Mood Music - Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
I love studying the mind. It is indeed a terrible thing to waste and it's amazing what goes on in there when it comes to certain people. I love sports. They are fun to watch and it's amazing what goes on in the mind of sports fans and individuals who play sports. Baseball provides a fantastic look into the minds and the emotions of the sports fan. Whether out in the wild or caged on internet blogs, you can just see the little reactions and eccentricities of people who watch and watch baseball religiously. One thing that is always fascinating is how fans react to certain individual players. Current Yankees closer Rafael Soriano is a perfect example of this.
Months ago I wrote an article about how a vicious war between people who think Soriano should close vs. people who think David Robertson should close would appear once D-Rob returned. I usually love being right. I was wrong and I could not be happier. Feel free to point and laugh at me. Soriano stepped into the role of closer after Rivera and then Robertson went on the disabled list. Soriano did exactly what he was suppose to do and finish teams off to end the game. He did his job so well that by the time Robertson returned it was already decided that Soriano would continue to close and D-Rob would shuffle back into the 8th inning role. There was no closer war. There were no complaints. There was some joy in Mudville. Soriano had apparently proven himself to be the Yankees closer for 2012.
All this has shown me is that certain players and fans are freaking mental.Hopefully that wasn't too harsh. I certainly do not mean "buying AH gun rack for someone who does not own a gun, let alone many guns" mental. it just amazes me when we see how certain situations and roles just turn things around for everyone. Rafael Soriano is, again, a perfect example of this. Soriano was the closer on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010. He was a very good closer for them. His 45 saves are bolded on his baseball-references.com page. Rumor has it that it was that very bolded save stat that made Steinbrenner & co. to sign him to that ridiculous 3 year/$35 million contract in 2011. The ridiculousness of the contract came from the fact that he was not signed to be our closer. The Yankees already had Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of baseball. Soriano was signed to be our "8th inning guy." I still laugh a bit when I think about this. I certainly was not laughing when he showed what he could do in the 8th inning role.
The Soriano of 2010 really did not have any problems getting batters out. The Soriano of 2011 most certainly did. It was such a problem that after screw-ups and a DL stint, David Robertson was put into the 8th inning role and excelled at it. Soriano would not see that role again and would instead pitch the 7th, if needed. The frustration of fans was clear and understandable. The contract plus Soriano's new role was laughable and upsetting. The "A-Cash Syndrome" of getting paid and not performing well all the time caused the dislike and the boos to shower down upon him. Now it's 2012. Soriano is back in the role he seems to excel in. Boos have turned to cheers. "Waste of money" tweets have now become #untuck tweets after every save. All Soriano had to do was play well to avoid all the jeers and custard pies to the face. Simple, right?
Judging by what I've seen from Soriano and the stats I linked to up above, it would appear that Soriano needs to pitch in the 9th inning. He needs to be a closer. Why? He's mental, that's why! I don't think there is any other way to explain it. His pinstriped experience has shown that any other role does not seem to be his cup of tea. The debate and discussion about closers and bullpen roles has been going on for some time now. Most managers do not seem to stray away from the traditional method of saving the closer for the 9th inning. Perhaps it's simply a comfort thing. I have no idea if the Yankees perform some psychological tests on pitchers to see if this is true. I have no idea if this is even possible. If they can judge the craziness and NYC handle-tude of Zach Grienke and draft picks, then I suppose it's not improbable. Although one wonders why they would sign Soriano in the first place if this were true. The wondering continues as we remember that Mariano Rivera is scheduled to return in 2013. He even claims he can possibly return later this year. Soriano will be thrown out of his comfort role.
If you know about the contract then you know about Soriano's opt-out clause. He will spend the majority of the year hopefully showing the rest of the league why he might consider it instead of taking the guaranteed Yankee money. It is uncertain whether he will or not. Cash, crazy closer contracts of 2012, and comfort could conclude that confounded choice. That is an issue for the Yankees future. The Yankees present has been very fortunate to have Rafael Soriano in the role he seems perfect for this year. He has help to negate the, at the time, painful loss of both Mo and D-Rob. Thank you for that alone, Soriano. Now continue to close out games painlessly and the custard pies will never need to be baked again. I'm serious. Playing well is the only way you will not get booed. You are still holding a place for Mo and Mo is who you are now being compared with. It's not fair, but sadly fans are mental like that.