Opening Day saw some pretty spectacular bullpen meltdowns. But what
does it say about the game that teams have become so reliant on the
bullpen that relievers can pretty much make or break a season? Have
pitchers gotten soft?
*Breaks window, jumps from the second story, runs down the street screaming even though forgot pants*
Believe me, Mr. Jake, I am really trying to tackle this one without any bias, without any memory of Opening Day in the ‘Lou, without a mammoth-sized chip on my shoulder. But let’s be honest: in baseball, there isn’t much worse than watching your team dominate throughout a game, only to blow it all in the 9th when the win is on the line.
My Redbirds managed to do that on Opening Day. The Brewers did too (all credit goes to John Axford). The Mets ran into it last night with Jail-Rod’s shenanigans (Also, his unfettered desire to fight people proves that pitchers — at least this one — have not gotten “soft”… unless the pitcher’s name is Kyle Farnsworth). Hell, ask the 2010 Baltimore Orioles… they know all about losing games late considering they blew more games last year than Lil Kim did Bad Boys in the 90s.
But what does it say about the game that teams have become so reliant on the bullpen that relievers can pretty much make or break a season? Gee, I’m not sure it’s really come to that. The ’08 Cardinals were pretty awful, as I remember the bullpen yacking up over 25 games late… but, after giving it the old eye test, I’m not sure it’s really fair to say that the state of Major League bullpens is any different than it has been in years past. You either have a good one, a mediocre one, or a bad one.
And even when you have a bad one, that doesn’t necessarily spell gloom and doom for one’s team. 2009 Brad Lidge comes to mind; my pedestrian and oft frightened colleague, Mr. Krause probably could’ve done a better job on the hill than Lidge that season, but the Phillies still managed to grind their way to the World Series.
Unfortunately, these days, the role of a “closer” and “set-up man” and “7th inning guy” has been magnified because of money. The more money involved, the more pressure. The more pressure, the fewer who can actually deal with it.
In fact, for my money, there’s only one closer who is reliable every single day and that man’s name is Mariano Rivera. I think the Yankees could realistically state that their season might rely on Mo’s cutters; but then again, their set-up man saved 40+ last year. And, oh yeah, their all-star lineup doesn’t hurt either.
But for the other 29 teams, yeah, it could be a problem. But when your team is in flux — featuring an unsigned future Hall of Famer, a sidelined perennial Cy Young contender, and an All-Star outfielder absent because of an appendectomy — then you got more problems than you can actually stomach right now. The bullpen is just one of many.
Don’t hate me. ‘Cuz I’m right.
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