Yesterday afternoon, I wrote an article in which I made the claim that Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan needs to be better — an opinion that was being expressed by Tigers fans everywhere. However, I continued to throw my support behind him, saying that he is a proven veteran who has accumulated 354 saves and that he has earned the respect to be given a chance to work through his issues. Last night, though, Nathan had an opportunity to get back on track, and he delivered yet another outing he would undoubtedly like to forget.
Nathan entered last night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in the top of the ninth inning, and the score was 0-0 at the time. He was preceded on the mound by Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a clean eighth inning, and Anibal Sanchez, who delivered yet another gem in which he went seven innings, gave up only two hits, struck out five and walked none. All night long, the Tigers were able to shut down one of the most potent offenses in all of MLB. Then Nathan came along.
To make a long story short, Nathan ended up being charged with two hits, two walks and four earned runs in one-third of an inning. The Tigers would eventually lose the contest by a score of 5-3 and Nathan was given the loss. His ERA now stands at 6.86 and his WHIP has also ballooned to 1.48. The Nathan who frustrated Tigers fans for so many years while pitching for the Minnesota Twins and later the Texas Rangers is continuing to do the exact same thing — only this time from the other side.
Last December, when it was announced that the Tigers and Nathan had reached a two-year, $20 million pact, it was one of the most celebrated signings in recent memory for Tigers fans. The man who had gone a perfect 36-for-36 in save opportunities with a microscopic 1.44 ERA against the Tigers was now coming to their side, prompting fans to say things such as, “If you can’t beat him, sign him!”
Moreover, Tigers fans have endured years of watching shaky closers such as Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney and Jose Valverde blow countless winnable games, and Nathan was supposed to help put an end to that. Instead, his name is falling right in line with Jones, Rodney and Valverde on the list of unreliable closers the Tigers have had since they became contenders again back in 2006.
It is truly a shame to see what has befallen of Nathan. No one wants to see an accomplished veteran such as him struggle and put himself in danger of being drummed out of the very role he was signed to fill, but after last night, the Tigers may have to have that conversation rather soon.
Don’t look now, but the Chicago White Sox are only four games behind the Tigers at the moment. Going forward, the Tigers are going to need to have a reliable closer who can help the team lock up tight games or risk falling short of their ultimate goal yet again.