The Tigers have yet to name a closer for the upcoming season. Rookie favorite Bruce Rondon has been erratic this spring, with quality setup men Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke performing reasonably well. A trade is also a possibility, and Carlos Marmol's name has come up.*
*Obligatory Cubs tie-in
Typically when managers are asked about possibly using a committee-based approach, they provide some version of "You don't know what you are talking about. That will never work. We are currently performing functional MRIs on all the candidates to identify the one with a closer's mentality… No, it's simply not possible for more than one of them to score well on that test."
And you automatically understand — and this sounds kind of selfish, but I told you this all along — there is no question that it makes it a hundred times better when you have a closer that is a closer — and a good one — because it takes a lot of pressure off the manager.
We can (talk) all we want, but I can tell you right now that if we have to mix-and-match, it will be a second-guessing-haven delight. Because if you use Coke, well, why didn't use Benoit? If you used Benoit, well, why didn't you use Villarreal, if he's on the team? If you use Villarreal, why didn't you use Alburquerque? He was fresh. I'm supposed to know how to use my pitching, so that doesn't bother me. But when you don't have a closer, you're open game."
That quote was from March 5th, and the darn thing still hasn't resolved itself. Leyland, for one, is none-to pleased.
Sometimes people get hung up on something, and they're relentless about it until they think they're going to get an answer. They're not going to get an answer until I have an answer, but they've been browbeating me every day for I don't know how many days. I've always tried to maintain my patience, which I will… But I don't know who the closer is right now. I don't know what the team is. I've got 95 percent of the team, but I don't know how some situations will work out. You guys can ask for the next six days and it's not going to make any difference to me because I can't give you information that I don't have. I truly don't know.
Leyland brings up an area which has yet to be addressed by the analytics community: manager comfort. How many more games could a team win if it's manager was provided with a dugout recliner, a couple of xanax, and a loaded-up ipod? The marginal cost would be tiny compared to acquiring better players.
After all, all these day-to-day managerial decisions can really take a toll. I mean, there's already the lineup and the bunting and stuff. Not to mention keeping these guys ready to play. And then you actually have to make a decision about which pitcher will come into the game? Rough. I mean, ordinarily you would be OK with that, but you just know those half-wits in the press are going to be all over your ass if it goes wrong. I'm completely with you on this one, Jim. In fact, might I suggest hiring some peon to make all the tough calls for you?