Well it appears that baseball's silly season is suddenly upon us again. I guess that makes this a pretty good time to talk about the Cubs needs. One need in particular.
For the last two or three decades now baseball history has shown a team cannot even contend for a wild card spot, let alone win a division without having a strong back end of the bullpen. Especially a closer that can become said bullpen's cornerstone. And the Cubs have gone nearly twenty years without a really strong closer.
Not since Randy Myers was breaking records closing games for the north siders from '93 through '95 have the Cubs had someone really reliable. He even had the then National League record of 53 saves in 1993. And before Myers you have to go back to Lee Smith in the mid eighties.
Which brings me to a question that was asked of me by friend of the blog and avid Indians fan, Brandon Wood. Brandon's query? "Where have all the great closers gone?" It seems that Wood, like so many of us fans, is rather frustrated with the current closer situation in Cleveland.
I think it's a great question. Especially when it comes to Chicago.
There are some very memorable closers from the past. Some of these include:
1. Trevor Hoffman. This guy had 601 saves. And he may have been the only closer in history to dominate the ninth inning with a change-up as his primary pitch.
2. Dennis Eckersley. He won the Cy Young award and MVP in the same season. As a closer. After more than a decade as a starter.
3. John Franco. Franco is to the Mets at this position as Riviera is to the Yankees. You just can't think of any other closers wearing a Mets uniform.
4. Billy Wagner. Billy quietly went about his business of pitching scoreless ninth innings mostly for the Houston Astros. If you can call 422 saves and a career ERA of 2.31 quiet.
5. Jeff Reardon. Remember the beard? Tell me he wouldn't fit right into any clubhouse today. And his nickname was "The Terminator". In the late eighties and early nineties there was none better.
I have purposely excluded both Myers and Smith since they've already been mentioned. And this list is neither comprehensive nor is it in any particular order.
You just don't find anyone in today's game that could make this list. With two notable exceptions of course. Joe Nathan should make anyone's list of all-time greatest closers. But his best days are probably behind him now that Father Time is riding his shirt tail.
And the newly retired Mariano Rivera is the obvious G.O.A.T. in this category.
Which brings me back around to the Cubs. Epstein doesn't need to find a player that is going to make this list. He just needs someone who will stabilize the position. Preferably for the long term. If that is even possible in this day and age. Good luck with that Theo.
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