Los Angeles Dodgers: Masters of the Three Year Closer
As Takashi Saito heads to the DL with a right elbow injury, one can only think of it as clockwork.
Ever since Roger McDowell joined the Dodgers from the Phillies in 1992, the Boys in Blue have gotten three quality years out of each closer before either injury or decline in skill.
McDowell was not re-signed by the Dodgers after the strike-interrupted season of 1994 brought about a career worst 5.23 ERA. But alas, another closer came to replace him, in the form of set-up man and former Cardinal, Todd Worrell.
Worrell regained his old form as a closer after a sub-par showing as setup man, saving 32, 44, and 35 games in the final three seasons of his career and making two of his three career All-Star appearances.
Once again, the Dodgers were in need of a closer after Worrell's retirement. They found their next three-year closer in the form via trade with Cincinnati, all-star Jeff Shaw. Shaw settled in well to Chavez Ravine, putting up 34, 27, and 43 saves in his three full seasons for the Dodgers.
However, with the Dodgers comfortable, Shaw abruptly retired at age 34, after being selected to the NL all-star team in 2001. The curse of the three grew stronger.
The Dodgers scrambled to find a replacement. Fearful of acquiring another closer in his 30's, the organization turned inward to then-starting pitcher Eric Gagne, who was having difficulty in the rotation.
The club had hoped that moving his electric fastball and menacing off speed pitches to the bullpen could help turn his career in the right direction. Boy did they make the right move.
In his first season as the closer, saving 52 games in his first season as the door-shutter. Gagne went on to dominate the National League, setting records left and right.
Then came 2005, his fourth season with the Dodgers. The pattern held up, as Gagne suffered from multiple injuries in 2005 and 2006, marking the end of his magical run with the Dodgers.
However, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel, in the form of Japanese veteran Takashi Saito. Saito would end up saving 24 games in 2006 and 39 in 2007.
With an unorthodox delivery and lively movement, batters had little chance when he entered in the ninth inning.
Flash forward to today and just as it happened to Dodger closers in the past, Saito's three year shelf life has reached its expiration date. They are calling for him to be out until the end of August at least, but I honestly don't see him playing in a Dodger Uniform again.
So now let’s welcome in the hard throwing Jonathan Broxton. I predict three years of excellence out of this kid, but no more than that. At least not in Dodger Blue.
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