April 23, 2014

Cleveland Sports Life Boat – Indians Closers

Closer Life Boat

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.

 

  • Porckchop

    I throw myself off. I dont want to live in a world where Joe Borowski didnt make it off the ship.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    He wasn’t on the boat at all. You’re not playing right! :-)

  • mgbode

    does that mean he was already in Davey Jone’s locker?

  • mgbode

    No Dennis Eckersley? He only popularized the position and was brought up through the Indians organization. Yes, most of that was with the A`s, but he saved games for the Tribe while he was here. Given the historical context, I don’ think that’s cheating.

    Mesa/Perez/Eckersley

  • MrCleaveland

    I loved Wickman’s guttiness and his gut, but he was doing it with mirrors and no smoke. Hasta la vista, Wick.

  • MrCleaveland

    Whoa, a rare chance to go all mgbode on mg himself.

    Eck didn’t become a closer until about 10 years after he left Cleveland. He never closed for Boston either.

  • JNeids

    I nominate Doug Jones for your 4th. Back when I used to collect baseball cards, I had a special edition one of him holding a ball that was on fire. I loved that card. And if he ain’t good enough for consideration on that raft, well then he and I can try to stay afloat with just the card to hold us both. Never let go, Doug, never let go.

    http://baseballcardblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-fire-of-savviness.html?m=1#!

  • maxfnmloans

    No Doug Jones? Invalid list

  • MrCleaveland

    How could you guys not include Ray Narleski?

    /I just had a sarcasm

  • Kildawg

    I say put Jackson on the setup man’s boat. He was in a better position to rack up saves than Perez has been, yet Perez has virtually matched Jackson in terms of saves. Wickman came close to blowing most of his saves, and Mesa choked when the pressure of the postseason came around. Of the four, Perez has the best shot at staying on the boat because he’s still the closer and his stats could look even better with a proven winning manager and better talent around him.

  • boomhauertjs

    Eck saved a grand total of 3 games as an Indian.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    I didn’t think it needed to be said, but apparently it does — they’re just four people. Not *the* four, just four. Choose three. Boom.

  • mgbode

    :) I know, fully expected it and appreciate you and booms doing it (quality control is always needed and I know I’m likely on an island for this one).

    Yes, he only saved 3 games as an Indian and wasn’t a true closer then (he also didn’t close for the Cubs after Boston). However, he is still the man whose picture is next to “closer” on the wiki page and he came up through Cleveland, so I’m going to hold onto it as best I can :)

    (oh, and also, I hate our options for 3rd choices)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m saving Mesa and Jackson for sure. The high cheese from Mesa was pretty much unhittable, although many sure tried. I remember Jackson’s splitter so well… the bottom really fell out of that pitch and it was fun watching batters guess whether it was coming or not. I’ve got to save Wick over Perez… somewhere I like to believe that Wickman had a high WHIP not because he couldn’t help it but because he didn’t mind pitching around the better hitters to get to the better matchup. I have no idea if that is true or not, I just like to think Wick was being that savvy vet.

  • theherd10

    On a side note, I know how bullpens work, you bring your guy in because he’s your closer, but I remember thinking AT THE TIME – if I’m Grover, I bring Jackson back out for the ninth. He was DOMINANT in that Game Seven eighth inning.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    That was some good foresight… I remember watching the game in VA with a bunch of people who were rooting against the Indians because they were Orioles fans. Mesa came in and I am pretty sure I said something along the lines of, “This game is over, it was fun watching with y’all” (most people in small towns in central VA say “y’all”). It was a forgone conclusion in my mind that Mesa would come in for the 9th and would blow away the Marlins to secure the championship.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ricky Vaughn!

  • mgbode

    if it lasts for more than 4 hours, then seek immediate medical attention

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Doug Jones locker!

  • mgbode

    wait. a bunch of Baltimore fans were rooting against Cleveland in 1997? regardless of what happened in the postseason, they were 2 years removed from stealing the Browns!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Sorry Joe Table but you are swimming with the fishes I wish sharks after 1997 so I’ll take Michael “hee hee” Jackson, Bob “get in my belly” Wickman and Chris “the inferno” Perez!

  • mgbode

    sorry, but i think we’ll continue to stretch the confines like a singlet on a sumo wrestler.

  • MrCleaveland

    Forget about the curveball, Ricky. Give him the heater!

  • Natedawg86

    Where is John Rocker!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Therein lies the rub! The Washington Nationals did not exist at that time, so most people in VA were Baltimore Orioles fans for baseball and Washington Redskins fans for football (this also describes my wife, a northern VA native).

  • Natedawg86

    They probably didn’t know they stole the Browns. There was no Cle Ravens…

  • mgbode

    fending people off on the 7-train

  • Natedawg86

    Have the Cavs ever had a Michael Jackson?

  • jewpants47

    how many seats would there have to be on this lifeboat for Eric Plunk to stay dry? (I know he wasn’t a closer..)

  • mgbode

    another reason to hate on Baltimore/DC area. done and done.

  • mgbode

    sadly, no. still time though.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Just the Indians and Browns from my recollection.

  • mgbode

    the good news is that whoever doesn’t make the lifeboat will have Steve Olin watching over them to ensure they get to shore safely.

    RIP Steve Olin

  • theherd10

    I just remember thinking that Mesa was not as dominant that season as he was in ’95-’96, plus when I looked at how quickly and easily Jackson set Florida down in the eighth, I remember hoping Grover would go against conventional wisdom and leave Jackson. Oh, well…

  • Collin

    Ah, finally, a chance to drown Jose Mesa…

  • mgbode

    love the annoyed stare he has going. like he’s telling us that he knows how cheesy this is going to turn out and he wasn’t on board with the idea.

  • JNeids

    At least he was holding a baseball. Why was Frank Viola holding an apple and wearing a mock turtleneck? And why are some of them in their uniforms, some shirtless, and Will Clark in a suit? And why did I love these cards so much?!?

  • porckchop

    Kerry Wood doesn’t even get a mention from anyone. That was 10 million well spent.

  • porckchop

    If this boat doesn’t have a place for Joe it don’t have a place for me. Sure he made Wickman look like Rivera by comparision. Sure he made consume so much alcohol and tums that I just ended up combining the two into a drop shot. Wait, why am arguing for him again?

  • Kildawg

    Music had a Michael Jackson, he pretty much created pop music. Wonder if the Smooth Criminal gyrated himself into the Rock Hall?

  • Hugh Jass

    I would evaluate based on the collective works of the four involved. Mesa had some great saves for the Tribe for quite a few years. Despite the world series meltdown, I’d rate him the best closer the team has had over the last 20 years. Jackson and Wickman were not as dominant, but could never be mistaken for the 1984 version of Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez. Perez is too much of a risk and I just don’t view him as consistently reliable as Mesa, Jackson and Wickman. He hasn’t had the chance to pitch in the post season, so I would send Pure Rage adrift.

  • Natedawg86

    Why wasn’t Joe invited?