The New N.L. Central Drama; “The Closer”

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By David K.

If you’ve been following the NBA Playoffs at all, you have probably seen countless commercials and advertisements for TNT’s drama series called “The Closer.”  NL Central teams know all too well about the drama of “The Closer” role this season.  The top four teams in the division have all seen their share of problems with their bullpen stopper.  With the division shaping up to be a four-horse race consisting of these four teams, let me make one bold prediction; Whichever team gets the most out of their closer will win the division. 

Cubs
If ever there was an ominous start to the season, it was for Kerry Wood who gave up three runs in one inning on Opening Day and had every Cub fan thinking, “Where’s Carlos Marmol?”  In addition to that terrible outing, Wood has three blown saves, but has also converted seven other opportunities.  It seems to be sink or swim with Wood.  The only earned runs he has given up have come in his three blown saves and the Opening Day bombshell.  In every other trip to the mound, he has not allowed a single run.  Of the four teams in the Central, the Cubs may be in the best shape in terms of their closer role.  If Wood does falter, the filthy and nasty Marmol is waiting in the wings.

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Brewers
Talk about a bullpen in flux.  When Francisco Cordero fled for bigger bucks in Cincinnati this off-season, Milwaukee made a plethora of moves bringing in the likes of Eric Gagne, Solomon Torres, Bill Mota, and David Riske, hoping someone would emerge as “the guy.”  Gagne won the closer job in Spring Training, but quickly gave it right back.  After blowing a 3-3 tie Sunday afternoon against Cardinals, Gagne was quoted as saying, “I don’t deserve the ball in the ninth inning.”  Hey, at least he speaks the truth.  Gagne has five blown saves and an ERA in the mid six’s.  Maybe he should spend part of his ten million dollar salary that he’s earning this season on some HGH to re-gain what he used to have when he was on the magic potion. 

To make matters worse, 2005 All-Star and former Brewer closer Derrick Turnbow has officially lost it.  Turnbow accepted an assignment to triple-A after racking up a 15.63 ERA in which he walked 13 batters in 6.1 innings this season.  It seemed as if Ned Yost would be relegated to a “closer by committee” approach using Mota, Torres, or Brian Shouse (“Shouse, Shouse let it all out!!!”  –INXS) in the ninth depending on the situation.  But Tuesday night, Gagne was given a chance at redemption and came through picking up the save.  So who knows what is/will/might/could happen with the Crew’s bullpen this year. Translation: Brewers fans should be VERY concerned about holding a small lead late in ball games.

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Cardinals 

Like Yost, Tony LaRussa has already pulled the cord on his closer.  Jason Isringhausen’s five blown saves, 1-4 record, and 7-plus ERA out-weighed his 11 saves.  Now the Lou turns to Ryan Franklin and 39-year old Russ Springer to play the role of stopper.  Despite Franklin being one of the better set-up men in the NL, this combination is not exactly the most intimidating presence on the mound for obtaining the final three outs of a close game.  Maybe once Mark Mulder and Cris Carpenter return to the starting rotation, LaRussa could put current starter Braden Looper back in the bullpen where he was when the Redbirds won the World Series in 2006.

Astros
Houston made a big move this off-season acquiring closer Jose Valverde from Arizona to replace Brad Lidge.  At the start of the season, it looked as if the trade was going to backfire when Valverde blew three of his first five save chances of the season.  Since then, Valverde has settled down, making good on his last seven opportunities and not allowing an earned run since April 17.  Houston better hope Valverde stays on top of his game and healthy because there is not a
stand-out second option in the ‘pen.

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Comments

  1. Jason Moe says

    To The NL Central: Billy Koch is still out there!!!!!

    If you give him a pack of gum, he could be on your team!!!

  2. paulmbanks says

    Shouse. Genius.
    “Shouse. shouse. let it all out. this is a reliever I can do without. Cmon I’m talking to you c’mon”

  3. Melissa W. says

    As I watch the Brewers vs. Padres in the top of the 7th on this Thursday, May 15th, what does our closer matter if Sheets gives up to back-to-back Home Runs in a scoreless game?

    Oh! Now a triple…I’m just going to stop here.

  4. You know what’s great? “Gagner” means “to win” in French. As in: “je gagne” is “I win” & “tu gagne” is “you win”. Oh…the irony is RICH.

  5. Trent A. says

    Please refer to the Brewers closer as Gag Me… Thats about the only thing consistant with his game, every time he pitches I want to hurl.

  6. paulmbanks says

    I guess Gagne only proves that HGH IS a true performance enhancer

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