Can’t close a door…
The closer role is the ultimate reminder that the game of baseball is a mental game unlike any other.
When things are going right, there’s nothing quite like the look of confidence and pure focus on the face of your team’s closer.
Even the fans in the stadium have a confidence about them, singing along and dancing to his song of choice almost knowing that their team has won the game during that faithful trot to the mound.
This mentality, this knowing that you’re going to come in and get the three toughest outs in the game is as important as being able to throw a ball 99 MPH, or having a splitter that drops more than two feet while also traveling upwards of 90 MPH if you’re going to have consistent success as a closer in the MLB.
There’s no doubt why Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer the game’s ever seen.
The man’s mentality does not change, he has a job to do and it will be done, every night and whenever his team needs him.
“Duality” by Slipknot comes over the speakers, blue flames and a flashing “Brandon League” lights up every screen around Safeco to set the stage for the closer.
But on this night there was a tension in the crowd, more of a sense of hope that Brandon League could close it out rather than knowing our guy was going to do the job at hand.
Mark Trumbo quickly affirmed our shakiness as he hit a sharp line drive to center field for a base hit, Alberto Callaspo followed him and earned himself a walk after League had him 1-2 and unfortunately, that was only the beginning.
Erick Aybar laid down a bunt, League quickly picked it up and tried his best to throw it to a fan in the stands rather than Alex Liddi who was playing 3rd base that night and Peter Bourjos who had come on to run for Trumbo came around to score and tied the game at 4-4.
Two batters later after an intentional walk, Howie Kendrick had a pinch hit single to put the Angels up for good 6-4.
Confidence is officially rattled
For the time being, Brandon League has lost that edge, that confidence, whatever it was in his brain that had him convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that he could get these final three outs of a Major League Baseball game.
In his last 4 appearances League has given up 6 earned runs in 3.1 innings while raising his season ERA from 2.12 to 4.43.
He’s lost confidence in his fastball which by his own admission leads to nothing but problems in his head as it affects every other pitch in his arsenal and the ability to throw them for strikes.
Remember last May?
League also had a rough stretch in Cleveland and Baltimore that looked much like this stretch.
Eric Wedge took him out of the closer roll briefly to get his mind right and it appears that this is Wedge’s plan to get him on track again this season.
Wedge tells us the closer role will be matchup orientated and won’t be given to a certain person as I’m sure his plan will be to get League’s release and his fastball back on track to get him out there again as early as possible.
Brandon came back as strong as ever last year and stayed steady through the end of the season even though his save chances went down along with the Mariners win-loss record.
We’ll hope for the same result this season.
Now what I’m worried about with regards to Brandon League is his long term success of the Seattle Mariners.
We need him to be good, we need him to be a closer and we don’t need to watch him blow saves. Brandon League headed in to this year was the main piece that the Mariners had that they may be able to get some value back for at the trade deadline.
Pair that with the fact that we have a rising star in Stephen Pryor set to take over the closer roll with the big club tearing apart double-A and triple-A hitters and I’ve been the biggest Brandon League fan on the planet.
I think Wedge pulled the plug here when he needed to, we need to get Brandon League’s mind clear, get his fastball going and make sure his nerves are under control enough that he can throw a ball to third without air mailing it.
At this point I believe his value can be saved if he gets right like last year when you couple that with the fact that there will be playoff contending teams needing help in the bullpen when the trade deadline arrives.
We’ll see soon if it works…