Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Comedian Craig Ferguson begins most of his monologues by declaring, "It's a great day for America!"
And who could argue? It's Memorial Day, the weather's nice, I still have 13 new episodes of Arrested Development waiting for me when I get home.
Craig is 100 percent right. Today truly is a great day for America.
Great day to be an American. Got it.
Great day to be an MLB closer? Well, not so much.
Every year we see closers go through ups and downs. It's only natural.
But this season, the closer epidemic has been a bit more pronounced than usual.
Leads have been blown. Feelings have been hurt. Minds have been lost. And now, it's time to find out who's responsible for all this ninth inning mayhem. Come with me and we'll take a look at some of the culprits.
Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers: Henderson (2-1, 0.92 ERA in 20 games) has actually been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners this year. He took over the ninth inning role in April after the wheels fell off for incumbent closer John Axford (24.30 ERA in his first four outings).
In a bullpen chock full of chaos, Henderson made things a bit more complicated by injuring his hamstring Friday night against the Pirates. Henderson has already been placed on the DL, which leaves Axford and the one they call K-Rod (listed as Francisco Rodriguez on his birth certificate) to duke it out for saves.
Neither one is a great option. K-Rod's success rate in save chances over the last two seasons is only 75 percent (18-for-24) and Axford has been even worse (74 percent). Let's hope Henderson is a quick healer.
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles: Last season's saves leader has been a major bust in 2013. Johnson's ERA has ballooned to 5.25, which is almost three runs higher than the one he posted last season (2.49).
Johnson watched his streak of 35 regular season saves in a row come to an end May 14th against San Diego. Since then, he's gone 1-2 with three more blown saves and an ERA over 20.
The one positive fantasy owners can take away from Johnson's tumultuous season is that the Orioles are in a ton of close games, which is why Johnson still ranks fourth in the AL in saves (15).
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers: League has been excellent over his last four outings, converting two out of three save chances without allowing an earned run. But that doesn't erase the 14 appearances that preceded his current hot streak.
Over that span, League racked up an insanely mediocre 6.28 ERA while laboring through almost 18 pitches per outing.
It doesn't help that his manager, Don Mattingly, has virtually zero confidence in him. When asked if League was still the closer early last week, Donny Baseball mumbled, "I don't know. We'll see."
Thanks for the pep talk, coach.
As soon as this hot streak ends, fantasy owners better prepare for a pitching ice age because nobody is streakier than Brandon League.
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians: Things change pretty quickly in the fast-paced world of fantasy baseball. Just ask Chris Perez.
A little over a week ago, Perez looked like a fantasy superhero. He boasted a 0.64 ERA with six saves in seven opportunities.
But that's when things started to get dicey. Perez served up two long balls in one inning against Seattle on May 18th and he let another ball go out of the park only two days later.
Then came Sunday's outing against the Red Sox. Perez entered the game with a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning. By the time he left, the Red Sox had trimmed the lead to 5-4 and the bases were loaded with two outs and a 2-1 count to Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Boston outfielder put the Indians out of their misery by delivering a game-winning base hit on the first pitch he saw from righthander Joe Smith.
Now Perez is on the DL and Vinnie Pestano is the new closer in Cleveland.
And that's how Perez's life turned into a Southwest Airlines commercial.
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays: St. Pete has been meltdown central this season. Rodney has swapped his breathtaking 0.60 ERA from a season ago for a head-scratching 6.05 clip in 20 appearances.
The hat-tilting veteran is still tough to hit (.225 AVG against) but his control is getting worse and worse. Rodney has walked seven batters over his last 4 2/3 innings and his 1.76 WHIP is the highest of his career.
Efficiency has also been an issue for Rodney. Last season, Rodney needed an average of only 14 and a half pitches to get through his outings. In 2013, it's taking him almost 20 pitches to get the job done.
Apparently fantasy owners have a high tolerance for pain because Rodney is still owned in over 80 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Closers are a tricky breed. Some day, we'll figure them out.