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Legends On Deck

Game of the Week: Questionable Closers

This entire week, I have been looking back at the historic rivalry and legendary players that have been lucky enough to wear a New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox uniform. From Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra, to Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, these two historic teams are clearly not what they used to be. As the new generation of ballplayers enter the Major Leagues, I think I can speak for most Boston and New York fans in saying that I hope this rivalry reignites in a hurry.

One of the most important and stressful positions in all of baseball is being the closer. Being the closer of a Major League baseball teams takes a certain edge and mental fortitude that most pitchers are not able to possess. Closers and relief pitchers are just cut from a different cloth than starting pitchers. They like the pressure to be on and the intensity cranked up to 11.As the skipper makes his call to the bullpen, he, as well as the 8 other guys around the diamond, have to have the confidence in the closer to get the most crucial three outs of a baseball game. Do the Red Sox or Yankees have that?

Photo Courtesy of Bill Kostroun/ New York Post

Photo Courtesy of Bill Kostroun/ New York Post

Both teams have questions at this position, even though the talent is clearly there. However, the Yankees, at this point in time, are in a much better situation than the Red Sox in regards to the closer position. After future HOFer Mariano Rivera retired, the Yankees were at a bit of a crossroads at the position. many thought David Robertson would be the longterm closer for the Yankees, but after leaving the team in free agency, New York announced that homegrown New Yorker Dellin Betances would be the closer. After a rough 2013, Betances posted stellar numbers last season, amassing 135 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched, with a 1.40 ERA. In short, Betances is a stud. He is your typical power pitcher and should prove to be an All-Star closer, but the question remains if he can stand the pressure in big game situations.

As for the Red Sox, their closer situation is much more complex. Much like the 2013, season, Red Sox management is reaching back in their bag of tricks to try and find lightning in a bottle. In 2013, after watching Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey fail miserably, they fell to their third option in Koji Uehara. Uehara has arguably been one of the most consistent and predictable players since the start of the 2009 season. He does not wow anyone with his velocity or sharp breaking ball, but his command and movement has allowed Uehara to pitch deep into his baseball career. Unfortunately, Uehara has fallen recently to the injury bug. After being noticeably fatigued last season, Uehara entered Spring Training and pulled a hamstring. He has yet to pitch this season and the Red Sox are looking at other options to fulfill the gapping hole in their bullpen.

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com

Red Sox brass has recently named Edward Mujica the closer and hope to see Koji back sooner rather than later. But what if Koji cannot come back? Or if he comes back and is not nearly as effective and shows his age? The Red Sox may need to look at other options if they aspire to win a World Series. One familiar option could be former Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon. After their Opening Series, Papelbon seemed very reminiscent and heartfelt when talking about their opponent, the Boston Red Sox. More than once, Papelbon stated that he did not feel like a Phillie, even though this is his 4th year with the team.Papelbon recently sat down with WEEI’s Rob Bradford and talked about his future and the differences in organizations: “It’s different organizations. Different philosophies. Different front office. Different coaches. Different everything,” Papelbon told Bradford. “There’s two separate entities. I intend on going to the Hall of Fame. If I go to the Hall, I want to go as a Red Sox. That’s what I feel like I feel like I am. I have a world championship ring with them.”

Is a reunion between Papelbon and the Red Sox destined to happen? I guess we will just have to wait and see. Fortunately for Pap, the Red Sox could certainly use him.

Pete Packowski

Pete has lived in the Boston area his entire life. He grew up going to Fenway Park and watching the Red Sox. He is currently attending Boston University and is majoring in sports journalism. Once he graduates, he plans on entering the Army. He is also the owner of Biased Boston Sports, which covers the four major sports in the city. His main strength is current major league talent and highly regarded prospects. You can follow him @Pete_BBS