So, Evan Grant has a blog post up about Neftali Feliz's role with the team in 2010, in which Mike Maddux basically says that Feliz's role in 2010 will depend on what is best for the team, and his role in 2010 is going to relate to just his relate in 2010, and not what his role is going to be going forward. Which seems to be his way of saying, just because Feliz (most likely) is going to be a reliever in 2010 doesn't mean that he's going to be a reliever from here on out.
Which makes sense, and is what one would expect. But then this part jumped out at me:
When he was asked which pitcher he'd want if he was starting a team from scratch, Maddux said "there are more closers than there are aces, so probably an ace." But asked if he could have either one, a true ace or a front-line closer for this staff, Maddux's response was: "It depends on the rest of the staff."
And just for the sake of variety, manager Ron Washington said, he'd rather have the closer. "There is no substitute for a guy who can shut down so many games down."
I've said before I question whether Ron Washington is the right guy to manage this team long-term, and I'd feel a whole lot less confident about this team's chances going forward if Washington had the sort of role with the organization, and the amount of control, that, for example, Buck Showalter did.
And this sort of comment just drives that point home to me.
I don't understand how anyone knowledgeable could reasonably say they'd rather have a top notch closer than a legit ace. It is just not a defensible position to take.
Yes, a closer can shut down a bunch of games. 60, if used really aggressively and if there are a lot of close games.
But even a Mariano Rivera isn't as valuable as a legit #1 starter. A Mariano Rivera is going to pitch 75 innings per season. And a few of those are going to be in games where there's a big deficit or a big lead, and he just needs work. Quite a few of those innings are going to be with a 3 run lead, where a "shut down" closer is going to likely have about the same impact as Jamey Wright would.
A legit ace, meanwhile, is going to pitch 190-220 innings, every fifth day. He's going to start 33-35 tie ball games, and pitch 2.5-3 times the innings that a shut down closer is going to pitch. There's no way a shut down closer is as valuable as a legit ace. And for that matter, I think there's a legitimate question as to whether a shut down closer is even worth as much as a quality #3 starter, all things considered.
In any case, the decision on what Feliz's role is going to be, going forward, isn't really going to be in Ron Washington's hands. Mike Maddux, and Jon Daniels, and Nolan Ryan, and a few other folks are going to have more say in that decision than Washington will.
And given his views on the relative value of an ace versus a closer, we should be thankful for that.