Friday, May 4, 2012

Mo, Track And Lax

TigerBlog has always thought that the most overrated position in sports is that of closer in Major League Baseball.

For starters (get the pun?), the closer is the only position where stats enter into the thinking of the manager/coach. Otherwise, why wouldn't you bring your closer into a game in the seventh inning when you're up 5-2 with the bases loaded, get out of that one and then let someone else hold the three-run lead in the eighth and ninth?

It's because your closer wouldn't get a save if you did that. And saves = big contracts. And saves also turns closers into big stars, even when so many of their saves have come when they get three outs and have a lead of up to three runs.

It's rare to see a closer come into a game when there are men on base. It's rare to see a closer go more than one inning. Even if he comes into a game with a one-run lead to start the ninth, that's a lot of margin of error. It's hardly like having first and third and one out or something like that.

TB would almost never give a huge contract to a closer, because 1) they get hurt all the time, 2) they are so easily replaced and 3) what they do is vastly overblown (another pun).

There are exceptions, of course. There are those rare pitchers who get into the other team's head, knowing that they have to be ahead before the ninth (or in even rarer circumstances when the right closer is paired with the right setup man, the seventh).

And then there's Mariano Rivera.

The Yankee closer has been essentially untouchable in his career, to the point where his two main failures - the 2001 World Series Game 7 vs. Arizona and Game 4 ALCS with Boston in 2004 - have become legendary for how stunning they were.

Rivera has been as close to automatic as anyone has ever been at anything in sports. And he's done it on TB's least favorite professional sports team.

Rivera suffered a torn ACL last night in Kansas City, before the game actually, while in his regular pregame routine of shagging flies during batting practice. It appears that the injury is season-ending, and it's possible that Rivera has thrown his last pitch as a Major Leaguer.

If so, it's a tough way for him to go out. And if so, TB joins with the legions of anti-Yankee people who grudgingly developed a deep respect for Rivera's skill and for the classy way he has carried himself during his nearly 20-year career.

If the injury to Rivera has ruined Yankee manager Joe Girardi's weekend, TB's will somewhat be determined by how the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament and the Heptagonal track and field championships go.

The Ivy League champions for men's and women's outdoor track and field will be crowned at Franklin Field at Penn this weekend.

In case you didn't notice, Franklin Field also held a track meet last weekend, when the Penn Relays were there.

Princeton's women are the defending champion, and they will be looking to improve on a sixth-place finish indoors this past winter. Honestly, TB doesn't know enough about track-and-field to know what the differences are between indoor and outdoor (other than the obvious) and why a team might be better at one than the other.

As for the men, Princeton is the defending champion and the indoor champion, as well as the champion of every Heps event (cross country and track and field) the last two academic years, for a total of five straight.

As amazing as it seems, the academic year is nearly over, and there are only five Ivy League championships still up for grabs - the two in track and field and then the three in rowing.

Princeton is the men's Ivy League lacrosse champion for 2012, but with that does not come an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, the winner of this weekend's Ivy tournament will earn that.

The games will be on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, beginning with Yale-Cornell at 5 tonight and then followed by Princeton-Brown at 8. The winners meet Sunday at noon.

It seems probably that Cornell, Yale and Brown need the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament. It seems like Princeton will be right on the bubble should it not win the automatic bid.

The NCAA selections will be announced Sunday at 9.

By Monday morning, when the requisite "how was the weekend" questions are asked, TB's answer is largely out of his control at this point.

No comments: