no relief in sight for closeritis epidemic among managers!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

I PICKED UP to­day’s paper off the front door porch at 5:30 this morning and went right to the sports sec­tion to check up on the Phillies and the Mariners. Seems the two teams had the same story: win­ning until they brought in the re­lief hurler.

Here are Felix Her­nan­dez’s stats for yes­ter­day’s game for the Mariners:

In­nings (IP): 7
Hits (H): 6
Walks (BB): 2
Strike­outs (K): 8
Runs (R): 1

So, why did the man­ager take Felix out and re­place him with anyone?

Here’s Cole Hamels’ stats for yes­ter­day’s game for the Phillies: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 R. Even more bril­liant! So, why did the man­ager take Cole out and re­place him with anyone?

The only ar­gu­ment ei­ther could ra­tio­nally make was that the pitch count for each pitcher ex­ceeded 100 (103 and 113, re­spec­tively). But most starting pitchers can go well be­yond that limit when they are pitching bril­liantly and they didn’t just have to do it in their last start.

No, there was prob­ably a less ra­tional ex­pla­na­tion for both man­agers: closeritis epi­demic!

I had hoped that I was the first to name this term that has af­flicted so many major league man­agers these past few decades. Alack and alas, I am not: in the June 9, 1997, edi­tion of the Chicago Tri­bune, an ar­ticle by staff writer Paul Sul­livan car­ries the head­line, “Adams Is The Latest Victim Of Closer-itis.”


When to use your best relief pitcher?

Still, the ed­itor used a hy­phen, ex­pressing pos­sible un­cer­tainty about its usage. And no other in­stances of the term being used popped up on my browser (Google—the best!). nonethe­less, since I am de­hy­phen­ating (sic) the Chicago term and run­ning with closeritis as an ac­tual case of pro­fes­sional un­well­ness, I am claiming the coinage of the word!

But I need to de­fine it to make it per­ma­nent (and mine): so, closeritis is the al­most patho­log­ical need/urge/desire of a major league base­ball man­ager to in­sert an unnecessary—and, truth be told, in the eyes of his starter and often the catcher and usu­ally the fans—and un­wanted re­lief pitcher into the game simply for that man­ager to an­nounce his pres­ence with au­thority!

The term “closer” is fairly re­cent in base­ball’s long his­tory, coming into common use in the 1990s. Wikipedia de­fines a closer as “gen­er­ally a team’s best re­liever [who is] des­ig­nated to pitch the last few outs of games when their team is leading by a margin of three runs or fewer. Rarely does a closer enter with their team losing or in a tie game.

Over time, closers have be­come one-inning spe­cial­ists, typ­i­cally brought in at the be­gin­ning of the ninth in­ning in ‘save sit­u­a­tions.’ The pres­sure of the last three outs of the game is often cited for the im­por­tance at­trib­uted to the ninth inning.”

A ques­tion that has baf­fled better base­ball beans than mine re­mains: Why would anyone save their best re­lief pitchers for games in which the their team is ahead by three runs in the ninth inning?

The only an­swer that these man­agers can give re­mains: We’re paying this guy $10,000,000, dammit! I’m gonna use him NOW! Which, since the point of the game is to win, often makes no sense at all.

Like for the Phillies and Mariners yes­terday: both teams have a few ex­cep­tional starters while nei­ther team boasts a strong bullpen. For most fans, that would seem to in­di­cate that one makes as much use of the former and as little of the latter as necessary.

Ob­servers who are nei­ther emo­tion­ally nor fi­nan­cially in­volved with these man­agers or MLB, in gen­eral, see no re­lief in sight until the de­nial stage is part of the past . . .

Fi­nally, the ironic part of this is that the best man­ager that the Mariners ever had was ar­guably Lou Piniella. His weak­ness was his in­ability or un­will­ing­ness to see when his starter had lost his stuff and needed to be yanked!



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