The Yankees’ Closer Decision Is Made For Them

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You remember quarterback Matt Leinart, don’t you?

The former number 1 draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals and college superstar who has shown neither the aptitude nor the desire to be a starting quarterback in the NFL finally got his chance to play for a team—the Houston Texans—that had a very real Super Bowl chance.

Leinart took over for the injured Matt Schaub with the Texans at 7-3, heading for a division title and with the smothering defense that could’ve given them a conference championship. Leinart started his first game on November 27, 2011 and began by completing 10 of his first 13 passes with a touchdown. Then he was tackled and broke his collarbone on the play. His season was over.

This isn’t to imply that Leinart was happy to be injured, but given his reputation, he’s put forth the impression that he prefers partying to playing; that being the backup was just easier and safer.

Everyone needs an adequate number 2 and many times, the number 1 doesn’t want someone standing behind him who may or may not be holding a knife.

Leinart is content as a backup.

(Note: Yesterday, Leinart signed with the Oakland Raiders to be the number 2 behind Carson Palmer.)

We’ll never know whether David Robertson was overwhelmed with the prospect of replacing a legend as the closer for a team that judges any season that doesn’t end with a World Series win as an abject failure. But now he’s on the disabled list with a strained oblique and Rafael Soriano is taking over—officially—as the Yankees’ closer.

It’s the move they should’ve made from the beginning.

Was Robertson ever named the closer to replace Mariano Rivera or were the Yankees giving him a try before committing to him?

He’s being referred to as “Yankees’ closer” in the news reports detailing the injury, but their actions made it appear that he was taking over without it being explicitly said.

In reality, this makes the Yankees’ decision easier and there won’t be an embarrassing demotion or perception that Robertson was unable to handle the job. At the time of Rivera’s injury, Soriano was the preferable choice to take over as the closer because he’s done it before and Robertson was far more valuable pitching the more important innings of the seventh and eighth. Making Robertson the closer was the chain-of-command maneuver in a Vice Presidential succession sort of way, but that doesn’t make it right. In the games that Soriano has closed, we’ve seen the pitcher that the Yankees paid all that money for. His body language, demeanor and conviction in his pitches are all entirely different than they were as the seventh inning man. He looks more comfortable because he is more comfortable. Yes, it’s mental; yes, it’s ego; yes, it’s missing the point that the ninth inning is, many times, not the inning in which the actual “save” is recorded, but these aren’t robots, they’re people. Soriano likes closing and was good at it. Robertson was good at being the set-up man.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Once Robertson returns, the Yankees would be foolish to make him the closer again—that’s if they ever did in the first place.