Motte

What Date Will Motte Assume The Closer Role?

If you ever come across someone that doesn’t like the NBA, their general go-to line is “I don’t really like the NBA because those guys don’t even try until the 4th quarter” or some version of that sentiment.

I’m not here to change your opinion on the NBA. If that’s what you believe? You’re wrong.

I’d submit to you that in any sport in any level the last bit of competition is always going to be a bit more intense. I’d also submit to you that baseball, with 162 games, has an even higher discrepancy between baseline performance versus last gasp effort.

In other words, over the entire summer it’s impossible to give desperation effort every inning of every game. But when it’s close and it’s in the 9th inning, you’re getting the very best from the very best.

There are no more long plays… managers fire their best bullets and deal with the fallout, whatever it may be.

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Trevor Rosenthal was a revelation in 2013.

I’m not sure he was on anyone’s radar (sans big MiLB fans) and with Jason Motte coming off a 42 save season, the Cardinals were mulling what the best plan of action for Trevor would be.

Plans changed for all relievers when Motte underwent Tommy John surgery and was DL’d for the entire season.

They stuck Rosie in the bullpen and he appeared in 74 games in 2013. He was a power arm used when a strikeout was needed. It wasn’t until a little over a month to go in the season before he took over as the closer.

Shout out to Ed Mujica. Hope he’s doing well.

In fact, he only had 3 regular season saves in 2013. But his 4 saves in the post-season calcified his role as the closer for the Cardinals, even if Motte was to come back for the start of 2014.

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In 2008 Fransisco Rodriguez had 62 saves for the LA Angels. He had 3 save in 2012 for the Brewers. He leads MLB with 17 through 7 weeks in 2014.

Brian Wilson had 48 saves in 2010. Jose Valverde and John Axford had 95 combined saves in 2011. Two of these men are now middle relief guys. Axford left the Cardinals so he wouldn’t be one.

The only thing that’s for certain when it comes to closing is that your time doing the job will be shorter than anyone expects. Be it injury or scrutiny, it’s going to overwhelm even the best in a short amount of time.

The flip side of this rapid rise and fall of a closer is that you often have the chance to get back to the position, often with the same team.

Just ask Jason Motte.

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If you don’t think Motte will be the closer sooner than later in 2014, then you’re fooling yourself. The vultures are already circling.

Yes – Mike Matheny screwed Rosie. He shouldn’t have been in for 4 straight days. Yes – the home plate ump screwed Rosie. That was a strike.

But the peripherals are gruesome for Mr. Rosenthal:

  • He’s allowed at least one run in eight of his 19 appearances this season (42% of games)
  • He’s walked 14 in 21⅔ innings, only six fewer than he issued in 75⅓ innings in 2013
  • His overall chase rate is down. It was 32 percent last season, but only 19 percent so far in 2014

For more of these, you can head to ESPN and read Mark Simon and get real depressed.

Point is, Rosenthal has been living on the edge in 2014, doesn’t really have a large bank of overall goodwill and is facing the return of a recent closer that only lost his job because of injury.

The margin of error for Rosenthal – which as we covered earlier was already super small – has been reduced to nothing.

He has no room for error. None. Even saves that aren’t 1-2-3 will be analyzed to death.

Jason, for his part hasn’t been shy about his stance on the matter:

“I definitely have a preference. It was definitely fun closing games and doing stuff like that,” Motte said. “I don’t want to just come back up and be like, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ It’s kind of like when Wainwright had his stuff. He wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m back in the Big Leagues. I made it. That’s great.’ He worked his butt off . He’s back in the situation he was beforehand. For me, it’d be great to be back out there and closing games out.”

That’s what Motte said on The Morning After radio program last week. The wheels, as they say, are already in motion.

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It’s not IF Rosenthal loses his job as the closer. It’s HOW he responds to that loss that will be key for the Cardinals in 2014 and beyond.

The only thing that we should feel comfortable about is that Rosenthal will have a chance to earn the job back.

Probably sooner than later.

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