It really wasn't so long ago that closers held a special place in our baseball hearts. They were the fearless gunslingers of our game, the guys unafraid to face the heart of the order, the pitchers we made into modern day folk heroes and even started inducting them into the Hall of Fame. After decades of being the goofballs out of the 'pen, they were finally respected.
Today, though? Well, I'm just waiting for Adam Sandler to record his long-awaited followup to The Lonesome Kicker, only with your local late-game specialist as the underappreciated and tragic figure.
As detailed this morning by our own Gordon Edes, the current free agent crop is teeming with closers just looking for a home. Francisco Rodriguez, who just set the single season saves record, has been told to buzz off by the Angels. Trevor Hoffman is now teamless after nearly two decades of service in San Diego and '05 World Series hero Bobby Jenks might be on the trading block. The Rockies might not even bother to issue Huston Street a uniform after he arrived via the Matt Holliday trade.
In a lot of ways, you could see the shift back to the old way of thinking a mile away. The save has been shown to be an overvalued statistic, but salaries for top-of-the-line closers escalated higher and higher anyway. With budgets around the league the subjects of more discerning eyes and the SABR school gaining more influence, it comes as no surprise the Cubs wouldn't want Kerry Wood around for another 3-4 years at $35-40 million.
While I understand and support the fiscal and statistical prudence at play here, the romantic seamhead part of me cries a bit over the closer's sad slide back toward irrelevancy and scorn.
Well, at least until the Mets overpay dearly for K-Rod.