Closers From Ten Years Ago: Reinforcing What We Already Knew

NEW YORK, NY - Jason Isringhausen of the New York Mets delivers a pitch in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

What you're about to read is a trip down memory lane. It doesn't really have a point, but it does have a definite conclusion.

Below is a list of pitchers who led their team in saves ten years ago:

Arizona Diamondbacks - Byung-Hyun Kim
Atlanta Braves - John Smoltz
Baltimore Orioles - Jorge Julio
Boston Red Sox - Ugueth Urbina
Chicago Cubs - Antonio Alfonseca
Chicago White Sox - Keith Foulke
Cincinnati Reds - Danny Graves
Cleveland Indians - Bob Wickman
Colorado Rockies - Jose Jimenez
Detroit Tigers - Juan Acevedo
Florida Marlins - Vladimir Nunez
Houston Astros - Billy Wagner
Kansas City Royals - Roberto Hernandez
Los Angeles Angels - Troy Percival
Los Angeles Dodgers - Eric Gagne
Milwaukee Brewers - Mike DeJean
Minnesota Twins - Eddie Guardado
New York Mets - Armando Benitez
New York Yankees - Mariano Rivera
Oakland Athletics - Billy Koch
Philadelphia Phillies - Jose Mesa
Pittsburgh Pirates - Mike Williams
San Diego Padres - Trevor Hoffman
San Francisco Giants - Robb Nen
Seattle Mariners - Kazuhiro Sasaki
St. Louis Cardinals - Jason Isringhausen
Tampa Bay Rays - Esteban Yan
Texas Rangers - Hideki Irabu
Toronto Blue Jays - Kelvim Escobar
Washington Nationals* - Scott Stewart

* Yes, we know there were no Washington Nationals in 2002. Scott Stewart led the Nats' predecessor, the Montreal Expos, in saves. With 17.

Part of the reason for that list is to make you think of players you haven't thought of in years. Mike DeJean! Scott Stewart! Esteban Yan! Ten seasons ago, those are the players who came into the game in the ninth inning to lock down their team's win. Some of those names seem like they're from another century, or at least a time when players wore fluorescent wrist bands. Only two are still active, and it's somewhat of a minor miracle that Jason Isringhausen is one of them.

But it's ten years ago, you say. Of course there's going to be a lot of turnover. Time is a hungry little thing, and it likes to chew on the careers of baseball players. Fair enough, but there were first basemen back then who are still starting (Todd Helton, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Carlos Peña). There are a plethora of shortstops still starting (Derek Jeter, Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins, Alex Gonzalez, and either Orlando Cabrera or Miguel Tejada, depending on which one's sciatica isn't acting up).

Even some catchers on the ten-years-ago list are still around today. It's a position that requires squatting with pounds of gear on, diving for balls in the dirt, and getting knocked around at collisions at home plate. Yet A.J. Pierzynski, Ivan Rodriguez, and Ramon Hernandez are still around.

But closers just don't seem to age gracefully. There are certainly theories as to why this might be. Pitchers obviously have a much higher rate of attrition than do position players. Throwing a baseball does horrible things to the human arm and shoulder. Also, closers are often chosen for their electric fastballs, which tend to have short half-lives, so of course there's going to be a selection bias. And perhaps there's something particularly wearing about getting up in the bullpen and throwing, 75 times every season.

That's not my concern, though. This isn't a study to figure out why there aren't a lot of closers from 2002 who are still around in 2011. This is just an article that moved forward, presented facts, and arrived at one inescapable conclusion.  

Here goes:

Mariano Rivera creeps me the hell out. Stop being so good, you freak.

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