Thursday afternoon, I sat down to lunch while waiting for my car to be fixed in the shop. The television on the far wall of the restaurant was showing the MLB Network, and the MLB Network was showing the end of a game between the Tigers and the Mets. With the score 5-2 Tigers in the top of the ninth, closer Jose Valverde struck out Fernando Martinez to wrap things up, and Valverde flipped out like he always does, dipping and doing a little spin and clawing at the air as if to suggest that he's an actual Tiger instead of a member of the team.
My first response was "man I wish I could beat that guy up!" Which is everybody's first response to Jose Valverde. But my second response was to think about his celebration, and then to think about all closer celebrations. Valverde has a famous one. Francisco Rodriguez has a famous one. What about all the others? What do they look like? How do different people across the league respond to the same accomplishment?
I got my car back, I drove home, and I fired up my .gif machine. I identified one closer for each team and found a game in which he completed a save with a strikeout. When I went to the video, what I found was that a lot of closers had a lot of similar celebrations. Below, then, what you'll find are my groupings. Provided your browser can handle all these .gif files, anyway. If it can't - well I guess it's too late now, isn't it?
These closers - and there are a lot of them - don't really do anything. They throw the pitch, they finish the save, and they approach the catcher while perhaps smiling on the inside. I guess you could say they act the way they're supposed to act, in that they act like they've been there before. In that case, you aren't fooling anyone, Mark Melancon.
These closers gesture toward the sky when they record the final out. They might be thanking God. They might be acknowledging their families or a lost loved one. They might be glad the clouds didn't rain on them. It might be anything. All we can say for sure is that these closers have something in common with Sammy Sosa. Note that Cordero and Walden are also Glove Punchers (next category).
The Glove Punchers
Take that, glove! Arrrrrrr!
The Fist Pumpers
These closers act the way your dad would act.
Dad: /watching Jose Valverde
Dad: Closers these days. It's all such nonsense.
You: How do you mean?
Dad: Look at him dance around.
Valverde: /dances around
Dad: How is that appropriate? Calm down.
Dad: He's making a complete ass of himself.
You: What should he do instead?
Dad: Something simple. Like this
Dad: /pumps fist
Dad: That's how a real man celebrates.
The Adorable Tiny Hoppers
This is pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen anybody do on a baseball field, short of being Josh Wilson. And Chris Perez would be in here too if he didn't have that badass glove punch. For some reason the hop makes me picture all these guys as Wallace from Wallace & Gromit.
I wasn't sure how to classify Brandon League so he's here on his own. He begins as an Indifferent, and he approaches the catcher like everybody does, but then he joins hands with the catcher and churns butter in the air. At least I hope they're churning butter. Otherwise...otherwise they are definitely not churning butter.
These aren't necessarily similar celebrations, but they do have one thing in common: each of them is over the top. Rodriguez is an Acknowledger, but in an obnoxious way. Marmol is a Fist Pumper, but only after riding the bull, or the crab, or the bull crab, and probably hooting and hollering the whole time. And Valverde does at least three or four moves that would send a white guy to the hospital. Baseball's equivalent of the agitator in hockey, these closers are beloved by some and hated by literally everybody else.