The ability to close is a funny thing. When you can close you’re the guy scooping those, eh, good-enough looking women from the bar at last call instead going home and eating Bagel Bites in your bed alone again. When you can close you’re the dude selling enough waterbeds to make your mortgage payment while pushing back your Willy-Loman-style suicide for at least another month. When you can close you’re the man the manager, the team, and the city will look to when the game is on the line.
With Jose Valverde choking in the playoffs last year for the Detroit Tigers, the door has been swung wide open for the next person to step into the closer role. As of right now, the Tigers have liked what they have seen out of rookie Bruce Rondon, but, realistically, how could they not? Last year, while playing in Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, Rondon racked up 29 save and 66 strikeouts while maintaining an ERA of 1.53 in 52 appearances. Oh yeah, and he’s also only 22-years-old and throws a fastball that consistently touches 102-103mph.
To be able to have that kind of ability combined with that maturity at that age is truly lightning in a bottle. When most of us were 22 we drank, we threw up in bars, and we may have even ruined a birthday party or two with our nudity. Frankly, at that age most of us were unfit to be responsible for ourselves, let alone being responsible for the fate of a actual-MLB game for a World Series contender.
Detroit’s manager Jim Leyland has shown confidence in Rondon and that inspires confidence in me. Leyland may be sixty-eight-years-young, but his mind’s still sharp—he’s not your grandma who gave you a half-pack of cigarettes and a box of baking soda in your stocking last Christmas.
I’d predict Rondon will be like any baseball closer, placekicker, or ex-seven-time-Tour-de-France winner—we’ll love him until we see him really screw up.