It was a good day in Los Angeles on Monday. Sure, the Dodgers punked the San Francisco Midgets 9-1, but that’s not necessarily why my Monday rocked.
My Monday was good because manager Don Mattingly finally pulled the plug on the failed Closer Experiment named Javy Guerra. Mattingly made the move that the rest of us knew should have been made weeks ago when he replaced Guerra with Kenley Jansen.
Guerra has struggled his way to a 1-3 record and an 8.64 ERA in the role where he is supposed to close the door in the ninth inning. When your closer has four decisions by the first week of May, it should be enough of a red flag that something’s rotten in Van Nuys.
Who would you rather have as your team’s closer, a guy with inflated numbers like Guerra’s, or a guy who is striking out 14.6 batters per nine innings and who has a 2.70 ERA? Further evidence of Guerra’s fragile state is the fact he’s allowed 15 hits in 8.1 innings this season.
I don’t hate Guerra at all; I don’t know a thing about him other than he wears No. 54 for my favorite baseball team. I don’t get paid more money if Jansen closes out games for the Dodgers. I just want the Dodgers to have the best chance of winning, and they do now that Jansen will be getting the ball in the ninth inning.
I settled into my recliner Sunday evening to (hopefully) watch Guerra close out the game for the Dodgers in a 3-2 lead against the Chicago Cubs. After watching Guerra blow that game and force it to extra innings, I was so frustrated that I didn’t even watch the rest of it.
Do you know what I learned from that debacle against the Cubs on Sunday? I learned there is absolutely nothing wrong with Guerra’s arm … and that’s a bad thing!
I was hoping Guerra was injured and was just trying to stubbornly fight through it like Jonathan Broxton did last year. Unfortunately for Guerra and the Dodgers, the problem lies between the ears of “The Guerra Formerly Known as Closer.”
Guerra hit 96 miles per hour on the radar gun Sunday. He was consistently around 94-96 with his fastballs. His off-speed stuff didn’t look bad. Guerra just didn’t look like a closer. He looked like he was hoping to get the Cubs out instead of daring them to beat him.
I’m beginning to wonder whether the shot to the face that Guerra took from Atlanta’s Brian McCann has something to do with his mental state. Whatever the reason, Guerra doesn’t seem to have the confidence he had last season or at the beginning of the 2012 campaign.
Another famous Dodger suffered from mental hang-ups almost 30 years ago. Anyone remember former Rookie of the Year second baseman Steve Sax? In the home opener against the Montreal Expos, Sax sailed a wild throw to home trying to nail Andre Dawson at the plate.
After that night, Sax went on to commit 30 errors by August. It used to be a train wreck watching Sax field routine balls and then bounce them to first or throw them over the first baseman’s head.
Did Sax forget how to throw a baseball? Certainly not. But he had a mental block that caused him to become errant with his throws.
Who can forget former Braves closer Mark Wohlers? After Wohlers and his Atlanta teammates won the 1995 World Series, they were battling the New York Yankees in the ’96 Series. The Braves had a lead and then Wohlers gave up a game-tying three-run homer to Jim Leyritz.
The Yankees came back to win that game and the World Series, and Wohlers was never the same. In 1998, Wohlers walked 33 batters in 20.1 innings and had a 10.18 ERA. After he was demoted to triple-A, Wohlers walked 36 batters in 12.1 innings.
I don’t know whether Guerra might be suffering some sort of “Steve Sax Syndrome.” I just know that he wasn’t getting the job done in the ninth inning for the Dodgers. Now it’s time for Dodger fans to rally behind Jansen and pull for him to be our ninth-inning Terminator.