The closer’s role on a baseball team is to be a wild, quirky fella who can come trotting out of the bullpen when the last three outs are needed. His signature music plays, and all the fans look at each other knowingly and say, “Oh boy, it’s ______! He’s just crazy enough to win this!” Then they all clap and laugh and don’t think about how much money this guy being paid to play in every fourth game for half an inning.
If he’s good, or at least effective, the closer can slam the door, get your outs, and in the long term, turn each game into an eight-inning affair. He cannot help you, however, if your problem is that you have zero runs and the game is in the middle of ending.
Many people will tell you that the Philadelphia Phillies’ undoing in the 2011 NLDS was the fact that they scored zero runs.
The Phillies signed a closer today, probably the best one on the market. Jonathan Papelbon has been a fixture of Boston Red Sox baseball for years, and now he gets to be a fixture of Highest Paid Closers in Baseball History, being number 1 with a $50 million contract over four years. The Phillies were apparently extremely aggressive in working this deal.
So why was Ruben Amaro sprinting over to Papelbon’s house, tongue flailing as he laughed and salivated wildly while pushing a wheelbarrow full of money? That money that was probably just as payable to anyone who gets to hold a bat during the game. Most baseball players still accept American currency as payment. The Phillies, it seems, saw the holes in the offense, and determined through several weeks of intense staring that the best way to score that pesky run that never came in Game Five was to sign a closer. Another closer. For the largest sum of money anyone has ever paid for one.
And sadly, this means the end of Ryan Madson in Philly, unless he stays out of, like, love or something, and I’m starting to realize that that never happens in baseball. He’ll probably go to the Nationals, who’ve been sleeping in our dumpster since the start of the offseason, as usual.
Oh, and also, labor negotiations have yet to be completed, but chances are this means the Red Sox get the Phillies’ first round draft pick, thanks to one of those little back door rules baseball likes to sneak in when you aren’t looking.