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What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to talk about a bunch of under-performing morons who are in constant danger of losing their jobs? Oh come on. I can’t be the only one whose childhood and adolescence was ruined by a guy who had no business siring offspring. But ok, fine. Those of you who enjoyed your Ward Cleaver-like daddy, go ahead and celebrate the day. Have your BBQ’s, go to a baseball game together, have a catch reminiscent of the final scene of Field of Dreams. The rest of us are going to tend to our fantasy baseball teams and discuss some of the more tenuous closer situations that have given rise to anxiety and dismay this past week.
The New Doctor Detroit
For those who don’t remember the 1983 cinematic classic, allow me to sum it up real quick. Dan Ackroyd plays a timid college professor who ends up acting as a pimp for four local prostitutes and takes you on a pretty darn funny hour-and-a-half ride filled with split-personality induced craziness. But the only similarity that we can find between the original and our new Doctor Detroit is found in the split-personality part because what’s happening with Tigers closer Joe Nathan is, most definitely, not funny.
Nathan, once a mild-mannered yet intensely competitive fellow, has now become a shell of himself on the mound and has gone from confident, ninth-inning fireman to a meek, self-doubting, ratio-throttling nightmare, capable of destroying your fantasy day with just one pitch. Over his last six appearances, Nathan has allowed 10 earned runs on 12 hits and five walks with just two strikeouts over four innings of work. Yeah, you can go back and read that again if you thought you weren’t reading it right. Ten runs, four innings, and if you calculated it right in your head, you also got slapped in the face with a 4.25 WHIP. You’d like to think this was a joke; maybe some horrible, scary dream from which you are about to wake, but alas, those numbers have really become a part of your fantasy totals.
But as bad as he’s been…as many times as he’s cost the Tigers a win this season…manager Brad Ausmus not only continues to use him, but also stands up for him to the media after each and every mound implosion. Mind-boggling? Yes. Definitely. Maybe the lack of a proven alternative closer is the reason Ausmus continues to go back to this well of despair, but surely Joba Chamberlain or Al Alburquerque is capable of doing a better job here. Heck, master of the mound implosion, Phil Coke, could do a better job than Nathan.
Those of you who are rostering Nathan obviously have been preparing a contingency plan for a little while now. The early-season reports of lost velocity, the deteriorating strikeout rate, the increase in walks and, of course, the serious uptick in home runs allowed (yeah, seriously. Who goes from Arlington to Comerica and sees their home runs allowed total increase?) have all put you on notice from a very early point in the season. Yet just when you think it’s all over for Nathan, he somehow averts total disaster and manages to hold onto his job, though he continues to hand by a very thin thread.
But this really needs to stop at some point. It just cannot continue like this, can it? The Tigers have to do something. Maybe Ausmus will finally wake up to the fact that Nathan is just a busted experiment gone horribly wrong and he makes the move towards Joba or Al. Or maybe management just overrides him and makes a deal for another bona fide closer to serve as an immediate replacement. With the Phillies fading further and further away from contention, the rumors of a Jonathan Papelbon trade are inching closer to reality. Other potential trade candidates include LaTroy Hawkins, Drew Storen and even possibly Joakim Soria. Something has to give here and it has to happen soon as the Tigers could start to fade in the AL Central before they know it.
Now this may be nothing but it could also be something, so those of you who have been relying on Cubs closer Hector Rondon should be paying close attention. And if you don’t own him and someone is offering him to you in a trade, you should take note here as well. We may or may not be dealing with damaged goods here.
Rondon’s last appearance was one of pure ugliness. On June 6, he allowed three runs on four hits and while he struck out two and closed out the inning, the damage had been done and he was charged with his second blown save. But then suddenly Rondon disappeared. The Cubs weren’t in need of a closer during the week per se, but on June 13 when they actually did, Rondon wasn’t available due to elbow soreness. Neil Ramirez took the mound and earned his second save of the season.
The team seemed to downplay the injury, but scheduled a throwing session for Saturday the 14th; originally just from flat ground, but afterwards, opted to have him throw from a mound. He threw 11 pitches and reported no problems. It doesn’t look like Rondon will require a stint on the disabled this time around, but the team is going to probably err on the side of caution with him moving forward. According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, the Cubs may hold Rondon out for a couple more days which would open the door for Ramirez once again and if the team has any further growing concern regarding Rondon’s elbow, they could just have the two share the role. If you’re one of those people chasing saves on the wire, Ramirez should be your next add.
Now here's a look at an updated version of the Closer Grid: