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The King of Closers
- Updated: February 26, 2013
This guest post was written by Chris from Blogging from the Bleachers, an online magazine about baseball.
Mariano Rivera says he is “Rusty, but will be ready by opening day.” Even though he is coming off an ACL reconstruction that kept him out all of last season, he will get the benefit of the doubt that his effectiveness will be back in 2013. Rivera has been regarded as the best closer in major league baseball for most of his career, a title he has cemented by becoming the MLB’s all time save leader. 12 all star selections, 42 post season saves, and a World Series MVP award: statistics that will all be difficult to match for any one player. Now though, with his possible retirement announcement looming, the question on everyone’s mind will be, who can take his place as king of the closers?
The fast money will be on Rafael Soriano. He took over for the injured Rivera last year and performed with almost similar numbers, coming up with over 40 saves. The Nationals are banking on him to continue that type of production and gave him the second largest contract ever awarded to a closer so all eyes may be on him early on this season. The next two names on the list, Jose Valverde and Jonathan Papelbon, are probably in a dead heat as far as the race to the top goes. Valverde has collected a few more 40 plus save seasons then Papelbon, but has not had the consistency of 30 or more save seasons. Valverde has also has injury problems in the past and is only getting older, but his ability to make saves in big game situations has been proven over 10 seasons, something Papelbon will still need to prove after his past few seasons with the struggling Red Sox and Philadelphia’s collapse last season. Brian Wilson will round out the list of the top four players who could slide into the number one spot, but coming back from Tommy John surgery last year will be a tough challenge for the power closer. He has proven his consistency, never having less than 30 saves in a season as the Giants closer, but he will now need to prove he can overcome the injury and come back at full strength.
It is hard to say which of these players will step up and take over the top spot in the world of MLB closers. What is for sure is that when Rivera makes his retirement announcement he will punch his ticket for Cooperstown. He is all but guaranteed a first ballot unanimous selection, and who could argue that he deserves it?