Friday, December 17, 2010

Wagner or Gagne?

Which former all-star closer did the Red Sox just sign when they got Bobby Jenks to be their set-up guy?

The Sox have signed a few high-profile closers in recent years to help set-up for Jonathan Papelbon. Some have done well. Some have flamed out. Hard. It’s pretty well known that closers are a unique breed. It take a certain mentality to come storming into a game in a tight spot, and be prepared to dominate right off the bat. There’s no help coming. It’s all up to you. Once you’ve done that, it’s sometimes hard to make the change. That might be why some closers adapt to the set-up role better than others.

Eric Gagne said he didn’t like the idea of having to look over his shoulder. It’s the same argument some rookies make in spring training. It’s hard to produce knowing that one mistake ends your outing. As a closer, if Gagne gave up a home run, he was still finishing the inning. He could just go to the mound and do his job. As a set-up guy, he didn’t like looking back and seeing pap out there waiting to cover for him. It’s a mental adjustment that can be hard.

Billy Wagner, however, excelled in the set-up role during his time in Boston. Did he have a different mentality? Maybe. I think demeanor has something to do with it too. Gagne was a lot more flair when he was on the mound. He came in, and overpowered you. He relied on the energy of a closer. I think Wagner’s pitching allowed him to amp it down a bit. He wasn’t all sound and fury. That helped in the transition.

Which one of those two is Jenks? I’m not sure. He always seemed like a fury type of closer to me, so that’s a bad sign. But, unlike Gagne and Wagner, Jenks was a free agent. The Sox could sit down and take their time with him. They could talk over his expected role before getting him to sign. He could think it over, and make sure it was a good fit. I’ll have to assume he did just that. We’ll see how it goes.

Because Jenks-Bard-Papelbon sounds like a good endgame to me.

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