4.2.03: I haven't seen a committee this
ugly since they were throwing screenwriters in jail in the 1950s.
Welcome to Bullpen By Committee (BBC), the
relief pitching equivalent of water torture.
BBC1 - Alan Embree taken deep by Terry
BBC2 - Chad Fox taken deep by Carl Crawford.
BBC3 - Mike Timlin ripped for an RBI double by Rey Ordonez.
BBC4 - Bobby Howry taken deep by Rey Ordonez.
Can we please see what else is on? Granted,
these are big time hitters that are hitting shots off our BBC. Seriously,
how many batting practice pitches would you have to throw before Shumpert,
Crawford and Ordonez had all gone yard? Our bullpen has pulled off an
almost inconceivable meltdown against
the punch-and-judiest lineup in baseball.
Bill James says a team will win 98 percent of
its games with a three-run lead heading into the ninth. But it does matter
who the pitcher is, right? I mean, that percentage was built on the arms
of Eckersley, Sutter, Fingers, et al. You can't just roll anybody out
there and expect to maintain that percentage.
Republicans like to accuse Democrats of
"throwing money at the problem" - which is apparently much less effective
than throwing inane one-liners at the problem - but the Red Sox front
office has located the problem and thrown journeymen at it. The one thing
every member of the BBC has in common is that some team — or many teams —
didn't try very hard to keep them.
Nobody takes a pitcher with a high draft pick
and declares, "We're grooming him to be a middle reliever." You either
have the pitches and durability to start or the stuff and makeup to close.
Lacking these, you get dumped into the morass of middle relief, from which
we have dredged all winter in the hopes of catching a closer in our nets.
Sadly, closers don't get cast off into the bargain basement bin. What you
will find, however, is a bunch of discount guys with mediocre WHIPs,
unspectacular ERAs and just enough stuff to keep drawing a Major League
paycheck. Somewhere Chris Haney's ears are burning.
A closer should be intimidating. If your theme
song is AC/DC's Hells Bells or G 'n R's Welcome to the Jungle, it should
fit. Right now our bullpen is about as intimidating as Fleetwood Mac,
though Prodigy's Firestarter would probably be more appropriate.
The first four batters Alan Embree faced this
season went single, homer, single, double against him for a 2.000 slugging
percentage. If this was his audition for the role of closer, he just threw
up on the casting director. Chad Fox, meanwhile, is leaning on the "he hit
a good pitch" alibi, which is unsettling in its own way. I mean, if he put
the ball where he wanted and Carl Crawford hit it out, what's gonna happen
when he misses his spot to Jason Giambi? Mike Timlin began his 13th big
league season sort of inauspiciously, surrendering a run to the bottom of
the Tampa Bay lineup on back-to-back hits by Damian Rolls and Ordonez. But
Bobby Howry may have outdone 'em all, giving up a big fly to Ordonez, a
guy who hit one home run in 499 plate appearances last year and now has
nine in over 3,200 career trips to the rack and is in all likelihood the
weakest-hitting everyday player in the Majors.
As far as I'm concerned, as of right now,
Brandon Lyon is our closer. Hard to believe the Blue Jays let this one get
away after he posted a 1.56 WHIP and 6.53 ERA, but they did. And we
dredged him up.
But who will Grady tab to close next? You'll
have to tune in to the wild, wacky world of the BBC to find out.
All that said, if our increasingly inelegant
shortstop could simply gather a slow chopper, step on second and throw to
first, we'd be 2-0.