Everyone knows that there are a few unwritten rules in the game of baseball, just as there are in many sports. Taking a 3-0 pitch, holding the runners with a 10 run lead, batting your pitcher ninth, and using the closer in the ninth inning.
Over the last few decades the closer position in baseball has become one of the most important positions on the team, and rightfully so. Just ask the '08 Mets or the '09 Rays what it is like to not have a closer.
The closer is usually a team's best shut-down pitcher. Usually a guy that has a low number of walks and a high number of strike outs.
The job now-a-days for a closer is simple, way too simple in my mind. He's obligated to come in and get the last three outs of a ball game. Yeah sure, those are pressure packed outs. But are they the most important outs during the course of the game?
Sometimes the most important outs of the game come before the ninth inning.
Use Thursday night's Yankees vs. Red Sox game for example. The struggling Yanks were on their way too their first victory of the season against the hated Red Sox when $160 million ace CC Sabathia ran into some trouble. CC handed the ball over too a shaky Yankees bullpen with a 3-2 lead, runners on first and second with nobody out, against the top of the Red Sox order no less.
It's understandable if a manager doesn't want to go to their closer for six outs. But what about just for three? Wouldn't you feel more comfortable with the best pitcher on the team throwing the pitches in that stressful situation. Instead Joe Girardi, as any other manager in the league would have, went to his faulty bullpen to try and get those pressure packed outs.
These are the situations I'm talking about. Sometimes situations arise before the ninth inning where you should use the closer. I'm not saying that the closer should not be used in the ninth inning at all. What I am saying is that managers shouldn't hesitate in given situations to bring in their best pitcher. If a team is going to beat you in a situation like this, let them do it against your best pitcher.
Let's use the Yankees/Red Sox example..
Let's say Girardi would have brought Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer the game has ever seen, in during that eighth inning jam instead of Alfredo Acevas. Let's say that Mo escapes that jam with the lead. Where do you go for the ninth inning? That is simple, at this time the bottom of the line up would be due up for the Red Sox. That is when you turn to a somewhat trusty reliever, as in Alfredo Acevas or Phil Coke.
I'm sure sooner or later somebody will do this and set a trend for Major League managers. Most likely it will be Tony La Russa. After all Tony was one of the first to break another one of those fore-mentioned unwritten rules. He batted some pitchers eighth instead of ninth. And seemed to spread like a bad cold around the National League.