He sat on the bench for two weeks waiting for a save opportunity in 2012. He converted his first by pitching a full inning allowing just one base runner on April 20 versus the Baltimore Orioles. His next save opportunity came on April 26. He threw just ten pitches (six strikes, four balls) and surrendered a hit followed by a home run, suffering a blown save and a loss.
He was abruptly out of the job as closer for the Los Angeles Angels.
Fantasy owners who bought him relatively high in drafts, pundits who proclaimed his dominance in the offseason, and those who follow the game closely were shocked he was so quickly removed from the role.
The 'he' in question is Jordan Walden. The victim of the quickest of hooks, at the age of 24 he has gone from celebrated closer to being labeled a has-been more quickly than any pitcher in recent memory.
Even more striking is the lack of talk over Walden regaining the role in spite of his dominance in his last eight appearances. Since May 3, Walden has thrown 7.2 innings allowing just three hits and three walks while striking out six. Even though he hasn't surrendered a run in almost three weeks, there is zero buzz around him and an increased role on an underachieving team.
Despite all his successful efforts, Jordan Walden's last four appearances have taken place while the Angels were trailing.
Perhaps this is radical thinking, however, why would the Angels bury a 24 year old pitcher who saved 32 games last year? After all, their current choices of closer are Ernesto Frieri (zero career saves), Scott Downs (36 years old; 20 career saves), and LaTroy Hawkins (39 years old; 13 saves since 2006). Exactly what has Walden done to be cast aside so quickly? The best closers have tough stretches. Heath Bell, Alfredo Aceves, J.J. Putz, and John Axford all had significant struggles earlier in the season that were considerably worse than that of Walden. Yet they all kept their jobs.
Will John Walden be given a chance to close? Who knows, but he certainly deserves the opportunity.
Sources: Yahoo! Sports
Robert Watkins is former investment professional and partner. A native New Yorker until 9/11, he considers Pa. his adoptive home. A passionate Yankees fan and Pennsylvania sports enthusiast, Robert is a frequent contributor to Yahoo! Sports and News.