Somewhere between Matt Lindstrom’s oblique and Nate Jones‘ butt, it hit me; perhaps series of minor injuries that disrupt little but this tiny period of time left to determine between a host of good, but not-dominant relievers is a sign that such a process is a bit of a folly.
The White Sox don’t have a clear closer and there shouldn’t be much that occurs over the month of March to change that. Looking back at the last year, that could represent an opportunity.
If 2012 witnessed an unfortunate tendency on the part of Robin Ventura to toggle endlessly through relief options while the city burned around him, 2013 showed the pitfalls of rigid roles dogmatically adhered to. It’s fine to flip Addison Reed for a promising young third basemen before he wears down, it’s preferable not to need to.
So rather than designate a new person for Ventura to have save six games in a row during a winning streak and barely acknowledge during a losing skid, perhaps the Sox would be better off spreading the love between Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones and Daniel Webb–all hurlers who went through streaks and spurts last season.
The most recent and fun iterations of closer-by-committee came under Ozzie Guillen, who didn’t so much employ a committee as he used whatever lefty specialists he had available to him to loosen the jar of pickles for a developing right-handed closer. It helped that Chris Sale and 2010 Matt Thornton were fearsome enough to both side of the plate to not force an immediate counter-move.
Scott Downs and Donnie Veal don’t quite draw the same billing, and Ventura’s temptation to burn them earlier in the night will likely limits his options by the ninth, but all these non-distinctive but quality bullpen parts deserve non-distinct but quality roles.
Since the Sox just got through trading a closer who wasn’t all that great but kept racking up saves regardless to get a top-100 prospect in return, perhaps they want nothing more out of the 2014 closer spot than to have it produce another top-100 prospect at the end of the year. There is no challenging this thinking on its own level. The anxiety of watching Matt Lindstrom singled to death by a Royals team he doesn’t match up well with, the pain of the Sox marketing staffer who must produce the farce of a MATT LINDSTROM: CLOSER graphic for him to enter games to; these concerns meaning nothing to the cause of acquiring assets.
But as the White Sox slowly transform into a day-to-day operation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see pragmatism win out for the purpose of executing these six months smoothly. Having a clear no. 1 reliever to hand every high-leverage situation to makes a manager’s life simpler. Pretending that he has one does not.