Jonathan Broxton: Post-Meltdown Dilemma of Kansas City Royals' Closer
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It's not in my nature to make definitive judgments of players—yay or nay—on the basis of one random game.
But after watching Jonathan Broxton melt down in the Royals' 5-4 loss (12 innings) on Wednesday, plunking a pair of hitters—on consecutive pitches—to clinch the Athletics' gift-wrapped walk-off victory...something needed to be said.
Such as, Broxton should be demoted.
From 2006-08 with the Dodgers, Broxton was one of the National League's better setup men. In 2009, Broxton (7-2, 2.61 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 114/29 K-BB ratio) was perhaps the best closer in baseball. But since then, he's been nothing more than an average to below-average reliever, lending little credence to his interim tag with the Royals.
If Joakim Soria hadn't incurred a season-ending elbow injury in March, Broxton would likely be a seventh- or eighth-inning guy for Kansas City. But there's no rhyme or reason for him staying at closer over Greg Holland or Aaron Crow after the Oakland debacle.
The Royals' execs have no previous ties with Broxton, who cannot match the upside of Holland (pro-ball numbers: 392/143 K-BB, 11.1 K/9) or Crow (225/101 K-BB, 9.5 K/9).
And I'm not buying the Broxton-has-closing-experience angle to his candidacy as back-end ace. Factoring in their active MLB roster and extra-long pipeline of superb prospects in the minors, the Royals likely have baseball's greatest collection of 26-and-under talent...and should be serious playoff contenders in 2013 (if not sooner).
So, if Kansas City is willing to develop and start young studs throughout its lineup and starting rotation, why shouldn't Holland or Crow warrant real-time auditions for closer, as well?
As a Detroit native and lifelong Tigers fan, I'm scared to death of what the Royals will become for the next 10-12 years. But it's hard to give the franchise the utmost due with a declining, perhaps mentally vulnerable asset anchoring the bullpen.
That's the only way to view back-to-back hit batsmen with the game on the line. There's a reason why it seldom happens in professional baseball.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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