I am a huge fan of the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM Satellite radio. They do a bit on the radio called life boat, and I’m borrowing it for Cleveland sports. Here’s how it works. There are four people and only three seats remaining on the life boat. You must work your way through the list of candidates and, unfortunately, someone is designated to try their hand at long-distance swimming.
A couple rules.
1. You MUST pick three people to ride in the boat. “Let them all drown!” isn’t an interesting answer and frankly, you’re not funny. It’s been done, so skip it.
2. Don’t use an overly silly premise for your answer. Life boat is a silly enough premise where you aren’t going to “wow” anyone with your take that you should “keep the fatter guy because at least when we turn to cannibalism, we’ll have someone tasty to eat!”
So, the second Cleveland sports life boat is Indians closers. The candidates are:
Jose Mesa, Mike Jackson, Bob Wickman, and Chris Perez
Rick – An interesting choice to make here. My guess is that Mesa gets the boot from many Tribe fans because of his World Series struggle and feud with Omar Vizquel. The truth is that he was as dominant at his position as any of the 90’s era Indians.
Mike Jackson is safe. I think he gets the short end of the stick when it comes to Tribe closers. He was fantastic. Bob Wickman raised my blood pressure. He may have saved a good percentage of his chances, but they always seemed to be with multiple runners on base. Perez may be dominant at times, definitely more so than Wickman- but this is my lifeboat. Sorry Chris.
Scott - One game does not a career make. I’ll never forget the energy that pumped through Jacobs field when Mesa was coming on in the ninth. As ironic as this statement is, when Mesa got the nod, you knew that the game was over, but you stayed to see just how dominant the slamming of the door would be. I agree with Rick that Jackson was severely underrated — he received MVP consideration in 1998 when he had a WHIP of 0.875. He stays. The last seat comes down to who has been better for my health. Perez may drive a few fans crazy because he’s outspoken, but Wickman got by on shear luck. No closer should have a career WHIP of 1.4 while allowing at least one hit per inning of work. Sorry Bob, I hope you’re buoyant.
Craig – The first two spots are easy for me. I can’t hold a grudge against Jose Mesa. He wanted to win that game more than anyone. Mike Jackson is one of the more underappreciated closers, but not by me. I loved Mike Jackson’s demeanor coming out of the pen, and he was a joy to watch.
So it comes down to Bob Wickman and Chris Perez and that’s an easy one for me too. I’m not a complete and total supporter of Chris Perez all the time with all he says, but I am a supporter. I also loved the way Bob Wickman came to work and the way he went about his business as a man. That being said, the heart attack factor with Wickman left an indelible mark on me, and I’m just going to have to save a seat in the life boat for Pure Rage Perez.
Andrew – My initial gut reaction was to leave Jose Mesa in the water. But I just can’t blame him for the Game 7 thing without praising him for how dominant he was outside that game. He was an integral part of those amazing Indians teams and he was one of the guys you just had to see. For a few years, he was just that good. He gets a spot. Same thing with Mike Jackson. I loved how he wore his hat low and just had that closers mentality you love. He pitched with an edge, and he was borderline untouchable for that brief stint with the Indians. He gets a spot.
My final spot is going to Bob Wickman. Look, I like Chris Perez a lot. I like his personality, I like his dominance as a closer when he’s on, and I don’t have a bad thing to say about him. But Wickman was just my kind of guy. These lists are subjective and I get to use my reasons, and I’m going with pure sentimentality on this one. Yeah, Wickman made things interesting, but I always had faith in him to get the job done and he usually would. And then he would spit out his chew, put a huge smile on his face, and celebrate the save with his teammates. And he looked like a fun guy to have a few drinks with. I’m giving my last spot to Wickman, with apologies to Perez.
TD – This one is extremely hard. There are arguments for and against every one of these guys. Jose Mesa should be left to drown based on his performance in game seven of the 97 World Series. I will hate him forever because if it. But between 95-97, he was arguably the best closer in baseball on a dominant team. Mike Jackson only closed half a year for the Tribe and didn’t have the longevity with the club. However, do the Indians even go as deep in the playoffs as they did those three seasons without him? He also may be my favorite Tribe setup man of all time. His splitter was devastating. Bob Wickman is the Indians all time saves leader, a great clubhouse guy, and someone who was here in good times and bad. I still say had the Indians not choked in the last week on 2005, that teams wins a World Series in large part to the best bullpen in baseball, with Wickman closing games. On the opposite end, he was hurt often and closed on some bad Indians teams. He also loved putting guys on base and walking the tight rope. As for Chris Perez, he’s been nails as the Tribe closer since taking over for Kerry Wood in 2010. His personality is perfect for the closers role and his honest commentary on the state of the Indians last season may have been the the tipping point for ownership to finally change course. That said, his mouth can also become an issue. But as a player on the field, very few do their job better than Pure Rage.
Kirk – Mesa and Wickman are locks. Mike Jackson was the closer on 2 division winning teams, and saved 94 games in 2 1/2 seasons as closer. Chris Perez has 99 in three seasons at the helm for the Tribe. You guys know my thoughts on Chris Perez. I think there’s a time and a place to speak up and state your opinion, but that time and place is not “all the time” and “any place”. He also blows up in spectacular fashion when he does squander a save opportunity, and his numbers in tie games have concerned me for some time considering how many Acta had him pitch. If Vinnie Pestano was in the water, I’d jump in, save him myself, and take the closer sash off of CP as he drifted out to the horizon. But, I’m actually going to save Perez, provided he consents to the duct tape I would strap to his mouth for the duration of the voyage back to shore.