I will admit, when I started thinking about this post it was going to talk about how valuable Jose Valverde is to the Tigers in light of what Jonathan Paplebon (Blown Save, Loss) and Craig Kimbrel (Blown Save) did for their respective teams last night. However, when I thought more about it, I started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t so much about Papa Grande, Kimbrel and Paplebon, but more about how each team values the position and how fans of those teams value the position. Valverde did exactly what he has done all season long for the Tigers – save every game he had a chance to save. He went 49 for 49 this season. That is an incredibly impressive streak any way you look at it. I know that most Tigers fans greatly appreciate his contributions to the team after having lived through the Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney years. Most fans know that to expect a season like this from your Closer every year is not logical though.
Closers are like Kickers – the game seems to hang in the balance for them and when a team loses all of the blame is shifted onto their shoulders (plus, both groups happen to have some pretty eccentric personalities within their cohort).
Jonathan Paplebon could have pitched his last game for the Red Sox yesterday. He is a Free Agent after this year and will surely command a hefty price tag. After letting a lead slip away, the Red Sox brass could decide to let him walk and see how Daniel Bard (or someone else0 fares in that situation. Craig Kimbrel is a rookie in a pitching rich system in Atlanta. Perhaps he is traded for some more offense or demoted from his role as Closer after blowing 7 Saves through out the year (had he converted any one of those, teh Braves are still playing baseball in 2011). And the Perfect Jose Valverde’s team is still playing, but the Tigers could end up declining his option (not likely) and be in search of a new Closer in 2012.
So, honestly, do the events of last night change how you may have felt about closers? Do you still think they should be given the big money for the one inning of pressure where the game ultimately hangs in the balance? Do you think that you just throw the guy out there with the best stuff in your organization? Do you think that “closing by committee” is the best way to go? While baseball is a team game, when people (especially the Braves and Red Sox fans) look back on the 2011 season, Kimbrel and Paplebon could the names that jump to the forefront.