Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tigers' Closer Drama Cannot Continue Much Longer

Fernando Rodney is not the answer. But neither does Todd Jones appear to be, at least not now. Joel Zumaya? I've been resisting the notion of making him a closer since Day One, figuring that the outs he gets in the 7th and 8th innings are consistently more valuable than anything Jones, etc. gets in the 9th.

Watching Rodney labor through the ninth inning last night, the Tigers' victory over the Indians seemingly safe, I had some serious reservations about his being anointed the closer over Jones, who was defrocked on Saturday by manager Jim Leyland. TV announcer Mario Impemba echoed my thoughts.

"Well, for all the problems Jones has had," Impemba said (I'm paraphrasing), "at least he throws strikes. There's something to be said for that."

Impemba said those words as the camera honed in on Jones, sitting in the bullpen, finding himself with nothing to do during a 9th inning with the Tigers in the lead. And while Rodney treated the strike zone like plutonium, throwing far too many pitches than necessary, it occurred to me that the Indians kind of helped him out. Somehow Rodney got the required three outs despite being as sharp as a dull pencil, because the Indians didn't appear to have quite enough patience to see where Rodney's wildness might lead.

Yes, Todd Jones throws strikes -- and that, too, has been a problem lately.

The choice between Jones's batting practice that he tosses, and Rodney's wackiness when it comes to finding the plate, is a harsh one indeed -- but that is what is being served up to Leyland right now. Maybe that will only be his choice for another 24 hours or so.

Tomorrow is the non-waiver trading deadline. The Tigers exist, precariously, as barely-contenders. But it's hard to imagine them as anything more than that with their 9th inning pitching options what they are today. Hardly anyone has confidence in Jones right now, but tell me, does Rodney make you feel warm and fuzzy?

There were a few pitches last night that Rodney uncorked where it looked like he was just trying to throw the ball as fast as he could -- complete with an exaggerated, overhand motion. Like he was trying to knock milk bottles down in one of those arcade games on the midway.

I've always felt that whatever trouble Rodney has, is usually rooted between his ears. I could be wrong, but it's my belief that Todd Jones might be mentally tougher than Rodney, but that Jones simply doesn't have the stuff to get crucial outs consistently enough. And Rodney has the stuff -- there's still that nasty change up -- but he seems fragile, mentally.

Some choice, huh?

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that GM Dave Dombrowski is gobbling up cell phone minutes, trying to pry a closer from some poor seller. I think the decision to "promote" Rodney to closer is just a stopgap, until Dombrowski can acquire another guy. Just a feeling I have.

Because the way things are now, the only real hope is if the Tigers beat teams into submission, negating the necessity of a closer.


Blogger Big Al said...

I hope you're right, Eno. I have little confidence in the bullpen late in games, at least in it's current state. Someone needs to throw consistent strikes, as Zumaya, Rodney and Jones aren't.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Hey, Greg, good call!!! I'm think it's a good trade. You?

6:55 PM  

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