times.
Jorge Julio: O’s, Diamondbacks — Jorge is currently with the Indians. I’m not happy about this. I can barely watch him pitch the 7th, I can’t imagine having to watch him try to close it out. He’s only posted an ERA under 4.00 twice in his 7+ year career.
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About the Author: I am a Cleveland sports and Buffalo Sabres fanatic. I'm currently living in Erie, but even when I'm not there, Erie runs deep in me. I'm an ex multi-sport goalie, and we goalies tend to see things a bit differently. I went to college with Cecilio's Scribe and I am also a Big Red afficiando. Otherwise my college sports loyalties are all over the place. I try to keep my posts light, but I'm a Cleveland fan so the occassional rant is possible (inevitable?).