We have relief pitcher Mariano Rivera of the Evil Empire to blame for that.
Earlier today, New York Yankee Mariano Rivera tied San Diego Padre Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball with 601 saves. Even Mariano thought save #601 was no big deal. “Just another ho-hum save,” admitted Rivera to the media afterwards.
Granted, as far as relief pitchers, I’m swiping up Rivera in any fantasy baseball league. Nerves of steel. Playoff-tested. Imposing figure for such a slender guy who has been nothing more than a one-pitch pitcher his whole career. I think even Goose Gossage could have taken Rivera in a Bronx street fight, but that’s probably because Gossage could go all Fu-Manchu on Rivera’s skinny ass.
I’ve never really understood the fuss about baseball closers. Nor why we make a big deal out of it. Like birthdays as you feel older, it’s just a number.
Do you even know what qualifies as an actual save chance? (It’s about as easy to explain to a layman as the infield fly rule.) One criteria is that your team can’t be leading by more than three runs. What? Three runs? That’s like three touchdowns? Your New York Yankees give you a three run lead, and you get the ESPN highlight showing you earning the save just because you struck out the last batter…some pinch-hitting back-up catcher hitting .224 with one home run and 12 RBIs?
Not much pressure, and yet most of the glory. What about the starter who threw 100 pitches and got you into this save situation? Maybe it’s only a save situation because your lousy offense couldn’t score more than three runs!
I’ve seen some pitchers warm up for 15 minutes, come into the game, throw one pitch to induce a ground-out, and earn a save. People sweat more in Bikram Yoga—as opposed to earning a save.
Most of the best baseball closers were failed starters. Brian Fuentes? Jason Isringhausen? Los Angeles Dodger (and cheater) Eric Gagne?
Heck, even in Hoffman’s case, he was a failed position player. In football terms, it would be like bragging you have the best punter on your team—because he couldn’t cut it as a placekicker.
Give me a decent starter over the all-time closer any day. And twice on Sundays.
Imagine if other sports kept a save statistic.
In NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson drives 499 miles of the Indianapolis 500…
…but then Johnson takes one final pit stop so that Al Cowlings could coast across the finish line and drink from the milk jug.
In tennis, Venus Williams leads 5-3 in the third set of the U.S. Open, and then tags out to let Serena Williams enter the music “Wild Thing” just so she can punch out Maria Sharapova, a linesman, and a chair umpire while she’s at it.
In golf, Frenchman Jean van de Velde could have avoided the biggest epic final round collapse at the British Open.
Instead, bring in an aging Jack Nicklaus to save the three-shot lead on that final 18th hole. Besides, the French lack the nerve to close out meaningful sports. (Remember Zinedane Zidane’s head butt in the 2006 World Cup?)
Baseball is the only sport where they consider the save to be a major accomplishment. In football, the save is an under-appreciated statistic.
I propose that the NFL add a new statistic: the “Quarterback Save”.
If the NFL won’t do it, then fantasy football leagues should!!!
Case in point: the fourth quarter of last week’s Cowboys-Jets game.
Here, you had Tony Romo being Tony Romo, and Mark Sanchez being Mark Sanchez.
QB Tony Romo is a gun-slinger (which is quite fitting for a Cowboy). Through the first three quarters, Romo is usually electric and you can’t take your eyes off of him. He forces balls in double-coverage to his man-crush, TE Jason Witten. He rolls the pocket right and then throws across his body off his back foot to a streaking WR Miles Austin.
QB Mark Sanchez is a twin-propeller (fitting for a Jet). Through the first three quarters, Sanchez is slow and steady. There’s the occasional turbulence in the form of interceptions deep in your own territory. Or sailing the ball over the head of a wide open receiver. He hands the ball off well, but he lacks the flair of Peyton Manning when he does it. When GQ Sanchez lacks flair as much flair as Peyton Manning, then you know the Jets are in trouble.
And yet, in the fourth quarter, fantasy owners will take Mark Sanchez over Tony Romo any day. And twice on Sundays. Or at the very least, once would have been good enough last Sunday when Sanchez led the Jets to a dramatic come-from-behind win.
Entering the fourth quarter, Dallas leads New York by two-touchdowns. In football, we’ll still call that a save chance. After all, this is prime time.
QB Sanchez has a flair for leading fourth quarter comebacks. Especially in the playoffs on the road. He sucks for the first three quarter, but if you’re patient, dude delivers in the clutch.
Tony Romo, however, lacks the mental strength to be a capable closer. He’s more like fellow Texan Andy Pettitte. You can’t help but like the guy. Even when he isn’t on your team.
I won’t blame Romo for that fumble on the three-yard line. Dude was trying to make a play! You gotta admire a quarterback with guts—as long as it doesn’t lead to a fractured clavicle injury. If he scored—instead of fumbling—while taking that crushing hit, that would have been on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays.
But that late interception?!?! Oh, Tony, Tony, Tony. Throwing to a wide receiver with an injured ankle? Defended by the best cornerback in the game today? Leaping off your feet and three-quarter slinging the ball with very little zip?
Remember when your most-publicized collapse was that bobbled snap on a game-winning field goal? Sigh, those were good times compared to this one. At least in this case, you had time to think before you goofed.
While in Las Vegas, I bet on the Cowboys and took the six-and-a-half points.
In that final minute, I’m thinking, I have this bet won. If the game ends now and the score remains the same, the Cowboys cover. Even if the game goes to overtime and the Jets score a touchdown, they never kick the extra point afterwards, so the most the Jets can win is by six points. And I’m getting six-and-a-half.
I’m good…unless Romo throws a pick-six in regulation.
It’s like Rivera throwing a flat fastball down the heart of the plate to Big Papi.
Thank goodness for warning track power.
And thank goodness Revis didn’t want try to out-juke Dallas OT Doug Free and the sidelines just for a meaningless six points. Saved me.
Mariano Rivera never never have made that throw to WR Dez Bryant with all-Galaxy CB Darrell Revis. Because Rivera is no dummy. To beat Rivera, you better take your best shot, because he’s bringing his best stuff every time.
Besides, Rivera may have the stronger arm. He would have wound up (never leaving his feet to throw) and delivered a strike to his teammate.
And that’s why the NFL should start keeping stats on saves!
To Romo’s credit, at least he made a good save and married Candice “Miss Missouri 2008” Crawford over Jessica “Mom Jeans” Simpson.
(Sept. 17, 2011)