Mike Scioscia made me a very happy Saber Boy by implementing a new late-inning relief arrangement in which Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri share the eight and ninth inning based on who matches up best with which part of the lineup. It is a wonderfully progressive bullpen management strategy. The problem is that now we don’t know what to call those guys as the “closer” and “setup man” labels no longer apply. The simple thing to do would be to call Smith and Frieri Closer 1A and Closer 1B, respectively, as there is an obvious preference for one over the other from Scioscia but that lacks a certain marketing appeal. Surely we can do better than that. Right?
Close Up Man
Closer merged with set-up man gives us the Close Up Man. As in “close up shop” not “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Pronunciation is important, people. Given how the word “close” gets first billing in this title, I think we can only really apply it to Smith as he is atop the new-fangled bullpen depth chart.
Set Down Man
There is the old phrase “you set ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em down.” But what do you do when you are the one doing both? Maybe not at the same time, but taking turns. This would seem perfect for Frieri who will mostly be doing the setup work, but will sometimes get to “knock ‘em down” in the ninth inning.
The whole premise behind this bullpen arrangement is that Smith will be used whenever the heart of the lineup comes up, be it the eighth or ninth inning. A cardiologist’s job is to fix the heart, so perhaps this is too benign of a term, but it really conveys where Smith with be specializing. Plus it gives us the option of derogatorily referring to him as a proctologist whenever he blows a lead.
If you want something more aggressive, you could go with the medical term for a heart attack since that is really what the reliever should be doing: attacking. Frieri isn’t going to face the heart of the order very much but I still think this nickname fits him best since it can have a double-meaning. I, for one, certainly feel like I am on the verge of a myocardial infarction during a majority of Frieri’s relief appearances.
You know, I kind of feel bad. All these terms really draw a distinction between Frieri and Smith. Even though Smith is obviously the guy Scioscia will be giving the most high leverage work to, I don’t want to hurt any feelings by giving out titles that convey that one player is more valuable than the other. I guess it is the T-ball coach in me that thinks everyone should get a trophy. In that spirit, here are some titles that they can both adopt without actually anointing any one the “true” closer but also without giving someone cause to get all butthurt.
Coffee is for closers, but Smith and Frieri are only closers some of the time. So do they get coffee? I think that they do, but it would clearly be a lesser version of coffee, thus decaf. Because, honestly, what is the point of drinking coffee if you aren’t getting your caffeine fix?
Yes, as in Kyra Sedgwick from the TNT hit drama The Closer. Why? Because she was “the Closer” on TV, but that is just one the many roles she has played in her career. Similarly, Smith and Frieri’s most famous role is as the closer, like Sedgwick, but they will still be playing other roles from time to time. Plus, little known fact, Kyra Sedgwick throws a wicked sidearm two-seam fastball.
Closers have the job of coming in to “slam the door” on the opposition and end the game. But what kind of door? A screen door works well enough to keep bugs and such out, but the door isn’t really closed. I think this might be an ideal name for when Smith or Frieri pitch in the eighth inning as they begin the process of closing up the house, but still leave an easy way in because who hasn’t accidentally walked through a screen door before, right?